Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, invites us to release our stress by saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In my last post I shared my journey to release the pressures I place on myself and seek after God’s expectations. To be honest, my heart still gets encumbered with stress, but it’s usually when I have put too many things back on my proverbial plate. Weariness sets in when I carry my burdens, instead of casting my cares upon the Lord. Jesus has the rest you need, isn’t that wonderful?

Here are a few practical things that are helping me on this journey of refocusing my priorities.

Helpful Tips

  • Write down tasks that need completion. Once you have written your daily and weekly goals in a planner, look at your list and decide which one requires the most attention immediately. Also, give yourself grace, if you do not finish your task today.
  • Turn your phone on silent. Even better—put it in another room.Did I just give you anxiety? You’re thinking, “This woman doesn’t know how dependent I am to my phone!” “I’m the busiest person EVER.” I may not know you personally, but I know you (because I struggle with similar things, you are not alone)! My suggestion: Set a timer. Also, the world will go on without you checking Facebook or Instagram when you get distracted or bored—I promise.
  • Stay on the task at hand. The celebrated term practice makes perfect is not always true. For instance, if you practice a classical piano piece with the wrong notes or bad technique, you are only going to engrain those bad practices deeper into your psyche. It will take immense self-control, or a trained professional, to teach you how to play the composition properly. Relearning something the right way will take triple the efforttime, and patience.
  • Take a break. My suggestion: do not take a break by going on Facebook or Instagram—social media is a sinkhole—it will distract you in multiple ways.
  • Be in the moment. If you are out to dinner with your spouse or a friend, leave your phone in your purse or pocket. Engage in conversations that are uplifting and meaningful. The people you spend time with deserve your undivided attention.

Remember that you are more than the sum of tasks and deadlines; you are a created being who needs rest and restoration.

It is okay to take a breakbreathe, and refocus.

Reflection Time:

Prayer: Lord, there is so much noise around me all of the time that it makes it difficult to hear Your voice. I pray that You would teach me how to rest and refocus my priorities—I desire to focus on the things You are calling me to accomplish. Help me to not worry so much—when my heart races because I feel overwhelmed, I pray You would take me to that secret place in Your presence where I can feel Your peace. In Jesus name.

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2. The Oscillating Fan Syndrome Have you ever sat amidst other people in a humid room that is void of air conditioning? It is insufferable unless there is a small tripod fan in the…

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him” (Psalm 62:5, New King James Version). Certain restaurants hold little appeal for me, especially when I’m with friends. It isn’t that the food is bad or the price too expensive, but it’s the noise level. I find it…

“This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead” (Galatians 1:1, New Living Translation).

A friend has an unusual spelling of a common name. Even after knowing her for many years, some still spell her name “the correct way.” In fact, someone once questioned, “Why do you spell your name like that?” She smiled as she informed the curious person it was actually her mother who chose how to spell her name. She wasn’t involved in the decision. I have the opposite problem. My name is very common, and when it is called in a room of people, it’s not unusual for more than one person to look up or respond.

Defining Identity

Our names are important to us, and we appreciate it when people know our names. Yet, a name does not really tell what makes me “me.” My identity is much more complex. Merriam-Webster defines identity as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual : individuality.” My identity is a combination of my talents, my passions, and the things I love and devote myself to in life.

As I opened my Bible to Galatians chapter 1 this morning, my eyes fell on the first few words: “Paul, an apostle.” His words do not indicate any confusion or uncertainty. He not only knew who he was (his abilities and passions) but also Whose he was (Jesus Christ himself). Most of Paul’s letters to the churches open with words describing his identity. He also made it clear his identity did not come from any titles bestowed by human authority but only through the Lord. In various epistles Paul describes himself as:

  • A servant and apostle (Romans, Titus)
  • An apostle (I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, I and II Timothy)
  • A servant of Jesus Christ (Philippians)
  • A prisoner of Jesus Christ (Philemon)

Choosing Our Identity

Some words Paul used to identify himself could be viewed as negative or undesirable. Servant. Prisoner. Not exactly what we post about ourselves on social media or sign on a greeting card. But Paul felt no shame in identifying himself this way. He chose to be a servant. He knew his actions might result in imprisonment. Yet his passion for the gospel made all else insignificant. The most important things he wanted others to know about him were tied to his relationship with the Lord. That was his identity.

How do you see yourself? Is your complete identity wrapped up in the things of your daily life? Or do you—and those around you—recognize you are a follower of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Lord, I want my total identity to be wrapped up in You. Accolades and titles others may bestow are meaningless. It is only as Your servant, Your prisoner, that my life holds significance. I want to know not just who I am, but Whose I am. I want to find my identity in You.

 

 

freedom

“I thought to myself, ‘Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.’ But I found that it also is futile” (Ecclesiastes 2:1, New English Translation). Many people live with the belief that “things” make us happy. The more things we possess, the happier we become.…

“Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else” (Galatians 6:4, New English Translation). We can take a deep breath and get back to a semblance of normal with the hurry and scurry of the holidays now behind…

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  • We all have them.  Some more than others.  James tells us to count them all joy (1:2), but it’s easier said than done.

    The book of Job offers wisdom for trusting God in times of distress.  When Job emerged from his test of faith, he told God, I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes (Job 42:5 NLT).  Job’s trouble transformed his knowledge of God from “crumbs of rumors” (42:5 MSG) to feasts of faith. 

    Here are three reminders to help us grow spiritually during trial seasons:

    1. God’s plan is bigger than we think.

    God is orchestrating the affairs of this world in ways far beyond our comprehension. Job was unaware of his role in God’s plan to remind Satan that he is a defeated foe.  Satan thought Job only served God for the benefits. He claimed that if God removed the blessings and protection from Job, he would reject God.  Satan didn’t understand Job’s motive, but God did.  God knew Job would stand under pressure. How? Because Job was so convinced of God’s unfailing love (10:12) that he would trust Him even when he lost everything (13:15; Read also Habakkuk 3:17-18).

    To feast on faith, we must settle two issues: God orders the steps of our life (Psalm 37:23), and His love will never abandon us (Romans 8:31-39). If God allows it, He will handle it. Our present circumstances have not changed the nature of God (Hebrews 13:8). He is always worthy of our devotion!

    2. God’s focus is on developing our character.

    God is committed to the process of shaping us into “a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master” (2 Timothy 2:21 NKJV).  Job had a flaw in his character that God was working to correct.  Job 32:1-2 says, “he was righteous in his own eyes” and “he justified himself rather than God.” Job filled several chapters with emotional outbursts of self-pity. When he stopped long enough to hear God speak, he developed a deeper understanding of how great God is and how insignificant he was (42:6).

    God doesn’t want our conditional trust, He wants us to die to ourselves.  Paul said, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).

    God will also use disappointment with people to shape our souls and cause us to find our fulfillment only in Him. Job was hurt by his friends who misrepresented God while dispensing theological advice.  When Job prayed for his friends as God commanded, he was restored.  Repentance and forgiveness released blessings.

    To feast on faith, we must surrender to the process of becoming like Jesus. Instead of asking, “Why, Lord?” learn to ask, “What now, Lord?”  God “will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV).

    3. God’s viewpoint is eternal.

    When Job was at his lowest point; when nothing seemed secure, he held on to one truth. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25 ESV).

    God sees everything from the perspective of eternity. We may not know what is required to accomplish God’s eternal purpose, but we can know that God is with us in our affliction (Isaiah 43:2) and working for our good (Romans 8:28-29).

    To feast on faith, we must understand God is preparing us for eternity with Him (2 Corinthians 4:17, Revelation 21:4). The Apostle Peter encouraged us to look forward with joy. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (I Peter 4:12-13 ESV).

    Reposted with permission from Reflections Magazine.