I woke up with an anxious knot in my stomach.
I had no idea where it had come from or why it had decided to take up residence in my gut. Laying in bed, I started to go through a mental checklist of reasons it could be there. My summer has been the busiest I have ever had. I have hung out with teens from all over the country as they have come on missions trips to our ministry. There have been details, coordinating, early mornings, and too much to do. It could be stress at home juggling teens, aging parents and everyday home responsibilities. Searching the recesses of my brain, finally I stopped and prayed about it. That’s when I realized this was not the first time I had this feeling this summer. It rose up on the days I was on autopilot with God. There had been many days when busyness caused me to treat my time with the Lord as a throw away option in an overworked schedule. If I wasn’t careful this ministry thing would become focused inward on my own strength.
There were questions I had to ask myself to get rid of this panic attack:
Do I Want to Grow Closer to the Lord?
We all know the “right” answers when we are feeling spiritually dry. We should read our Bibles, pray, go to church and if we are really deep then we have an accountability partner and attend a small group of some kind. All of these things are needed and in my opinion, “You should do them.” I have told teens more times than I would like to count this summer, “You can’t trust someone you don’t know. If you don’t trust Christ I would ask, what are you doing to get to know Him?” I didn’t realize I had the same issues as the youth. All of those things we do actually help us understand who the Lord is and we are able to get to know His character. In ministry we do many things that help us learn about God and tell others about Him. We spend time with the Lord so we can get ready to teach someone else. Yet, we have to start with asking ourselves with honesty, “Is it easier to go through the motions than to press in and be near Him?” Do I want to live with this knot or learn to trust the Lord more?
Do I Quiet My Heart and Listen to the Lord?
As I drove into the office this particular morning I remembered it was also staff prayer. I had missed many times out of necessity this summer. Truthfully, there wasn’t any reason I should skip on this day. Still I sat in my car trying to come up with an excuse to get out of it, after all I had planned on catching up on admin work today. I realized immediately as we sat before Jesus together that this was what would attack the anxiety. The Lord convicted me and I realized, “When is the last time I was just still and knew He is God?” It had been a little while. Find times to quiet your heart just for the purpose of being with the Lord. Do you need to spend an extra five minutes in your car? Can you take 15 minutes to just intentionally get to know the Lord better? Take the time to be with God, just to remember you are His and He is yours.
Do I Enjoy Being With God?
A mentor challenged me once withe this question, “Do you enjoy being with the Lord?” At the time I realized I did many things out of obedience, but it was more of a task list than a pleasure. This was when I had to strip away my comparison game to how others spent time with Jesus and look at my own relationship with Him. We each have places where it’s actually fun to spend time with our God. For me spending time in the vast expanse of nature reminds me of his love, power, magnificence, and care. I love music so even a three-minute car ride with a worship song gives me a moment back with my Lord. When is the last time you had time with the Lord because you wanted to? What did you do?
I could tell you books to read and practices to keep if you want to grow in the Lord. Yet, I would be giving you suggestions that come from my own experience. What I will tell you is the anxious knot melted (and melts overtime) when I stop trying to take back control of my life. The moment I recalled again that time with the Lord isn’t something merely to teach my teens, but is for me too, is when things got better. If this summer has been exhausting, the Fall is right around the corner and it only gets busier.
It’s all about remembering the Lord wants us closer than our breath, and it’s from this place we have anything to offer at all.