You know, we live in some very stressful times. Many of us carry exceedingly heavy loads in our lives. Recently, there was a situation somone was relaying to me about an encounter they had with another person who was not very pleasant to deal with. I was not present when it happened, I was simply hearing the aftermath of how it affected the person telling the story. I looked at the person, and told them how sorry I was they had to endure what had occurred. I acknowledged how that must have affected them and how it added undue stress to their already complicated lives. I followed up that empathetic response with an observation, “We just never know what causes another person to act out with us, do we?” We don’t know their backstory. We don’t know what kinds of stress or anxiety they are having to deal with in their own lives. That’s, of course, not to excuse bad behavior, but simply to have a different perspective.

Its easy sometimes, I think, to answer bad behavior or conversation with our own invective. I don’t happen to believe that is our best course of action. Jesus tells us to answer hate with love, to turn back anger with kindness. I find these are easy words to write and repeat, not so easy to practice. I tried to assure the person I had talked with my perspective was easy enough for me to espouse because I was not the one who had to endure the situation. I would like to say that’s how I respond in similar moments, but that would hardly be true. What is true though, is when I have responded out of anger or hurt, I am rarely, if ever, proud of myself. I have found I feel even worse.

I’ve said all this to say, we all live in stressful and anxious moments that seem to last longer and longer. Sometimes the stress is acted out in angry ways that lash out and hurt others. Sometimes the stress and anxiety come from physical or spiritual pain we are having to carry. Sometimes the load we carry has to do with our own diminished self-worth. The thing is, we are not unique or alone in these circumstances. It has been this way from the very beginning of time. We are laden with all sorts of emotions and feelings, and sometimes they converge in ways which cause us to crack under the pressure.

I can tend to be a crier. When emotions overwhelm me, I cry. I can’t help it. I’ve heard some tell me that crying can be seen as a sign of weakness. “Grow up.” “Get hold of yourself.” “Big boys don’t cry.” Somehow those admonitions never worked for me. They might make me feel ashamed of showing my emotions, but they never helped me deal with them. I’ve learned over the many years I’ve been alive to let those emotions come and in them I experience a kind of cathartic release. I’m able to let go of the stress and anxiety. I’m able to offload what has been weighing me down. I feel a sense of peace and calm. In other words, God gifted me with the flood of emotions for my own self healing. I’ve learned to look at those moments in exaclty this way. What a difference its made in my life.

When we are facing moments of anger, moments of stress, moments of grief, moments of pain, there is no one qualified to tell us how we are supposed to respond. The only one truly able to lead and guide us through those moments is the God who loves and cares for us.

Scripture is replete with words meant to uplift us in our painful and stressful times….

• Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

• Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

• Philippians 4:6-7

“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”

• Matthew 6:34

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

• John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

God has loved you and me in and out of more stressful, painful, anxious moments than we can even know. In these times where many of us are burdened with anxiety, pain, stress, hurt, and anger, may we find refuge in knowing God sees, God knows, and God is present with us through it all.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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