Graceline: Close the gap on stress

July 30, 2013 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5 NKJV

Stress – physical, mental and emotional tension that leads to doubt, worry and fear. We hear that word a lot these days.

Whenever we become stressed out, we become physically drained, emotionally disheartened and spiritually grieved.

I’ve learned the amount of stress in my life is directly proportional to the size of the gap between my expectations of what should happen and what actually does happen. The higher my expectations, the greater the stress when those expectations are not met. Whenever our expectations are not met, we feel disappointed. We become frustrated. Frustration adds to our stress level and the process repeats itself escalating until we become time bombs ready to explode at the drop of a hat. A misinterpretation, or a certain facial expression, can push us over the edge when there is no release valve for the daily pressures of life.

Stress in not a recent phenomenon. There must have been stress hundreds of years ago when the Bible was being written. The psalmist said he was tired of his soul getting agitated, and stressed out about people and circumstances over which he had no control. He emphatically commanded his soul to chill out and wait silently for the Lord alone. He then determined to place all his misplaced expectations in people and circumstances directly upon the Lord. He knew God is love and love never fails (I Corinthians 13:8). There would be no gap between his expectation and what the Lord promised would happen.

Does God always keep His Word? Can we always stand on His promises? Does God always say what He means and means what He says? Is God always faithful? Always loving? Always wise and just? If so, then there is no gap between what we expect from Him and what we get from Him. No gap means no stress. No stress means no frustration. The absence of frustration means peace, joy, love and all the good stuff God means for us to enjoy.

Can you control how people act and talk? Can you control your circumstances? Control is an illusion. We have about as much control over the people and circumstances in our lives as a toothpick in a tornado. So why then do we continue to stress out by expecting things to always go our way? That’s a dead end road.

Nevertheless, there is hope. We do have a measure of control in our lives. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to what happens to us.

Victor Frankl was a Jewish physician during the Holocaust. The Nazis executed his family right before his eyes. They kept him alive because they needed his medical skills. He was paraded before a Gestapo courtroom, stripped naked even of his wedding ring. As he stood there devastated by his plight, he thought to himself, “They can take my family, my clothes, my wedding ring, my dignity, but one thing they cannot take from me, and that is my choice of attitude. I can choose to forgive or be bitter. I can choose to love or hate. I can choose to bless or to curse. But no man can take that choice away from me.”

Frankl and the psalmist came to the same conclusion. Though our souls rage with frustration, fear and doubt, we still have a choice. We can be stressed out for the rest of our lives, or we can give all our expectations to the Lord and let Him handle them in His time and in His way. We can let the Lord close the gap. He is the only One who can. And when the gap is closed, a whole new way of life is opened to us, a way of peace that baffles those still battling the storms of stress.

Father God, I get so stressed out over things I can’t manage. I get so tired and aggravated. I think I’ve finally come to the place where I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Right now, I want to give to you this day all my expectations. I know there is a big filter over me that you use to determine what comes into my life today. Whoever or whatever enters my life this day has already passed before you for your approval. You allow only those things that will be for your glory and my benefit to pass through that filter and enter my life. Therefore, whatever comes my way today, I will gladly receive as coming from your hand. Thank you, Father, for your great love and faithfulness to me. I feel the gap closing already. You are simply the best. I love you. Amen.

Kenny Ashley is pastor of The Journey in Lake Wylie.

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