Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

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TOMORROW’S STRESS – Jan 19

January 19, 2015

“But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16

enr 500I was recently reading the Engineering News-Record (ENR) 2014 listing of the top 500 design firms.   The recognition of the top five firms lists some of the largest engineering corporations in the world.

  1. AECOM Technology Corp., Los Angeles, Calif.
  2. Jacobs, Pasadena, Calif.
  3. URS Corp., San Francisco, Calif
  4. Fluor Corp., Irving, Texas
  5. CH2M HILL, Englewood, Colo

Sadly, my engineering firm did not make the list.

It was not a shock. I did not politely applaud while being overlooked. My firm was not even nominated. We have less annual revenues than most branch offices of these large engineering companies.

I perused in amazement the annual revenues these organizations require. My stomach turns at the scale of those numbers.  I know well the effort to feed revenue to a small consulting organization and I am daunted by the appetite of these mammoth firms.

The engineering profession has not fared well over the last six years. My firm, like many, is only a fraction of the size it once was and we have lost important clients in a hyper-competitive marketplace. We no longer have the backlog of work waiting patiently for us. We no longer have the confidence that shaking the marketing bush a little harder will yield more contracts.

I know well the pangs of a company hungry for revenue. It was not fun. It is not something I want to experience again. Ironically, the desire to avoid one pang can increase what one was trying to initially avoid – stress.

In the business world, we do not identify stress by its origins.

Many business people take pride in their ability to manage stress. It is characterized as strength. It would be an acknowledgment of weakness to actually discuss the origins of stress. Therefore, we cloak our insecurities in a generic category.

When I analyze the burden of my job stress, it reveals that the majority of what I generically call stress can more specifically be described as worry. I worry about how to keep an engineering firm operating. I worry about where the next client will come from. I worry about renewing contracts of existing clients.  I worry about retaining employees.

I am encouraged in the remembrance of Jesus feeding the five thousand. The people needed to be fed. The disciples had no practical way to feed that many hungry mouths. It was a startling lesson of faith.  Jesus gave thanks for what they had and multiplied it to what He knew they needed.

The last few years have proven that I cannot feed enough work into my engineering firm.  However, God can. He knows what we need.  He knows what it takes to keep me and my colleagues employed. He has proven that by keeping us in business when many other firms had to close their doors.

I am reminded by Jesus’ example that I need to be grateful for what I have.

Today, I have work to do. In fact, we have enough work to keep us busy through this coming year. God has been faithful. He has given me continued employment. He has brightened the future.

I am no longer worried about daily allocating a meager workload or weekly finance reports. Now, I find myself worrying about long-term projections – what will happen next year and in three years – what will happen when I need to retire.

How faithless is that?

God knows what we need.
We do not need to be anxious about our lives.

We do not need to worry about what we are going eat… what we are going to drink…what we are going to wear (Matt. 6:31) …how we are going to maintain our lifestyle…how we are going to manage our reputation…or whether our retirement be enough.

God knows what we need. All of those worries are manifestations of unbelief.

English: Jump! Deutsch: Spring!

Yet, those in the first world are among the most stressed – worried – people in the world.

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Mathew 6:32-34)

So, how are we supposed to live?

We all have decisions to make. We must make decisions about careers, employment, and retirement. We must make decisions about what we should spend, save and share. We must respond to changing economics of the world we live within.

However, we do not need to stress – worry – about those decisions. We are not to allow our decisions to be governed by worry.

There are many considerations associated with making a good decision. Stress should not be one of them. A decision made for the primary purpose of alleviating the stress of worry is often a decision made in unbelief. Worry should never have a place in our decision making. It should be a foreign consideration in the life of a believer.

If your decision making revolves around the relief of tomorrow’s worry, then you might be making a decision based in unbelief.

The followers of Christ are supposed to make their decisions based on the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We have been given a wonderful promise. God promises to add all that we need when we seek first His kingdom. It is beyond our control to secure the future. God owns the future.

Many jump from one opportunity to another in an attempt to control the uncertainties of the tomorrow. The sad reality is worry always finds them. We cannot outrun worry.

The unbelief of worry has to be confessed.

J.C. Ryle said:

He offers us a gracious promise, as a remedy against an anxious spirit. He assures us that if we “seek first” and foremost to have a place in the kingdom of grace and glory, everything that we really need in this world shall be given to us. It shall be “added”, over and above our heavenly inheritance. “All things shall work together for good for those who love God.” “He withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly.” (Romans 8:28, Psalm 84:11)

The challenge for today is to walk by faith in God’s promise for tomorrow. Today, we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Tomorrow, we trust God to handle.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me of my unbelief.  Forgive me for not trusting in your promises.  Forgive me for trying to control the future.  Thank you for the blessings that you have given me.  Thank you for watching over and caring for me.  Help me to walk in your Spirit and to set my eyes on you and you alone.  You have given me a bright future, because you have made me your child.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“ENDURING FAITH: Breathing” – Oct 6

October 6, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint. 

It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the third post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The pervious posts were ENDURING FAITH: The Heart and ENDURING FAITH: Fuel.  Today, I want to think about how proper breathing helps us to endure.

 BREATHING

The Cold SmokeBreathing is an essential function of life.  Our lungs fill with air without a conscience thought.  Even while asleep our need of oxygen is satisfied.  In fact, we are incapable of not breathing.  Just attempt to hold your breath for an extended period and you will discover your inherent requirement to breathe.

We all become aware of this essential function when we don’t get enough of it.  A nasty head cold can transform us into the most uncouth of mouth breathers when plugged sinuses force our bodies to seek an alternate air passage.  A prolonged dive into the depths will send us scrabbling to the water’s surface.  An extended note can necessitate a unmelodic gasp prior to the next verse.  An asthma attack jars us to the scary reminder of our reliance upon every breath.

Tired RunnerAs our body’s demand for oxygen increases, proper breathing becomes even more importance.  I have spent my share of time bent over in submission to my lungs’ demand for appeasement.  I have lain on the couch after a long bike ride or run, panting in short, shallow breaths trying to hold off a coughing fit.

Our lungs respond to an activity’s demand for oxygen.  The ability to continue mile after mile relies upon the ability of our lungs to keep pace with that oxygen demand.  We have no oxygen reserves so every breath becomes important as we continue in an endurance event.

Sufficient breathing facilitates endurance.

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Ben Greenfield entitled “How to Breathe the Right Way When You’re Working-out”.  Ben interviewed Dr. John Douillard, who advocates deep nasal breathing while working out.

Dr. Douillard stresses that deep nasal breathing has two primary benefits.  Those deep breaths, particularly through the nose, fills the outer lobes of the lungs, which increases the amount of oxygen pulled into the body and the volume of waste, carbon dioxide, removed in the exhale.

meditationThe other benefit comes when deep breaths expand the lungs.  This stimulates the nerves at the bottom of the diaphragm, which relax the body.  It is why most mediation techniques involve deep breathing.  Dr. Douillard asserts that this sort of deep breathing, through the nose, is the best way for an athlete to get into the Zone.

The Zone is that perfect balance between speed and comfort when you feel like you can just keep going forever.  We flow in the Zone when we have the peaceful feeling of being loose and relaxed and we can stop worrying about technique and form.

Endurance requires that relaxed and comfortable state of the Zone. 

I have been working on my breathing while cycling and running because unnecessary tension consumes energy.  I think that the deep nasal breath does work.  I have found that I am more relaxed and comfortable when I focus on really moving some air deep into my lungs.  However, it is hard.  I have to concentrate on my breathing.  I have to be intentional.  My mind will drift and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not breathing properly.  It takes more work to expand my diaphragm to take deep breaths, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to fatigue.  My natural response is to take quick, shallow breaths through my mouth.  That does the job, since it keeps me from passing out, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep breathing by not being intentional.  Proper breathing is just another skill that has to be developed until it becomes second nature.

There are a lot of Christians who have never learned to spiritually breathe.

Many Christians labor along the narrow path as if they are out of breath and energy.  There are so many uptight inhabitants of pews who struggle under the cares of this world.  The child of God who is loose and comfortable, abounding in joy through all circumstances seems to be the exception.

Worried Man with Debt and BillsAll one has to do is listen and we will discover that worry is the favorite pastime of many.  Conversations abound in our anxiety about our future, spouse, kids, parents, job, retirement, the weather, crime, looking dumb, what someone thinks, and on and on.  There are some who seem to revel in worry.  They use it as a description of their personality, “I am just a worrier”.  They delight in anxiety to the point that they manufacture things to worry about.  That is not hard to do.

The seeds for anxiety are plentiful in this world. 

However, we rarely consider the impact of worrying upon the endurance of our faith.  Worry throws the wet blanket of darkness over the joy of our salvation.  Often, depression is resuscitated by the mouth-to-mouth of anxiety.

Worry consumes spiritual strength because it is unbelief in disguise.

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  (Luke 12:22-23)

But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown in to the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:28)

The opposite of faith is unbelief.  When our actions reveal that we are motivated by little faith, then we know that our hearts are a harbor for unbelief.  We cannot run the good race when we are delighting in the unbelief of worry.

Spiritual breathing cures the asphyxiation of a worrying soul.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:5-7)

The Sick Man by Vasili Maximov (1881), portray...Spiritual breathing happens when we come before our Father in prayer and supplication, and with a thankful heart make our requests be known to Him.  Praying fills our faith with the reality of God’s promises and eliminates the destructive waste of anxiety.  Short little gasps of prayer are better than nothing but they are not as effective as deep, meditative prayer.

We receive the peace of God when we come to him in prayer.  It is the peace of God that enables us to live a peaceful life.  It is the peace of God that enables us to abound in joy through all circumstances.

Living in the peace of God is key to enduring faith.

We know that in this world we are going to have troubles and suffering.  We all will have to battle with the anxiety that those circumstances will create.  Therefore, we need to be intentional when we feel tension of anxiety.  It is at those times when we need to concentrate on breathing deeply on the promises of God.

We need to know what God has promised to his children.  We need to have a list of the promises that address our favorite worries.  And then, we need to come to our heavenly Father in prayer through faith.

Enduring faith knows what it believes.
Enduring faith knows what we have been promised.
Enduring faith believes that God will be faithful to keep His promises.

Spiritual breathing keeps us in the spiritual zone where we are relaxed in all circumstance and can just keep walking in the Spirit forever.  The peace that passes all understanding flows from the prayers of enduring faith to our faithful and loving Father.

However, we have to be intentional.  My mind will easily drift from God’s promises and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not really spending time in meaningful prayer.  It takes work to find time to pray.  It takes effort to focus my mind in prayer, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to get anxious.  My natural response is to make quick, short, shout-outs to God in my desperation.  That is good, since it keeps me from completely succumbing, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep spiritual breathing by not being intentional.

Proper spiritual breathing is just another spiritual discipline that has to be developed until it becomes second nature but it is so important for the endurance of our faith.

So, let’s breath deeply.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the peace that passes all of my understanding.  Thank you for enabling me to know joy in joyless circumstances.  Thank you for listening to my prayers.  Thank you for being faithful to all that you have promised me.  Forgive me for acting in unbelief by worrying about the cares of this world.  Lord, you know that I want live by faith.  You know that I want to breathe deeply in You.  Lord, help me in my unbelief.  Help be to live by faith.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“LOST IN THE IMMEDIATE” – May 9

May 9, 2013

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

I can feel my heart-rate quicken as I struggle to suppress the concerns arising in my mind.  I push back against the thoughts of the unknown and try to focus on what I do know.  My mind spins through endless scenarios and a cold sweat forms on my brow at the realization that the next step will be made blindly.  I am guessing and I have no choice.  There are decisions to be made and I don’t know the answers.  I cannot know.  I infer and postulate but I don’t really know.  I theorize and deduce but I cannot foresee beyond the immediate.  I know the statistics and probabilities but my stomach clenches at the thought of my route through life being determined by the law of averages.

... the charm of the uncertainty ...!!!I am lost and I know it. 

I fight against the powerful foe of uncertainty as I struggle to know which way I should go.  There is not enough information to make a truly informed decision.  I am lost but an even worse option is to allow the security of the immediate to immobilize me any longer.  I must make my best guess at what is around this impending blind corner and do something.

I throw back the covers of my bed and roll onto my side until my feet hit the cool carpet.  I am up and prepared to be succumbed in this battle with uncertainty; countless battles await the lost in a typical day, who can only cope with uncertainty.  They can never defeat it.

This is not how I normally wake up.  I usually roll out of bed without a second thought of the uncertainty inevitably entailed in the coming day.  I rarely ponder the transient nature of my plans.  I make various assumptions to prepare my daily schedule.  My assumptions are usually right but that does not mean that my schedule is anything more than a guess.  There are some things that we just cannot know.  There is no road map.  If I had the road map of life, then  I would probably make a whole slew of decisions differently. We can make wise and informed decisions based on the available information but that is different from knowing.  That is different from having a trusted guide.

MapWe consider ourselves lost in the temporal world when we do not know how to get from point A to point B.  We will not feel certain if we were to leave on a trip without an understanding of the route.  Anxiety is the resulting emotion from having to plot a course without the certainty of a guide.

The reality is that no one knows what tomorrow holds.  We do not know if there is a surprise in the very next second.  The future is blind to our eyes.  We are all lost in the moment because no one who can foresee the future.  Visions of the future are hopes and dreams; creations of the mind based on a preponderance of logical inferences and assumptions.  The plans that we lay out for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, next decade are a guess.  They may be  informed guesses but still guesses.  They are guesses because we are lost in the immediate and the future is a dark labyrinth of uncertainty.

I am amazed at the apparent ease of most people in the face of so much uncertainty in their life.  This comfort with uncertainty probably comes from the fact that we do not know anything differently.  I probably would never be anxious about setting out on a trip without a map if I had never read a map.  If I never had experienced guidance, then I probably would be very comfortable in a perpetual state of being lost.   We awake every morning to engage our day in confidence without a second thought because that is all we have ever known.

We are all lost whether we want to admit it or not.  However, we don’t have to be.  There is one who is not bound by the temporal.  There is one who can see through the future’s dark labyrinth of uncertainty.

God is the only one who can truly remove uncertainty of the future. 

As a follower of Christ, I do not know the future.  I have not been given the road map to know what is behind ever corner.  That is why I am a follower.  I accept by faith that God knows the plans that He has prepared for me.  I accept by faith that His plans are for my welfare and that He is working all things together for good. (Romans 8:28)

I don’t need to know the future.  I am lost in the immediate but I have a faithful guide.  I have the Creator of the future laying out a path for me.  My job is to follow by faithfully setting my mind on Him.  The decisions of life do not have to cause me anxiety.  When faced with a particular unknown corner, I pray.  I seek the Lord for guidance, through the scriptures and prayer.  I focus my mind on the things of the Spirit and I do what seems right to me at that moment with the information that is available at that time.  I make the decision in faith with the understanding that my Lord knows my mind.  He knows what influences me.  He knows how I will react.  My decisions will not be a surprise to Him.  He knows all about me and He loves me.  My decisions, as fallible as they may be, are a part of His plan that is being worked out for my welfare and good.

Those who are in Christ may be lost in the sense of what tomorrow holds but they are not lost in the sense of their final destination.  A child of God need not worry about the uncertainty of the future because they have a faithful Guide who will lead them to eternal life.

This is why we follow by faith.  We would be lost if we did not.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for laying a path for me.  Thank you for the assurance of knowing that You are working out everything, in ways I cannot even comprehend, for my welfare and good.  Father, forgive me for worrying about the future.  Forgive me for the unbelief that I demonstrate when the uncertainty of the future preoccupies my mind.  Help me to trust you.  Help me to set my mind on the things of  You and not on the uncertainty of this world.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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