Do you have stress triggers?
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
It’s so easy to let our thoughts carry us away to anxiety and worry about the future. Anything can grab our hearts and make us worry; the stock market, our kids acting out, the latest bill, the last disagreement with our spouse, that funny noise coming from under the hood of my car. There are no lack of problems that have the potential to separate us from God. Whenever I (Christine) wrestle with my nervous temperament and feel life has attacked from the outside, the only way I’m consistently brought back to peace is by calling out to Jesus Christ.
Life seems to naturally and persistently attempt to divide me from my Christ-consciousness. As soon as I feel the separation happening, I consciously lure myself back to oneness in prayer. Over time I’ve “installed” certain mental triggers that bring me (Sky) back to God. Like an app reminder on my phone that tells me when I’ve had my proposed limit of screen time for the day – and reminds me of my desire to do something more useful than staring at a screen, so we need mental triggers that remind us to get back to God. For me, whenever I start to feel a tension in my belly, stomach, chest in the middle of a conversation with someone, this is a trigger. It’s almost as if I can feel my blood pressure rising and I know that something is not right inside me. Whatever I’m hearing or thinking about is causing me to feel nervous, anxious, angry or defensive for some reason. At this point I often ask the question, “Lord – why am I feeling this way? Do you want me to feel this way?” At which point the verse that most often springs to mind is this one, “Do not be anxious about anything…” and I hear the Lord whispering, “where is your trust lacking?” With practice and spiritual maturity, it is possible for me (Christine) to close the gaps in my peace more quickly. The whole of my being finds rest again in the nearness of Christ. My peace returns.
Ironically it is the marvel of the human brain and our gift of self-consciousness, that, (by-the-way), science cannot explain, that allows for fears, anxieties and worries to present in our consciousness. How we then process our thoughts is in the scope of our free will. I can create triggers that make me more angry, or triggers that draw me back to God. When in tense discussion I can always choose to think the worst of another person and be ready to defend my cause by drumming up all the arguments for and against my point of view – ready to stand off, given the first opportunity. Or when I notice defensiveness in another, I can choose to see the image of God in them and try to understand the righteousness for which they are trying to stand (whether or not it actually is righteous). This is choice of my free will.
When I feel anger over reading a post on Facebook or an opinion from a reporter with an agenda, I can have a trigger that makes me immediately respond to the string of Facebook posts. Or I can create a trigger that when sensing the anger (of God) rise up in me, I move to prayer and trust God that he will be the ultimate judge and sort out the sheep and the goats in the end. It should also be noted that sometimes he moves me to peacefully articulate a reasonable response that may be challenging.
God allows for us to choose Him and be complete in Him. The transformation has been in slow degrees for me, but constant prayer is the way I (Christine) battle any disconnect the world inserts. My spiritual muscles need constant strengthening. I use daily scripture reading, which is the source of my guidance and truth, and I maintain deep and loving friendships with different people who’ve planted various seeds in the my garden of life.
Family Church has been a source of great teaching for me and I find here an encouraging place to be among other Christians evangelizing and defending their faith. I fully confess that I become anxious with the present evil in the world and my instinct to battle it. So when my fear and anger arises against those who bring on suffering if allowed, I must lean on Biblical truth for my strength and comfort. I trust in the God’s divine administration of this universe. Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by me’. That is the rock on which I stand, and the source of the peace that transcends all understanding.
Written by Christine Goodwin & Sky Cady