“The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1, NKJV).
Stress happens. I believe much of our stress is the result of a constant and innate quest to love and be loved. The problems come when we look in the wrong places for love. When we know God, we will know love. When we experience His unconditional love, we are then freed and empowered to love ourselves and others. I have personally discovered that it is downright frustrating and completely impossible to live the Christian life when you are not a Christian. I tried.
For years I desperately struggled to be a Christ follower with only head knowledge of who God was and wanted to be in my life. The result was a pitifully shallow existence with stress and frustration as my constant companions.
I grew up in a Christian home, attending church every time the doors were open. I sang all of the right songs, spoke all of the right words and did all of the right things in front of all the right people. I fervently prayed that my works would validate my faith and desperately hoped that by following the rules, I would please the Ruler. It was not until middle school that the spiritual integrity of a dynamic youth pastor made me hunger and thirst for something more. I wanted to know God. I needed to experience the unconditional love of God.
During a special Saturday evening church service, I sat in my usual spot, clutching the back of the pew in front of me while wrestling with God over the condition of my soul and my eternal security. After all, even as a middle school student I was an active church member, a soloist and pianist for our worship services, and I even directed a children’s choir. How embarrassing to walk down that aisle, admitting to everyone that I’d been living a lie. My mind argued that I knew all about God – and then the deeper truth of that argument hit me. Yes, I knew about Him, but I didn’t know Him.
God’s perfect love settles for nothing less than an intimate and loving relationship with His children. That night I met God. I surrendered all that I knew about myself to all that I knew about Him. While the course of my life was changed forever, I quickly discovered that I still had to deal with stressful situations. The difference was that God’s love preceded me and surrounded and sustained me as I lived each day. Knowing we are loved fosters contentment and peace in our hearts, and when our hearts are filled with peace, there is little room for stress.
Father, thank You for the peace that comes from knowing You. Help me remember that no matter what comes my way, You are with me. When I am tempted to worry, give me the strength to choose faith over fear. Teach me Your ways, Lord, and empower me to walk in them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.