How do you endure in those stressful seasons? What if there were ways you could do more than survive? What if you could thrive?
At the beginning of 2019, I chose a word for the year, like I do every year.
As I prayed about what to choose the word brought to mind was “remain”. Remain is often used interchangeably with “abide” in passages like John 15 and 1 John 4. I had no idea how much I would need that word this year!
As if the general stress of raising and schooling two little girls was not enough, springtime 2019 brought with it a slew of new responsibilities and commitments. My autoimmune disease flared. I was prepping to sing at a wedding, meet book deadlines, and run my business. Then, in June, I broke my leg in a soccer game. The ensuing surgery left me in a wheelchair for 8 weeks, dependent on husband and community to care for my family. Before my leg was completely healed, we listed and sold our house and moved to another one outside of town. While my husband moved boxes into our new home, I was downstate hosting my annual women’s conference. WHEW! I thought I knew stress before – but I was wrong!
The significance of ‘remain’ as my word for the year became incredibly apparent as this season demands everything of me. Remain: Stay put, abide, endure, persevere. How do we persevere in seasons of stress? When we can’t catch a break (or in my case, when you DO catch a break – in your leg!)?
The apostle James said that trials test our faith, and that faith, when tested and lived well, results in endurance (James 1:3). This means we can’t become women of perseverance if we never have to persevere. The very trials we resist, bemoan, and grieve are the means of our sanctification. Hard things change us. They grow us. They make us stronger. Stressful seasons aren’t just periods of time to tolerate; they’re opportunities to grow in faith.
Tend Well to Endure Well
The problem with simply “tolerating” our trials and stressful seasons is twofold: First, we miss out on the intimacy with God which comes from depending on Him. Second, we fail to tend to the areas of our lives which often go unchecked during seasons of stress. The three areas I personally neglect during trials are my daily walk with God in the Word, my marriage relationship, and my prayer life. These are the three things I need most in difficulty, yet they are what I put off at first opportunity!
I have discovered that to endure well, and thus to thrive even under stress, these three areas must be tended. Like a garden before a storm, these tender growing things in our hearts must be protected and cultivated. Here are a few ways you can do this.
Tend to Your Walk
- Get up before your children and spend time in the Word. Another option is to stay up later after they are in bed; whatever the case, make time to seek God’s face in quietness. I regularly seek the Lord with my kids around when my schedule makes an early morning impossible, but in stressful seasons, I find that silence very necessary in order to draw near. Sacrifice a little sleep to come to Him.
- Choose a passage to study ahead of time so you aren’t wandering around the Bible without focus. During my season in the wheelchair I spent a lot of time in Psalms – for one week, I studied Psalm 4 every day! Keep a journal and take notes, record thoughts, and write prayers.
- Invite community into your season. You need godly people you can talk to about the difficulty. Choose a few trusted people who will speak truth to you and encourage you in your walk.
Tend to Your Covenant
- When Josh and I were sleeping in the guest room for three months, going through the motions of family life just to keep our heads above water – it was hard on us. We needed a break, to spend time together, but there never seemed to be a good time. Fact: There will never be a “good” time! We finally asked someone to watch the girls so we could go out, crutches and all. Even if it was just driving in the car, being together, holding hands, praying over our situation, and inviting each other into the trial was pivotal to enduring well.
Tend to Your Heart
- Before my trying season, I’d made a goal to pray for 10 minutes each morning. It hadn’t happened. My trials have brought me to a new level of intimacy with God because prayer has become a priority! Writing out prayers help me focus, so I do recommend writing them if you can. Track your requests – pray specifically! – and how God answers. Do the same for the requests of others. This will bolster your faith.
- I call this “tending to your heart” because prayer is the best way to do so. Don’t “edit” your prayers; God knows what you’re thinking. Pour out your heart to Him!
Trials will come. Stressful times will always be with us. But how we respond is under our control: Will we choose to depend on Christ, to tend to the things which will bolster us up? Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
The wave that throws us against Him will be neither comfortable nor easy. But it will result in our growth.