What are you thinking the most about these days? How have you been feeling? Disappointed? Tired? Anxious? Our emotions tell us about the state of our internal world.
Recently I realized that soon after I woke up in the morning I felt tense and tired. Since I generally sleep well, I was confused. During prayer time, it dawned on me. I wasn’t looking forward to my kids waking up. The early morning peace and quiet was such a contrast to their noisy activities and their regular disagreements. All kids have seasons of behavior issues and God showed me that the more difficult of these seasons had given me a level of stress that I was still carrying. So every morning as I enjoyed the songs of birds coming through our open windows, I had a foreboding because I knew that my moments of peace wouldn’t last long. And I had no idea if it was going to be a “good” day or a “bad” day.
God showed me that my peace and joy was being dictated by the behavior of other people. Maybe you deal with this too. Teen moods and toddler tantrums, marital disagreements to political debates. We can’t eradicate relational strife so you and I have to learn how to process the stress.
Stress. The swirl of our life–work, caring for a sick relative, family activity, a tighter budget–many things will begin to threaten our physical health if we don’t pause and inspect our emotional disposition and spiritual focus. When our thought-life default is our problems and the people that create them, we need to dive deeper into the Word of God to give us emotional stability.
Have you ever thought about Jesus’ moods when he had to deal with Peter’s rambunctious zeal? Or James and John fighting over who was the greatest? It doesn’t appear that he was exasperated with them, does it?
Picture a boat. It sways with the current and feels the waves but it doesn’t get dislodged because it is anchored into the bottom of the ocean. Over time the exterior paint gets affected by the atmosphere of the day. It becomes worn (think of those times when you notice a wrinkle or grey hair!) But the boat itself is firmly fixed in a sure foundation. In my book, Cultivating the Souls of Parents, I liken our souls to a house with an open floor plan, but for this analogy, I will make it a houseboat. There is an area for thoughts, an area for your will, and an area for the array of emotions that you experience in a given hour as you experience the swirl of life.
We need to fill each space with the Spirit and Truth. (John 4:24 ESV)
By Spirit, I mean the presence of God. Either early in the morning or before bed (or both) I sit quietly and engage with God. This is not my study time. This is me being a daughter who puts her head on the bosom of the Father. I lean-in to His love and know that He leans back. This is the “be still” of Psalm 46:10 and the “waiting” of Psalm 62:5.
Be still, and know that I am God
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
ByTruth, I mean the Scriptures. Throughout the day, I pray various Bible verses over my life, my family, or a situation. And I have found that I have to think about each word, each phrase, and what God is saying to me through them. This reflection time is how we meditate in His Word (Psalm 119:15). It’s how we replace the tension of life that sits in the spaces of our souls with the peace and security of God’s Truth.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
Besides the swirl of normal family life, I’m concerned about the slow simmer of trauma that we have experienced with the global pandemic, issues of racial division, and even the political war that wants to dictate our future. The current tide is overwhelming and if we do not nourish our souls with the Prince of Peace–worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth, we will collapse. Or grow depressed. Or have a meltdown.
Below is Psalm 77:1-15. I have focused on this passage many times in the last month. Many of us can relate to how the writer expresses himself and resolves his dilemma–in God, who is the only constant we have. And He is good.
My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah.
4 You have held my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of long ago.
6 I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders:
7 Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.
10 Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
11 I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.