“Stress. What if it is not out there? What if it is inside of me….being birthed in some fertile breeding grounds where circumstances are mutated into stress.” This is where we started last week. Why? Because it is the key starting point in dealing with my stress. It immediately takes me to a fork in the road in terms of how I am going to respond to the stress I am experiencing.
If stress is inside of me, an internal response to some external demand, whether real or perceived, then the antidote is not a much longed for, or even demanded change of circumstances, the antidote is more about me than my circumstances. The fact is I, (and you!), live in a world where circumstances will always be ripe to trigger stress. Always. Every day. Wherever I am. I can’t escape it. Why? Because Jesus says so. “In the world you will have tribulation…“ (John 16:33). Then he adds an amazing truth, that the tribulations that surrounds us do not have to create stress in us. They do not need to steal our inner peace. “But take heart; I have overcome the world…in me you may have peace.” Jesus is saying peace is not found in changing my circumstances, but it’s found in a person. In Him.
Consider this, John 14:17 in The Message:
“I am leaving you well and whole. That is my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you are used to being left–feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.“
Are there unhealthy environments that we need to detach from? Sure. Are there demanding situations where we need a respite to focus on some of our own needs? Yes. But those respites can be useless, even harmful, if they take me to unhealthy places, to those toxic breeding grounds of stress, where I will have time to live out the familiar lies that I think protect me. Places where my lies can protect me without the interference of circumstances.
I have a number of inner breeding grounds. I have them listed. And numbered. They remind me of a family vacation we took to Yellowstone National Park. We hiked on wooden pathways to areas of smelly, bubbling, mud pots. Some of the boiling mud pots were huge and gave off a strong stench of sulfur. Others were smaller and harder to find, not quite so smelly but just as deadly were we to step off the walkway.
I am going to share with you my smelly, deadly, bubbling mud pots — the core lies that when threatened create stress. And anxiety. But first it would be helpful if you did something, and then I want to do something.
First, A LITTLE EXERCISE FOR YOU: Get a piece of paper that you can put in your journal or your Bible, and over the next week ask God to reveal to you your Yellowstone mud pots…then write them down. What is the core lie you believe that you are afraid circumstances will reveal? Make a list. Then we can compare as we journey along.
Second, I WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOU: For those of you who have subscribed to this Laying it Down community by sharing your email and first name in the boxes to the right of this blog, I want to send you some additional material to help you go deeper. I want to send you a list of the symptoms of stress – the psychological, physical, behavioral and spiritual symptoms. Then I want to differentiate for you the difference between stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression. If you have not yet “subscribed” go ahead and do it and I will make sure this resource is in your email inbox early this coming week.