Thou Shalt Not …. STRESS

Though Shalt Not StressMy To-Do-List makes me want to cry.

I hate it, but I couldn’t make it through a day without that list.

I am a single woman, putting myself through seminary in obedience to God’s call on my life….. and I think it might kill me. My heart’s desire is to serve as advocate for hurting and abused women in 3rd World Countries. Those women are why I am in seminary. Today I looked at my to-do-list and almost fainted. This week I have two Greek tests, an Arabic Test, and Arabic quiz, a Baptist History quiz, a New Testament paper on Atonement, and a Church History project proposal due in a four day span. I have to finish preparing the lesson I am teaching for the Women’s Bible Study at my church. Oh, and I can’t forget my discipleship meeting; I meet with an amazing woman and we are studying the spiritual disciplines. She would totally understand if I flaked out this week – but I don’t want to do that, because WOMEN and the BIBLE are why I am at Seminary in the first place! My sister called yesterday – in the middle of my study time – with some big spiritual questions and we talked about the Bible for an hour. I loved it! However, it was an hour I could not afford to lose, but it all goes back the Women/Bible reason. Oh, I almost forgot that I haven’t yet folded the clothes I washed over the weekend, the living room needs vacuuming and I guess I am going to have to eat drive-thru again because I simply don’t have the extra hour it takes to make it through Super Target. AND I cannot forget that I have to work 35 hours this week to pay bills and school and stuff…..I should add that to my list.

For those who have trouble prioritizing, read Katie’s post; for those prioritized to the hilt and still stressed, read on. I am all about keeping proper priorities and managing my time wisely. But there comes a time in every woman’s life, no matter how prioritized or time-managed she is, when there are too many items on the list and simply not enough time. Whether married or single, every woman gets overwhelmed with the circumstances of her life at some point or the other.  Wonder Woman I am not. My answer to this scheduling nightmare is to STRESS OUT. When my schedule gets overwhelming, the first thing I give up is sleep, then my social life…..and soon after that my sanity goes. All sacrificed on the altar of my To-Do-List. I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t have a clue how to change it.

What is Stress?

Stress is the #1 under-diagnosed cause of disease in America, according to The American Institute of Stress. Webster’s Dictionary defines stress as a situation or circumstance that causes physical, mental or emotional strain. To me, “stress” is the freak-out of both body and mind in response to overwhelming life circumstances. You may call this worrying or anxiety. Same reaction, different words.

Funny thing about the act of worrying, stressing out or anxiousness….it is spoken against in Scripture. Matthew 6: 27 says, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Why does God allow stressful situations in my life?

The question must be asked, are you sure that you did not bring this stress on yourself? Are your priorities out of order? Are you wasting large amounts of time on Facebook? Are you putting off responsibilities to the last minute? Is reading the Bible an afterthought? Stress is often the consequence of trying to do things in our own strength and not relying on the Lord.

However, if your week looks anything like mine, there was nothing that could be eliminated and no wasted time to be used more wisely. I even gave up sleep to find more hours in the day. If I want to graduate Seminary, if I want to eat, pay bills and minister to women….I have to get this list done somehow. So why does God allow this stress in our lives? First, to teach us to depend on Him and endure hardship, which will build character. James 1:2-4 says, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Second, to build our relationship with God. Hard times send us straight to God, who calls Himself our refuge. Psalm 62: 5-8 “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

How do I deal with the stress of my To-Do-List?

Keep God first. NEVER trade your relationship with God for the satisfaction of marking something off your To-Do-List. If you sacrifice your quiet time, church time or Bible Study on the altar of your responsibilities, you will be the one suffering. Why? Because you will have to face your To-Do-List in your own strength. However, if you keep God first, His power and strength and peace will be with you in all you do. The truth is, apart from “abiding in Him” – living in constant dependence on Him – we cannot do anything of spiritual or eternal value. John 15:5 tells us “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” What is more important to you? Marking things off your To-Do-List or doing things that have eternal significance?

Surrender control of your to-do-list. You have to give up perfection. God asks for your best. Your best at this time, with this heavy load of responsibilities, may not be perfection. One of my professors at Seminary said that for some students, not making an A would be a sin. But for others, at this point in their life, making an A would be a sin, because perfection would require them to neglect family or God. “Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limits,” Psalm 119:96. Give up perfection, just do your best. God is not concerned with the perfection of your completed To-Do-List, He is focused on the holiness, righteousness and love you learn while doing the List.

Let your friends help. When someone asks you how you are, don’t say fine. Be honest. Admit you are overwhelmed. This week friends have fed me, helped me study and ran errands to make my load easier. God did not create us to function alone; there is a very important reason why God called His people to function as a Body. When one member of the body is struggling, God designed the rest of the Body to struggle with it. 1 Cor. 12:24-26, “But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Take your To-Do-List to God. When you reach the end of yourself and simply can’t do one more thing, give it to the Lord. Take items off your To-Do-List and put them on God’s list. That means doing all that you can and then releasing the item to God. It means not fretting over it. Not worrying about the outcome. Not having an anxiety attack because it wasn’t perfect. It is total release to God. Let the stress of life push you closer to Him. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7.

This whole blog sounds a little crazy, especially to the stressed out woman. I know. I have lived this blog for the past two weeks. But giving my To-Do-List to the Lord worked. It’s been a harrowing week of responsibilities, demands and tests….but God has been there every step of the way. I fought to have a quiet time each day. I took one look at my calendar and To-Do-List for this month and immediately surrendered it to the Lord – there was no physical way I can do everything that is required of me. My friends helped me, fed me and kept me sane this week. I studied hard, worked quickly and when I was out of energy God gave me a Snow Day to catch up!

So I praised God, took a nap, and managed to mark five more things off my To-Do-List.

After all, the only thing stressing out will give you is forehead wrinkles!

3 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not …. STRESS

  1. Well said, Gabrielle and well written. Good directives to remember. I am a list-woman also and need to be reminded more often than not of the priority of the “list”…it is NOT God…God is God. Thank you
    Blessings…will pray for you today re: Seminary scheduling…
    ps my husband and I just finished college at 54 yrs old, the memory is fresh…I will pray…

  2. Just found this blog today and I am hooked. Thank-you for speaking plainly of the joys and difficulties, goals and visions, that just come part and parcel with a woman walking hard after God. It is not a time for fainting or growing weary.

    I love reading about your own heart and goals Gabrielle, thanks for investing in the welfare of others! Blessings over you this day!!… and over your to-do list!

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