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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Are You Exhausted?

I'm back to the series on anger which I began a few weeks ago. So far, we have seen that anger is an emotion which, if properly channeled can be constructive. If improperly channeled, it can get us into a lot of trouble. We also saw that anger has underlying causes, and we have already touched on two of them: 1. Fear 2. Frustration. In this post I'll deal with the third cause on my list, which is Exhaustion.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly tiring. Work, family and social activities leave us very little time for ourselves. We can organize as best we can, if we don't make time to rest, we will become frazzled and begin snapping at our children and those around us. This matter of rest is so important that God commands us to rest. "Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest : that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed" (Exodus 23: 12). Not only are we to rest, but even our animals and everyone who is in our house.

God takes it even further in the book of Leviticus when he declares rest for the land. "But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard" (25: 4). Fast forward to the New Testament and we see that even Jesus made time to rest and relax. "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat( Mark 6: 31).

Long ago, before it became so common for doctors to give a pill for everything, we were ordered to rest: mentally and physically. Nowadays, when we take a vacation we cram it with daily and nightly activities and return home more exhausted than when we left. Can we learn to take some time off and do nothing? Sit or lie by a lake, close our eyes and let the world go away, as the old song said. Try it sometime. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Do You Have The Courage?

Last night I watched one of the most courageous, hair-raising, death-defying stunts ever undertaken. Nik Wallenda walked his way on a tightrope over the Niagara Falls from the USA to Canada, in weather conditions that were less than perfect. Maybe you watched it too. What were your thoughts? Did you fear for his life? Did you think he was foolhardy to attempt such a feat? To put his wife and children through the anguish of wondering if he would make it alive?

Those and other thoughts must have run through your mind and the minds of the hundreds of thousands who viewed this history-making event. As this daring young man made his way on that wet, shaky rope, I was reminded of the story of Peter walking on the water. Peter was doing okay - until he looked down. Still, we commend him for having the courage to jump out of that boat on a dark and stormy night.

Most of us may never attempt anything close to what Nik Wallenda did last night, but maybe you are walking the tightrope of life and you feel like any moment you might fall off. The mist of uncertainty thickens around you so you can't see what lies ahead; the winds of adversity buffet you from all sides and you cannot trust the rope beneath your feet. We can all learn some lessons from Nik.

1. Trust God. Nik and his family prayed together before he climbed on to that rope, and while he was walking we could hear him saying, "Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord. I praise you, Father." As I prayed along with him, I felt assured that he would make it. Not only did he put his trust in God, but he acknowledged Him publicly. It is important to let others know where your confidence lies.

2. Garner support. Nik comes from a long line of daredevils, dating back to the 1700s. Only three Wallendas lost their lives during stunts, the latest being Nik's great-grandfather in 1978. Nik's family was behind him all the way, although Nik's eleven-year-old son caved in at the last moment as he listened to the media talk about the possible dangers. However, Nik's father, a retired wire-walker, spoke with Nik through a microphone for most of the walk, giving gentle reassurance and tips. Nik's uncle, an engineer, who worked on the wire was also present, as well as a host of government officials. When you are on a tightrope, it helps to have the support of your family, friends, your church and maybe even some community agencies. You cannot do it alone.

3. Don't give up. This was Nik's advice to the world once he'd landed safely on Canadian soil. He said that we should follow our dreams, despite the challenges that confront us. And again, he urged us to trust God to give us the courage and strength to fulfill those dreams. At one point when Nik's father asked him how he was doing, he replied, "My hands are getting numb and my feet feel weak," but like the apostle Paul, Nik kept his eyes on the prize.

4. Give God the glory. After we have got off the tightrope, some of us forget where we've been. But let's remember we couldn't do it without Him. Nik dropped to his knees just a few feet from the tower and blew a kiss to the crowd, then once he'd cleared immigration (yes, he had to do that!) Nik attributed his stunning success to God. He again urged viewers to trust God to provide whatever we need.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

What Frustrates You?

This is the second post in the series dealing with anger. Anger, as we have seen before is a normal, healthy reaction. Even Jesus became angry, (See John 2 : 15), but the way we express that anger is what really matters. In our normal, everyday life we come across people and situations which, if we are not careful, will frustrate us and lead to anger. Psychologists say that people who have a low frustration tolerance are more likely to have difficulty dealing with their anger.

So, how can you handle frustration in a godly manner?

The first way, of course, would be to pray about it. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4 : 6). Turn that frustrating situation over to God. It may be something at home, at work, or even at church. Whatever it is, God can teach you how to handle it.

The second thing you can do is look for alternatives. Let's say you are frustrated by your daily commute to and from work. I know a lot of people are. What can you do about it? Can you take a different route? Leave home earlier, or later? Use public transport or car pool?

In some situations, you may have to practice being assertive. If it is a relationship problem, you may have to learn to assert your feelings. This means not allowing yourself to be a doormat, but instead communicating your needs- or frustrations- to the other person without becoming angry. "But speaking the truth in love ..."(Ephesians 4 : 15).

Another thing that may help is regular exercise. This releases endorphins in the brain, which help you feel good and combat the stress and frustration. Just half an hour of walking daily can clear your mind and help you deal with your frustration in a constructive way.

If all of these don't work, you may need to seek counseling. Your frustration and anger may stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. You may need medication and counseling to help you restructure the way you perceive situations.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

What Are You Afraid Of?

Last week I began a series dealing with anger and its components. Today I continue with the first component, FEAR. Recently I played a board game called Scattegories with a group of my patients. One of the categories was "What are you afraid of". We had to write a word with a designated letter. We came up with all sorts of things including, jellyfish, jaguars, Jaws etc. That was easy to do because it was just a game. But in the game of life, can we state our fears so easily and simply?

The Bible has a lot to say about fear. It has its origin in anxiety, when a person feels afraid of something which has not yet taken place. I remember years ago when one of my teenaged sons was causing me a lot of anxiety. I don't think there's any fear that can equal that which a mother feels when she sees her child going  down the wrong path. I would wake up during the night wondering where he was and I couldn't go back to sleep until I heard the door open and knew he was home safe. If you've ever been there you know what I'm talking about.

One morning I woke up and fear overcame me in such a powerful way, even though my son was home. My heart pounded so hard I thought it would  jump out of my chest. I took up my devotional and read it without focusing on what I read. Then I opened my Bible to read the scripture that went with the devotion. Immediately, my eyes were drawn to Jesus' words in Mark 5 : 36: "Be not afraid, only believe." I stared at the words and they seemed to stare back at me. At that moment I felt the Spirit of God so strongly in the room, it was as if I could reach out and touch Him.

After that day, every time fear overtook me, I would recite those words, "Be not afraid, only believe." They have brought me comfort, peace and calmness as only the word of God can. As my fear diminished, so did my son's bad behavior. So I ask you today, what are you afraid of? Are you like I was, afraid your children will come to harm? Afraid of losing your job, your home, your spouse? Whatever it might be, Jesus says, "Be not afraid, only believe." Believe that He is in control. Believe that His eye is on the sparrow and He is watching over you. Believe the promises He set forth for you in His word. Study and memorize them.

The Bible says, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1 : 7). Like anger, fear used wrongly can destroy you.  Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10 : 28).  As long as we fear - reverence, obey, follow - God, we'll have nothing to fear.