Stress Vs. Trusting God
Stress, trusting God, and how plants serve as reminders.
My theory is that stress and trusting God don’t go well together. They’re opposites.
My main reason is that most of the time when I’m stressed, it’s because I’m relying on myself. It’s falsely believing everything depends on me.
There IS a balance, a partnership, and I’ll get into that later.
I’ve lived with a kind of anxiety for many years. It’s not the kind that has a daily impact, it’s the kind that will sneak up on me and blow up a day. Or two.
Over the years, I’ve started recognizing patterns. One is that I’m susceptible to a high anxiety day when I’m under a lot of stress. It comes up when I try to balance this art business, substitute teaching, homemaking, health, church, and friends. Fears about ruining this art business start pumping that adrenaline.
Sometimes I crush myself under self-inflicted pressure to do Everything with a capital E, take all the advice I can find to become a full-time artist. Except, half of it contradicts each other, adding to the stress.
That’s why I chose to paint the plants on my plant shelf. All plants are reminders for me (or visual cues) that God gives the growth. The farmers and gardeners of the world plant, water, and pull the weeds. And ultimately it is God who gives growth.
That phrase comes from 2 Corinthians 3:5-9, where Paul is writing about how the people are arguing over which people they follow. Paul urges them to stop. He wants the focus on God, not God’s servants. Paul urges us not to play favorites with our pastors and those with spiritual influence.
Why not? Well, because they are God’s servants, obeying. They are planting, watering, and pulling weeds as God directs. These servants cannot cause growth, cannot cause people to become disciples of Jesus. Only God Himself can do that.
I believe the principle applies to more in my life, too. If God causes any growth and transformation in my relationship with Him, He is also responsible for my growth in any other area of my life.
I am responsible to follow His lead, and He is responsible for the results.
This is stress relieving for me because the pressure is no longer on ME. When I accept that it is God who causes growth, transformation, and progress, I shift my reliance from myself to Him.
Which is great. Whether I accept that God gives growth and causes the results or not, it IS always Him. I don’t have to believe it to make it true. And if I choose to close my eyes tight to that truth, I’m piling all that stress back onto myself. Completely unnecessary stress.
This isn’t permission to wash my hands and step away and idly wait for God to put ideas and opportunities in my lap. We both have roles to play.
I am tempted to live as if it is my role to make Everything happen and make it turn out perfect, and God’s role to bless it and somehow make that perfection better.
That’s a lie, making myself into my own idol.
The roles that are at least closer to the truth are that I’m responsible to sit with God and listen, to love and engage with those around me, to follow Him when He nudges, gives ideas, and even when He asks me to stop. It is God’s role to protect, guide, correct, and give the results.
I think it will involve taking all my urgent to-do lists to God in prayer, and asking which, if any, I should work on that day, waiting for one of them to stand out to me. I think it will involve pausing throughout the day in self-reflection to ask if I’m still following God’s lead, or taking things into my own hands again. I think it will involve doing the best I know to do, following best practices, all with an open hand willing to switch gears if God directs. And continuing to follow the ideas I think are from God, even if they’re as crazy as marching around Jericho, and even if it doesn’t look like I’m getting closer to becoming a full-time artist.
Letting go of results is hard, I’ll just come out and say it. It’s so tempting to believe that as I obey God, all the results will immediately seem ‘good’ to me. It is closer to the truth that sometimes as I obey God, things won’t, at first, be peaches and rainbows. That’s only at first. In the end, I cling to the belief that even the trials will be for my good.
When I surrender the “in charge” role back to God, it’s me acknowledging that He knows more than I do, that He is more capable than I, that His plans for me are ultimately better than my own plans. And He is the only one who gives growth, so I’ll stop trying to take that job. Start learning to, anyway.