I had to take a moment. An awkward, silent, ten-second one.
‘Sir, are you still there? Mr Stoudt…?’
By this point in my call with tech support – two hours in – I was completely frazzled. The tech’s instructions ran together like the teacher’s words from Charlie Brown. I vowed to donate my brain to science immediately after hanging up the phone, then vaguely decided there wouldn’t be anything left.
I bet you can identify with stress like this. In a broken, fallen world, it’s all around us. Every day. We panic, we get angry, we lose perspective. Even if we’ve learned to hide it well beneath a veneer of ‘I’m good’ and smiles.
Deep down, we long to be more at peace, more at rest. But how?
The Disciples’ Stress – And Yours
The disciples were, apparently, stressing out. And we can’t really blame them. After all, Jesus had (twice) told them he was going to die (Luke 9:23-24, 43-45). And, that he was sending them out as ‘lambs among wolves’ (10:3) in an evil generation (11:29). Even worse, the Pharisees were starting to really stick it to him (11:53-54), but he just kept saying one unpopular thing after another.
Suddenly, following Jesus seemed like a lot less fun.
Jesus wanted to reassure them that, despite the stress of following him, it was worth it. And, that they could have real peace even when life gets tough.
He makes the same offer to you. And me.
Even if we’re in a difficult marriage, or, wondering if we’ll ever get married. If we need a job or can’t get out of one we hate. When we’re sick, or someone we love is suffering. When we can’t see past the next exam or frustration that should feel small but doesn’t.
7 Ways Jesus Meets Us In Our Stress
Here are 7 ways from Luke 12:22-34 we can find rest and peace when our lives are filled with worry, stress and frustration. Under each one, I’ll share a few thoughts and a question you can reflect on. (Don’t feel like you need to do each one; just focus on the ones that really stand out.)
- Consider God’s care in the world around you. If God richly provides for the birds (24) and flowers (27) that have far less value than we do (24), he’ll definitely take care of us. Come up with your own if/then analogy to reinforce God’s care for you.
- Remember worry doesn’t work. With two powerful questions, Jesus reminds us that our stress doesn’t accomplish anything (25-26), and that we are small. Where have you seen stress’s futility in your life?
- Reject an orphan mentality. Children without parents are deeply alone, and often feel like they have to provide for themselves. I often slip into this mentality when I stress, but we have a Father who knows all about our needs (30). In what situations do you find yourself living like you’re all alone? How would remembering that you have a loving, attentive Father begin to change that?
- Seek God’s kingdom first. When we build our lives around God’s kingdom, we get an unbelievable – if counter-intuitive – offer: we get everything else (31). That means we don’t have to stress, control our lives, or work endlessly to get what we want. We can make God and his priorities our highest pursuit, and he’ll work out the rest. Think of a time you put God first and saw him take care of what you were worried about.
- Embrace a herd mentality. I don’t mean turning your mind off, but rather, remembering that you’re part of Jesus’ ‘little flock’ (32). Jesus is our Good Shepherd who knows we’re small and tenderly guides, protects and provides for us. (He’s also implying that we’re small and not as smart or independent as we’d like!) How would seeing yourself as part of Jesus’ flock practically change how you view the most stressful thing in your life right now?
- Remember God’s generosity. Ever been around someone who’s stingy or always does the minimum? God’s not like that! It’s his ‘good pleasure’ to be generous with us. It makes him happy. Where have you seen God’s generosity in your life?
- Think about what you’re already received. You may not be among ‘the 1%’, but if you know Christ, you’re already rich. God has given you his very kingdom (32). The King has come, made you his son or daughter, and is already ruling your world for his glory and your good. As Paul Tripp reminds us in this short video, that means acknowledge what’s causing stress, yet relinquish control and stop pursuing false treasures that will always let us down. Where are you trying to set yourself up as king or queen of your own kingdom? How would remembering that God has given you his kingdom lead to freedom?
It’s a life-long project, but calling these glorious truths to mind and asking God to help them shape our lives will transform us.
But, it’s not just for us.
Near the end of this passage, Jesus tells us to ‘sell our possessions, and give to the needy’ (33). While that may be literal for some us, his main point is that coming to grips with his generous love, care and provision will make us stress-free and full. Full to the point of overflowing to everyone around us.
God’s heart in defusing our stress bombs isn’t merely to make us peaceful and content. His heart is that, resting in our identity as children who are loved, we would spread his kingdom to the world in need around us. If you were more secure in God’s love, care and provision, how would you be more free to care for the people around you. Try to pick one real-life situation and be specific.