When you feel unable to think

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

Unable to think…. When I started writing this post, I had a clear impression that my task is not to fix your issues or offer solutions. My task is to point you to God. Left to my own devices, I would have attempted to offer solutions instead, to give you ways or tips to help you carve out space in your schedule so you can think. That’s what I would have wanted for myself. But that is not my role.

Man that can't think!

Photo by andres.thor. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

So instead, I offer you this set of assorted thoughts:

  1. It’s hard to think while you’re under attack. This means that when you feel unable to think, it’s worth considering whether you’re encountering spiritual warfare. I’m sure that at some level, Satan would love to keep your mind so occupied that you can’t think straight. And if you can’t think straight, you certainly can’t think straight about God.
  2. We are lovers before we are thinkers. That means that our hearts are drawn to things even if we’re not thinking about them. This can be bad, such as when our hearts are drawn away from God without us even being aware of it. But it can also be good. When our hearts are in love with God, we are drawn to Him even if we aren’t consciously thinking about it.
  3. When I asked the Lord what I should write, this is what I received. I pass it on to you: “I (the Lord) love you. I love you even if you can’t think straight. I love you even if you make errors or choose poorly because you weren’t thinking. My desires for you and your family are not thwarted because you weren’t thinking well. Let me think for you.”

I close with a prayer: Lord, be with us. We desire to think well and clearly, both for our own sake and for the sake of those around us. Many of us have placed a high premium on being able to think, so when we do not have that ability, we feel uncomfortable. Lost. Perhaps even panicked. Helpless. Frustrated. Ineffective. Useless. Like we’re continually screwing things up and making bad choices. Like we’re out of control. Lord, I give to You the many and varied emotions we feel. Please immerse us in Your love. Please guide us even when we can’t think clearly enough to see what’s ahead. I pray especially for stay-at-home parents and others whose lives and circumstances are such that even getting a moment to stop and think feels impossible. May you provide extra grace to them, allowing them to take comfort in Your compassionate, helpful, and sustaining presence with them in the middle of their incredibly trying circumstances. May they in particular know what kind of power You supply in the middle of this particular weakness of ours. In the Name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Question: What’s at stake for you in being able to think or think well?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

When You Feel Anxiety

This post is part of a series exploring how busy people feel and what we can do with those feelings. To see the first post in the series, click here.

Anxiety. It means you’re not at shalom, not at full peace . That you’ve got this generalized fear that something will go wrong and that it will affect you negatively. Anxiety can be debilitating. It can also be a gift, a reminder for you to seek God. Anxiety reminds you that you’re trying to deal with your worries by yourself.

Cast all your anxiety on God

Photo by Lel4nd. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

As a busy person, you sure have a lot you could worry about. And in fact you do worry about those things. The problem is when you internalize your worries, when you obsess about them, when they dominate your thoughts and you start believing that you must deal with them on your own. That you are solely responsible for these issues.

First Peter 5:6-7 is instructive here. Many of you are familiar with 5:7 – “Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.” Some translations even say “Cast all your anxieties,” so this verse is an even better fit. Now, what you need to know is that 5:6 and 5:7 are linked. The command to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God” and the command to “cast all your cares on Him” are connected. They’re not two separate commands that have nothing to do with each other. In fact, 5:7 is how you do 5:6. You become humbled under God’s mighty hand by casting all your anxieties on Him, knowing that He cares for you.

The image here is that of a parent and a young child. You are to completely trust your heavenly Father’s will for your life. Now, that doesn’t mean you do it silently and blindly. Just like a little child, you tell your heavenly Father everything that’s on your heart. Just like a little child does: “Will you come pick me up?” “Are we there yet?” “I’m tired!” “Will you catch me at the bottom of the slide?” “I want that!” Every one of these is a care, concern, or anxiety. And every one of these, when expressed to a loving and compassionate parent, will eventually lead to a place of greater humility and peace.

To what extent can you tell God everything you’re concerned and anxious about, just like that little child? I encourage you to do it. God is indeed loving and compassionate. He will bring you more peace, not more anxiety. To make this conversation with God more real, either do it aloud or write it down. Or do both. Using your body will help you experience the truth of God’s response more clearly.

Another idea is to regularly write down whatever you’re worried or anxious about on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and literally “cast” it at God. Let your action say that you’re giving it to Him and not keeping . And don’t go picking it up again, unless it’s to throw it in the trash! (Of course, this doesn’t mean you won’t be responsible in the situation. It just means that your self-worth is not longer staked to it and that you’re not the only one responsible.)

A third idea is to write the list and give it to a trusted friend who represents God by proxy. He or she can then say to you, “What are you doing picking those anxieties back up again?”, this mirroring God’s loving care (1 Pet 5:7) to you.

May it be that when you tend to your anxieties, that you find that they point you to God. And in God, may you find shalom.

Question: What anxieties can you cast on God right now?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

How Busy People Feel

How do busy people feel? Over the next several posts I will address the different emotions you, as a busy person, might feel and how you can use them to point you to God. But first, I need a list of the emotions themselves.

overwhelmed woman in pile of shredded paper and other papers

Photo by puck90. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

Here’s my list. What would you add to it? Or which ones would you put at the top of the list? Since I’ll be addressing them, and doing so in order, here’s your chance to chime in and get my input on what is most relevant to you.

Busy people feel:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Pressured
  • Guilty
  • Ashamed
  • Inadequate
  • Trapped
  • Assaulted, Buffeted
  • Tired, Exhausted, Worn, Weary, Drained
  • Burdened
  • Slow
  • Anxious
  • Unable to Think
  • Unable to Feel (Deeply), Numb
  • Needy
  • Maxed Out
  • Dissheveled, Unkempt
  • Frustrated
  • Numb
  • Irritated, Irritable, Short-Tempered
  • Powerless

(Some of you might say that you’re busy and you’re enjoying it. You feel fulfilled, and that life is moving in the right direction. I affirm that you feel that way about your life, and I encourage you to keep going with that! This post comes from the perspective that when most people use “busy,” they typically mean it in a negative sense.)

Questions: What would you add to this list? What would you take away? Which emotions would you put on the top of the list as being most prominent?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

How are you with others?

Last time, I discussed ways of being with God. To recap, I encouraged you to ask these questions to God:

  1. How am I with You?
  2. How do I want to be with You?
  3. How do You want me to be with you?
  4. How are You with me?

    Mother hugging a child.

    Photo by lobstar28. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

Now, this idea of ways of being is important not just for your relationship with God, but for your relationships with others too. It’s worth pondering how you are with the other people in your life: your spouse, your kids, your friends, your co-workers.  If you really want to find out, you could actually ask. Be prepared…how you think you are may not actually be how you’re perceived!

Then, consider how you want to be with them. How do you want to be seen by them? Think about key characteristics that would describe your idea for how they experience you, such as: loving, dependable, always there, empathetic, they can share anything with you. To really push yourself, consider how you want to be remembered by them after you’ve died. That’s the ultimate clincher, at least in my book. Focusing there really pushes me to consider how I want to be remembered and helps clarify how I truly want to live. I suspect it will do the same for you.

Remember, too, to saturate yourself in the message of the Bible as you’re considering your ways of being. Scripture has much to say about this, both in terms of how we are commanded to be as God’s people and how God Himself is with us. Looking at both can shape your views dramatically.

It’s important to state your key characteristics positively rather than negatively. For example, say “available and calm” rather than “not busy.” The reason is simply that you will focus on whatever you state. So if you state a negative, all your attention will be on avoiding that characteristic rather than building something positive. And then the feel of your life will be more like “don’t mess it up” rather than “I’m joyfully building something meaningful.” Which would you rather have?

At this point, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Michael Hyatt’s excellent free resource, Creating Your Personal Life Plan. The very first exercise in his book is for you to work through your key relationships (God, spouse, kids, friends, and so forth) and decide how you want them to remember you after your life is over. And the book doesn’t stop there…he’s got a ton of helpful exercises and guidelines for you!

How do you want your significant relationships to be characterized?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.

What’s more important than right behavior?

As I wrote last week, I’m not doing New Year’s resolutions because I refuse to be carried away by neurotic, guilt-ridden behavioral commitments because I see my brokenness. Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that I’m doing nothing, as if every time I see something wrong with me, I just say “Whatever!”.

Flower plus caption "you are all I need."

Photo by thewhitestdogalive. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

On the contrary! What I’m actually committing to is a certain way of being with God. Instead of committing to a way of being that says, “Whenever I see my brokenness, I need to clean it up by myself quickly so that God stays happy with me,” I’m committing to a way of being that says, “I’m trusting that God offers me acceptance and forgiveness in Christ and that I can simply be with Him as I am.”

It’s worth sitting down and asking God to show you how you are with Him. Here’s some questions worth pondering in prayer, along with sub-questions for each:

  1. Lord, how am I with You?
    • Lord, to what extent do I truly believe that if I’ve chosen to follow Jesus, I’m fully forgiven and accepted by You, and I will experience no condemnation from You at all?
    • Lord, how often to I run to You as the first person from whom I seek guidance or advice?
    • Lord, how emotionally safe do I think You are?
    • Lord, how likely am I to do whatever You tell me to do without hesitation?
    • Lord, how much do I enjoy You?
  2. Lord, how do I want to be with You?
    • Lord, what do I truly think about You?
    • Lord, how much control do I want over my life?
    • Lord, how much do I trust You?
  3. Lord, how do You want me to be with you?
    • What does the Bible teach me about how You want me to be? What do I think about what it says? How much am I willing to commit to being like that?
  4. Lord, how are You with me?
    • What does the Bible teach me about how You are? How is that the same or different from how I perceive You?

Start with any of these questions, and see where your conversation with God goes!

How are you with God? How do you want to be with Him?

Leave a comment to continue our conversation.