I had begun to believe the old saying was true: “When it rains, it pours.” Doesn’t it sometimes seem that challenging situations happen all at once? As hard as I try to keep my eyes focused on Christ during these times, I still find myself getting bogged down with stress and drowning in a myriad of emotions. I cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, why?” and “Lord, do you really understand how I am feeling?”
Recently I experienced a very stressful season in my life, when I was not only over-committed, but overwhelmed with stress. I had volunteered for a leadership role in my child’s school, which brought with it the impossible task of trying to please everyone. Others consistently challenged and confronted me, despite my dedication to do a good job. I began to feel less confident and fretted over people’s opinions of me. I allowed harsh words to hurt me and resentment began to build in my heart. At the same time, several of my family members were facing serious health issues. I worried myself sick over them as I fervently prayed for their healing. One of my children was dealing with a difficult problem with bullies at school. I was exhausted from the daily responsibilities of being a busy mother of three, wife, coach, church leader, speaker, writer, maid, cook, laundress and taxi-cab driver.
I found myself praying the same prayer every day, repeatedly asking God to “fix” my problems. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually spent. I desperately needed to know that God saw me, and yearned for comfort and the reassurance that He understood my feelings. In the midst of the pity party that I had thrown for myself, God spoke two very important truths to my heart that I will never forget.
The first of these truths was a gentle reminder to pray for Christ-like joy and not rely on my circumstances to dictate my happiness. I began to recite Psalm 51:12 each day, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (NIV). It didn’t happen immediately, but it did happen. I gradually began to feel God’s precious joy returning to my heart. I realized that although people had said and done things to hurt my feelings, my battle was not with flesh and blood, but with the enemy. It suddenly became clear that I had allowed the ungodly actions of a few people to steal my spiritual joy, and God prompted me to seek joy in Him alone. He could have changed my circumstances at any time, but instead His desire was to change my heart through my circumstances.
The second truth was that Jesus did understand. I had been studying about a very stressful day in the life of Jesus that is so important, all four Gospels contain the story. On this day, Jesus awoke to a peaceful morning, which quickly changed into one of chaos:
- He learned of the death of His dear friend, John the Baptist
- King Herod was after His head
- He retreated to the sea alone to grieve and pray
- Upon returning to shore He found a celebration among the disciples and believers, encountering up to 25,000 hungry men, women and children
- And later that evening, His disciples were frightened in a fierce storm in the sea. He walked on water to join them, and then invited Peter to walk on water. Unfortunately, as Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. Jesus reached through the crashing waves and rescued him, despite Peter’s lack of faith.
Jesus began this day like any other, but faced many painful and unexpected situations. He was overcome with grief and felt anxiety for His own safety. He also felt loneliness, jubilation and crushing disappointment. Jesus was tired and overwhelmed. He was God in the flesh, and although His situations were different than those we may deal with in our everyday lives, His emotions were the same.
When you feel as if you have reached your limit and can’t make it through another day, know that Jesus understands. Our circumstances may be difficult, our lives may be stressful, and people may hurt us, but His joy and comfort are always available in great abundance if we keep our eyes focused on Him during the storm, and seek His unsurpassable joy and peace with our whole heart.
Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (NIV).” It may seem like it is raining stress in your life, but take comfort in knowing that God is always pouring His love upon you.