Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An honest look at ourselves and stress

This past Sunday we began a series looking at "Rhythms of Life." The idea is to create rhythms in our lives, ways of ordering that will help us become healthier, more Christ-like, by giving different areas of our lives more balanced attention.

We asked people to be honest about the stresses and challenges of life. The hope is that by honestly looking at our struggles, and seeking to connect with God in the mist of them, can help us move toward a way of life that is more in tune with God. We also discovered that it helps to know that we are not alone in our struggles, but that others in our community understand.

Here are the questions we asked and some of the responses:

1. How well do you feel your life is organized these days?
  • “I am not a very organized person. I need to hire a bookkeeper to help me keep track of my finances. Outside of the structure I have at work, I am pretty lost.”
  • “More organized now than ever in my life. Have time and energy to stay organized.”
  • “Organization is a tough one. Too many things to do to get organized. Don’t really know how. Guess I am organized to a certain extent but just need so much more organization to feel less stressful.”
2. How are you handling stress?
  • “I give my stressful things up to God and wait.”
  • “Not well. Need to do more exercise, but find it hard to get the time. Worry about everything. Worry about not worrying when not worrying! Life comes so fast and so many issues to worry about.”
  • “Ideally, to handle stress I meditate or take a walk. But sometimes I engage in destructive behaviors: drinking, binge eating, smoking, etc. I wish my responses were consistent.”
  • “Meditation and prayer make handling stress bearable.”
  • “I’m not handling stress well. Struggle with not sleeping, always thinking of what I need to do.”
  • “Pretty well—I run, lift, and pray my way through it all.”
  • “Denial: I push through at a high work rate until I crash and burn, then start over.”
3. What in life is working (or not working) well?
  • “Every component has new developments that hold great promise, but that could also become great disappointments.”
  • “Well? Regular exercise, body prayer and contemplative prayer. Not working well? Managing my paperwork and finances.”
  • “Seems like there is always too much to do, too little time. I can’t catch up.”
  • “Retirement provides me with time to reflect on important issues—family, church, and personal relationship.”
  • “Working well—my relationship with Jesus!!”
4. What demands is life making on you?
  • “Life is showing me very important things that need to be done that I am capable of accomplishing. But I can’t do all of these things and if I don’t, then they won’t be accomplished.”
  • “Too many demands: school and school association, work—new responsibilities, churches, friends, family, money.”
  • “Demands: financial, new career, success.”
  • “So many new ventures, new inspirations and new callings. I fear there is more than I can handle, but I cannot refuse any of them.”
5. What do you need more (or less) of?
  • “More $, less debt.”
  • “More creative time is necessary for mental health!”
  • “Reflection, prayer, peace.”
  • “I need more time spent in quiet, solitude w/ God. Especially in nature. I need less social/technological distractions. More focused time doing what I love with people I love (and who love me).”
  • “Need exercise and physical play that would relieve stress, sore neck and shoulders. Something fun and impossible to procrastinate.”
  • “More sleep.”
  • “More sex.”
6. What do you wish were different?
  • “I wish was connected well enough to know who to ask for help.”
  • “I wish I were more in control—not a slave to my schedule and to-do list. I long to feel peace—not so much worry.”
Many of us are dealing with big challenges. That’s life. But a lot of us allow those struggles to lead to stress, and when we’re stressed, struggles get worse, and problems bet bigger.

I don’t think that’s not how God wants it to be. Scripture talks over and over about peace. It doesn’t promise that following Christ will make life easier or less painful; but it does teach that those who live in Christ will have peace.

I think that many of us who follow Christ, and claim to live for him, are not really experiencing that peace.

Our intention tonight was to get us looking honestly at our lives, facing the challenges and stresses, not hiding or running. That kind of honest look is necessary if we are going to learn to lead lives that are truly centered on and filled with Christ.

Next week we begin talking about how to order our lives in ways that truly connect us with Christ. So while tonight was a little heavy, we leave with the promise that there is hope…

But that's no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
--Eph. 4:20-24 (The Message)

Join us next week as we begin asking what does this life in Christ, this new way, look like?

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