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A Surprising Way to Reduce Stress



What are some proven ways to diminish stress? It’s not hard to find strategies and advice for this. A simple google search of “How to relieve stress” gave me 1,040,000,000 results! The top article in my search, by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) gave these tips:

  • Be active—Take a dance break! Lift weights. Do push-ups or sit-ups. Or kick around a soccer ball for a few minutes.

  • Close your eyes, take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.

  • Write three things you are grateful for.

  • Check in with yourself—take time to ask yourself how you are feeling.

  • Laugh! Think of someone who makes you laugh or the last time you laughed so hard you cried.

  • Find an inspiring song or quote and write it down (or screenshot it) so you have it nearby.

These are certainly some great strategies, but the following one I read again recently surprised me. The advice was this:


“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.”  Psalm 119:143


Joy in God’s commands. Interesting. I can’t say that would have been my first thought. But when I read it today, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Am I doing this when I’m going through something hard?


The Merriam Webster dictionary defines COMMAND as “to direct authoritatively” or “an order given.” So, with that definition in mind, I’m reminded that God has many commands in his word. Yes, there are the essential Ten Commandments, but there are more.


For example, God tells us to not fear, to praise him, to trust him, to remember what he’s done for us, to be on guard from evil, to be courageous, to listen, to make disciples, to not worry, to seek him, to draw near to him, to pray to him. There are so many words of direction he gives us, and these aren’t even all of them! These are simply the ones that came to my mind as I wrote this. Plus, there are all the promises of God that follow these commands. For example, when he tells us to pray, he promises us he hears us. How cool is that? We get a promise that tells of God's provision with every direction we follow.


So, when I ask whether I’m finding joy in God’s commands when I’m under pressure and stress, my best answer is sort of, sometimes. I know, that’s not the best answer, but it’s the truth. As an example, I might pray during a moment of stress, but do I then remember the promise that he hears me and will answer? In other words, do I stop worrying? Do I let go of fear? Do I surrender and trust God completely, knowing he heard my prayer and knows what to do? Or do I then try to figure out what to do to quickly fix the situation and feel frustrated when the problem doesn’t immediately go away? I think that might be my tendency, which means I might miss out on the joy promised in God’s commands.


John Piper says, “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”


Notice that this definition says joy is a good feeling in the soul, coming from the Holy Spirit. So if it’s from the spirit, I can’t make it happen on my own. It’s a fruit of the spirit, as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” If I’m going to feel this joy, deep down, in my soul, I need to let the Holy Spirit work in me, and that requires me to follow the command to listen and to trust.  


John 14:15-17 says, “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”


Look at that. Right there in the words of Jesus, the command to obey, followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which leads us into truth, which we know is the truth that God’s word brings us joy.


Piper’s definition of Christian joy also says that it will cause us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world. It doesn’t say I will see my problems or my stressors go away; it says I will see the beauty of Christ. That’s a different kind of joy than what we first might think. It goes deeper than a fleeting happy feeling. It causes us to see Jesus in the midst of our chaos and know we can hope in him, not our own strength.


This joy is perhaps the same joy David and the other writers of the Psalms demonstrated in their words. As I read through the Psalms of the Day this past week, I was constantly reminded of who God is and his promises to us, and though nothing in any of my circumstances has changed, I’m finding something deep inside me changing. I’m finding joy in each day because I know God is here, with me, holding me up, carrying me through everything, the big, the small, the exciting, the mundane, the hard, the easy. He’s here in it all. The more I think on that, the more I feel at peace. 


Does that mean I have everything under control? Does it mean I don’t mess up? Does it mean I react perfectly to every situation in my day? No. I wish it did! But it does mean I know who to go to, and it means I think about Him more when I make the effort to do so.


As I was thinking about this yesterday, I heard a song that spoke so well about this focus on Jesus in the trials and storms of life. It’s titled “Swim” by Beach Chapel. It seems like the perfect song to listen to and sing out loud in a moment of trial, or really at any time. I highly recommend listening to this song and let the words soak in. Maybe think about the things you need to surrender to God first and then sing or say these words from the song as a faithful response to focus on him more than the stress or the worry in your mind.





Words from the song Swim (by Beach Chapel)

 

My faith is here with you.

And this faith is strong and true.

I’m standing with you in the ocean.

 I feel the waves I feel the motion.

And my eyes are fixed on you.

They’re on you.

Help me up take my doubt away.

Holy Ghost get the fear out of me. . . . . .

 

Jesus keep me up, keep me up, keep my eyes on you.

Jesus keep me up, keep me up, show me so much more.

 

Journaling and Prayer Idea for Today (Printable Template for this in link below):

1.      Read a Psalm from the schedule attached here or any other Psalm of your choice.

2.      Highlight or Write down the words that remind you of God’s commands and God’s promises.

3.      Tell God what’s on your mind (write or say your thoughts to him)

4.      Thank God for his word and ask him to help you remember his commands and promises.

5.      If there’s one promise or command you particularly need, maybe write it again and/or repeat it over throughout the day, especially during the moments you need to hear those words.

 

Here’s an example of how to do this with Psalm 27:


Verses that remind me of God’s commands or promises in Psalm 27:

 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” Psalm 27:1


“Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” Psalm 27:3

 

“For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.” Psalm 27:5

 

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

 

“Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me on the right path.” Psalm 27:11

 

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

 

Some things on my heart that I’m praying with Psalm 27 in mind:


Dear God, I can often worry about things out of my control. I often stress about getting everything done right, getting everything “perfect,” but if I know you’re in control, I shouldn’t worry about what I can do. You know everything about me, about my life, and you have a plan that is good. You will work everything out in the perfect way and in the perfect timing. I pray for those in my life who I know are hurting. (I would probably name these people in my journal, but for privacy reasons won't write those names in this post) As I think of them now and throughout my day, will you please comfort them, help them feel you present with them, help them know your love and your strength? Thank you for protecting them, myself, and all those I love. (Again, I write names of people in my life in my joural, but won't print them in this post for privacy) Thank you for keeping us out of reach from evil. Thank you for teaching us the right ways to go to follow you, to stay on your path. Help us to wait patiently on all the things we hope for, and in the waiting, help us to be brave and courageous by remembering who you are and trusting in you above anything else. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Some Verses I’m repeating throughout my day and week (OVER AND OVER SO THEY SINK IN!):

 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

 

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14


“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.”  Psalm 119:143

 

I pray you hear God’s voice today, feel his presence, and find joy in him. Have a blessed week all.

 

Here are two links you can click on if they're helpful.


This one is a template to pray any Psalm in the way described here for Psalm 27:



Psalm Prayer for Today
.docx
Download DOCX • 12KB



This one is a schedule for reading through and praying the Psalms each day. The day to read is whatever day of the month it is. So if it's January 30th, read the Psalms listed under day 30.


praying-the-bible-psalms-of-the-day-prayer-guide
.pdf
Download PDF • 6.85MB

Read my previous posts for more resources and thoughts on praying through the Psalms, and feel free to reach out with any questions, thoughts, or prayers of your own too!


If you haven't already, you can also subscribe to my email list to receive regular updates directly to your inbox.



 

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