Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stress Points

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.  Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.  I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42 NIV)

We all have them.  They may change over time, but, in some form or other, they will be ever present with us.  I’m referring to those things that create stress for us.  I call them stress points.  Working with college students, it is easy to identify at least three of their stress points—school, relationships, and the future.  Every semester of every year, these three are predominant in causing stress for students.  And they often mistakenly think that once they have finished school, their stress points will lessen or disappear altogether.   If it were only so.

But those of us who are living life with school in the rearview mirror know this is a myth that only has legs on college campuses.  We know from experience that the stresses of life typically increase rather than decrease.  Financial pressures from student loan debt and just the demands of living life.  Expectations of employers.  The pressures that accompany marriage and having a family.  Caring for aging parents. The list goes on and on.  The reality is for all of us that life is stressful and, at times, overwhelmingly so.  

The Psalmist, it seems, was experiencing the latter.  The circumstances of his life were pulling him down.  He believed in and trusted the Lord, but at the same time he was struggling to keep the faith and remain hopeful.  He reminds himself of the faithfulness of God, not once, not twice, but three times.  In the situation he finds himself, faith does not come easily.  In fact, he is willing himself to believe, to trust, and to remain hopeful.  

I find this very encouraging because I struggle with the same thing.  In times of great stress, I can find myself overwhelmed and my faith in the Lord weakened.  But in those times, I have tried to follow the Psalmist’s lead and not let my anxiety overwhelm me even if the circumstances of my life are doing just that.  Rather, I try to remind myself (sometimes out loud) of God’s faithfulness and provision.  But, as with the Psalmist, it is often a mighty struggle.  And that should not be a surprise or a discouragement.  Our flesh is weak and we have an Enemy who seeks to steal our joy.  Life trusting the Lord will be a battle and we should expect nothing less.  Yet, we have the promise of the Lord that if we trust in Him, we can overcome whatever stress we face in this world.

Today, or in the future, if you are feeling overwhelmed by life, take a lesson from the Psalmist.  Will yourself to trust the Lord.  He will help you overcome whatever you are facing.

© Jim Musser 2016

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