When we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, including the “worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Matthew 13:22), stress becomes a powerful drag on the mind and body. Enough of it can lead to confusion and sadness.
There is plenty to get upset about. There are family stresses, financial stresses, workplace stresses, even church stresses. Between coronavirus pandemics, hurricanes, societal unrest, economic insecurity, and a presidential campaign, 2020 has been a challenging year—and it’s not over.
Solomon was well ahead of his time when he said, “anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down” (Proverbs 12:25). We become irritable. We take out our stresses on our family members. Eventually we can withdraw into ourselves.
There will always be stress in life. The secret to avoiding sadness is not to seek a stress-free lifestyle (2 Corinthians 11:28), but to reduce them to a level God intends for us to bear (Mark 2:27), and to learn to handle the remaining stress lest they lead to feelings of despair. Trust in God is the cure for sadness! Meditate upon the following three promises:
First, know that God is bigger than our problems (Mark 11:23). He has the ability to deal with any created thing (Romans 8:32-39). Throughout history God has answered prayers that have preserved a man alive in the belly of a great fish, caused the clouds to withhold their rain for over three years, turned all the water of Egypt into blood, brought lightning bolts from the sky to a designated spot, healed the sick, raised the dead, rescued a city from a huge and unstoppable army, and twice even changed the motion of the heavenly bodies. Wow! Don’t you think this God is able to handle the disease, misfortunes, difficulties, and obstacles in your life? Deliverances we might think are impossible are well within God’s power to accomplish. He is in fact “the God of deliverances” (Psalm 68:20).
Second, know that God sees our problems and hears our prayers. David says “You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thought from afar” (Psalm 139). God invites us to approach Him in prayer and communicate all of our problems. 1 Peter 5:7 invites us to cast “all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” Philippians 4:6 says, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What a blessing to have confirmation that God is listening to every concern and complaint we lift up to His throne.
Third, know that God will do what is best. God loves us—He doesn’t make life difficult to make sport of us. Jesus assures, “look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matt. 6:26). Yet, sometimes, God answers our prayers with a “No.” Like a perfect parent, God knows when it’s in our best interests to deny our requests, even when, from our limited perspective, God’s refusals seem heartless or mean. A saint no less significant than Paul got his prayers for help in sickness turned down three times (2 Corinthians 12:7–10) because God had a plan for his suffering. Romans 8:28 promises, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.”
If I can appreciate the meaning of these three facts—that God can fix my problems, that God does hear my requests, and that God will do what is best—I can have “the peace that surpasses understanding.” This peace does not come after God fixes the problem—but simply from knowing that I have told God my desires, and that He has the power to grant them if they are in my best interests. “God is our refuge and our strength, An ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way, And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46). —John Guzzetta