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The last few months have been especially stressful because of the various global crises we are all facing. In addition, each of us has our personal struggles. It’s overwhelming.
As Christians, we live between the truth that we will have trouble in this life and the truth that God comforts us during our struggles. Jesus had a lot to say to His disciples in the weeks before His death and resurrection.
A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:32-33 NIV
Jesus knew that even His closest followers would be disturbed by his capture and crucifixion. They lost it and deserted Jesus. But, He prepared them well by explaining everything ahead of time. More importantly, He sent the Great Comforter in His place.
What can you do when you feel stressed beyond your limits? If you don’t manage your feelings well, you’ll end up reaping destruction. If stress isn’t addressed in a healthy way, the stress stays on you and in you. Then your body can end up bearing the cost of the stress. Or, you can hurt others out of your anger.
Any extreme response to difficulty doesn’t help much and usually makes the situation worse. The extremes I’m talking about are either:
- Denial of the problem which requires complete isolation from the problem. This is over-compartmentalized.
- Over-reaction to the problem which inevitably involves retaliation instead of reconciliation. This is under-compartmentalized.
Both options miss the best approach which is to face the problem and embrace the problem at the right time and under the right circumstances. When people reconcile they can’t get everything they want. Most people would choose to erase the harm if that were possible. Since it isn’t, there has to be a way to work through it. The working through it involves both:
- Letting go of what has already happened. It can’t be changed. What’s done is done. This usually involves a lot of sadness.
- Taking steps forward to make needed changes that are reasonable for all involved. This might involve some anger. But it needs to be anger that motivates positive change.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? When I’m counseling others, I like to assign exercises that help people find the most direct way to grow emotionally and spiritually. Here is an exercise to try:
- Think of a concern you have.
- Now imagine a box big enough to hold it. Put your concern in the box. Close it up and label it with a description.
- Think about what remains. If you’re still concerned about something, go to step 1. If you sense everything is boxed up, move to step 4.
- Thank God you made it to step 4. Seriously! If you made it this far, then for the moment your life has some sanity.
- Ask yourself what is left. If your concerns are put aside, there’s probably some good things left. Thank God for the good things.
- Ask God to take the boxes for safe keeping. He might destroy some boxes. Others He will hand back to you at the right time so you can work through your healing. Then, at other times, God will give you a box of blessings.
- Acknowledge that God is in control. Approach the boxes of concern at a pace you can handle.
Hopefully, when you finished boxing up your concerns, you found the truth remaining. You are significant and loved.
How does it feel to have your concerns separated from the truth of who you are? Problems put into perspective aren’t as big as we imagine them to be. That’s because God is bigger than any problem you can imagine. God doesn’t fit in any box, but there’s always a box big enough for your concern.
Photo from: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/597668
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.