Seeing Beyond the Stress

Why is it so easy to get stressed out? I don’t know about you all, but there are seasons when it is all I can do to get through the day without having a moment of feeling overwhelmed.  It could be because of my circumstances, a long to do list, or things that haven’t gone my way during the day.  Often, I come home and collapse from a long hard day and then I remember, ‘Oh yeah, and what in the world are we going to have for dinner?!’ Maybe some of you can relate with this feeling.

My husband, being a student, is also familiar with the stress. There is always a never-ending list of assignments, papers, and exams that loom over his head. It reminds me why I am so thankful to be out of school and free from the worry of homework that always seems to increase and take over the few precious hours available outside the classroom.

FirstDayofSchool

Here he is looking very scholarly on his first day of school.

But just because I am done with school, it unfortunately doesn’t mean I am done with stress.  Each season of life has the potential to overwhelm us. I have found living internationally has left me especially prone to stress because there are so many cultural differences that I am constantly processing and navigating though.  Many of my expat friends can relate! Without fully being aware of all these adjustments we make on a daily basis, I have found stress sneaking up on me more than ever.

As much as it is tempting to justify stress for whatever season of life we are in, it doesn’t have to rule over us.  In fact, Jesus specifically commands us not to worry in Matthew chapter 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6: 25-34

flowers

Well that certainly puts things into perspective. Now my question worrying about what we are going to have for dinner sounds pretty lame compared to the way He abundantly provides food to the birds of the air and beauty to the flowers of the field.

My favorite part is the last verse; I can just feel Him whispering to me in my moments of worry, ‘Seek first my kingdom Amanda!’ When I am most worried, I am usually not seeking God’s kingdom, but the insignificant kingdom I am trying to create for myself here on earth.

But why is that so wrong? After all we might find ourselves getting stressed out about very good and important things that we may even be doing in the name of God.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to do something well.  In fact, that reflects our Creator who does all things well.  However, when we allow what we are doing to occupy our thoughts so much that we are consumed with worry we are missing the point of the excellent work we wanted to do all along.

Everything good, everything right, everything beautiful is meant to be an offering to our King.  We were created to glorify and praise Him in all that we do.  No matter how hard we work, our works on their own will never be worthy of Him, but when we allow Him to work though us our works are made perfect.

St. Augustine captures this contrast between us making our kingdom here on earth versus the eternal Kingdom God calls us to look towards:

“The earthly city has made for herself, according to her heart’s desire, false gods out of any sources at all, even out of human beings, that she might adore them with sacrifices. The heavenly one, on the other hand, living like a wayfarer in this world, makes no false gods for herself. On the contrary, she herself is made by the true God that she may be herself a true sacrifice to Him.” Augustine of Hippo, City of God

We must live our lives here on earth well, but with our hearts set on the heavenly kingdom above where our hope truly dwells.  Our lives here are so temporary.  Remember that in your stress. Our works are pleasing to the Father because they participate in the offering that Jesus gave for us through Himself on the cross. He is the perfect work, already done for us.  Stress comes when we try and bring about that perfect work ourselves. Our role instead should be to view our lives as a response to His ultimate sacrifice.

As we pass through this earth, we must go where God has called us. May we stop getting caught up in the worries along the way and seek the face of Jesus in the midst of every trial.  For God brings us through the trials to teach us about His grace and make us more like Him each and every day.