Author and researcher Malcom Gladwell goes to great lengths to show how your greatest weakness could be your greatest advantage. In his book “David and Goliath”, he reasons that David’s small stature was not a disadvantage to defeating the Giant, but an advantage. He goes on to discuss how our seeming weaknesses may just be our greatest advantage. For example, 1/3 of the Fortune 500 hundred CEO’s have been diagnosed with dyslexia or other similar learning disabilities and in fact these disabilities actually forced them to strengthen and heighten other skills that would catapult them to corporate success beyond their wildest dreams. He calls it “desired difficulty”. I’d like to submit to you, “stress”, if we’ll allow it to, can be the catapult to launch us deeper into our walk with God. Stress and anxiety are pandemic in 2019 and only getting worse. As bad as it is, I’m guessing our stress pales in comparison to the Apostle Paul’s:
2 Corinthians 11:24-28
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
Three times I was beaten with rods.
Once I was stoned.
Three times I was shipwrecked;
a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
on frequent journeys in danger from rivers,
danger from robbers,
danger from my own people,
danger from Gentiles,
danger in the city,
danger in the wilderness,
danger at sea,
danger from false brothers;
in toil and hardship,
through many a sleepless night,
in hunger and thirst,
often without food,
in cold and exposure.
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Can we agree Paul wins the stress war? How did he do it? How did he thrive in the midst of so much stress? He gives us the secret in the book of Philippians. Paul is writing this letter from prison not knowing what tomorrow may hold and yet he writes:
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul says stress and anxiety should be a trigger to pray. Did you catch that? At the slightest sense of anxiousness or uneasiness we are told to go vertical- go to God in prayer. The very thing designed to choke the life out of you, can become the thing that drives you closer to God the one that brings life! Paul encourages us to pray and ‘supplicate’ or request things from God. I love that. We don’t have to pretend or feign peace. Rather, we can ask things of God. [btw- I’m very good at this: “God help me, God get me out of this, God provide this”] as we empty our hearts to the Lord, we release care and anxiety. It doesn’t stop there, we frame our prayers with thanksgiving and gratitude. In other words, thank God for all that is good and right in your life. Start a gratitude journal or just begin thanking God for anything that comes to your mind [breathe, sight, food, clothing, etc]. None of it is owed to us, but is given by a good and loving God. As our thanksgiving grows, our anxiety will shrink.
Finally, God promises a divine inexplicable peace that passes understanding. This peace of God is aggressive- it “guards”, it is on the lookout for any uninvited care and concern. It will protect our hearts and minds. Stressed out? It’s time to go vertical.