I had a serious wake up call recently. This time last week I was in a hospital bed in the chest pain center after having been admitted the night before. I had been exhibiting quite a few physical symptoms of stress for a couple of weeks but on Saturday, they became serious. I had apparently ignored them much too long and was looking at having a heart cath done on Monday. Fortunately, after 24 hours of stress tests, abnormal EKGs, low blood pressure, etc., a cardiologist told me I was under too much stress and to make some life style changes first before we started doing things more invasive.
Before anyone gets freaked out and worried, I’m fine and have seen a doctor on Tuesday and have two more visits already scheduled. Please don’t call, text, etc asking if I’m dying. lol. I’m fine and went right back to work on Monday. But I am going to have to make the changes I knew I should have made a while ago. I think the doctor threatened me. Lol Please feel free to comment about how this post spoke to you though or share some wisdom. :). Just know that I’m doing well so no worries.
I almost didn’t write this post. It is a bit personal and I never like to take a chance that my vulnerability will make people worry about me etc. But just as I was continuing to ignore the nagging that I needed to write this and telling God I didn’t want to write this, I received an email from a woman in our Sunday School class encouraging me and letting me know my authenticity there was a help for her. So here I am, being obedient – in this at least.
I knew, of all people, that my stress level was too high and too intense. I’m a counselor, for goodness’ sake. My spirit was dampened. My nerves were frazzled. I was irritable, weepy, and anxious. The constant rush of adrenaline has been over stimulating my heart and weakening my immune system for a long time. It seems I’ve been sick with one thing or another for months now. There always seems to be too much to do and not enough time to do it. There have been situations in my life which have caused intense, prolonged grief. I have felt the responsibility of all of our clients and staff. My mom says I’ve always taken life very seriously. I could continue to list stressors but those are not my focus. Am I the only one who struggles with this?
This morning in Sunday School, my husband taught from the book of James, chapter 1. The lesson was right on target for me today. I have been refusing to look up from the circumstances, refusing to see I am not in control of nor expected to handle or fix everything that happens around me. I have forgotten to focus on God’s purposes in my life and have allowed what seemed urgent to take priority over the things that are actually important.
James counsels that we are to consider it all joy when we face trials. I’ll be honest. I haven’t counted much of anything all joy lately. I look for the humor, things for which to be grateful, and things that make me smile, but I have found it difficult to count it ALL joy. Yet James promises that the difficult things will produce good in me and will continue to conform me to the image of Christ. Remembering that God uses every situation, even the petty, irritating situations of life, to teach me to become more like Christ can help me to feel less stressed by things I can’t control.
I struggle with setting wise limits. My life tends to be filled with stress because of this. I am not God. I am not all knowing or able to assume total control. I need to eat, sleep, and relax. I sometimes live my life in a way that ignores that reality and have been doing that for a while. Psalm 103:14 tells me that He knows my frame and remembers I’m dust. It would be good for me to remember that as well.
For me, each day is filled with different levels of stress. Some I bring on myself – from poor planning, saying yes too often, thinking I need to be the one to fix things, not asking for help enough, or attempting to overdo the time management. Some stress also arises from factors outside of my control – the weather, a broken computer, an unexpected difficulty, or a deep sorrow. At those times, I can focus on what I can control – my reaction to the stress – and accept the things I cannot change. I’m working on not being swallowed up by the stresses of life because God renews me on the inside day by day (2 Cor 4:16). This life is temporary. My home in heaven is eternal. In the meantime, I can lean on God Who promises peace in the midst of the stress. I’m so glad He is not done with me yet but has promised to not only continue working in me but to continue until I am complete in Him. How awesome is that?