Dealing with Stress

by A. Gene Veal, Counselor

Taken from our album of the same name.
Transcribed by Lynn Margason

Dealing with Stress

The days in which we live are filled with stress: all kinds of stress. It seems there is more to deal with today than ever before. Have you experienced the stress building up to such a pitch that you feel you just cant take it anymore? Are there days when you just lose it and scream at the children or your wife or your husband, and you know as you’re doing it that what they did doesn’t warrant that kind of reaction from you?

Such days can change everything between you and your spouse and result in irreparable damage. That is what this message is about; it is about dealing with stress.

A NARROW PLACE

I Samuel 30:6 “Moreover, David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

David has been involved in war. He has a small band of men and they are on their way home after some bloody losses. They are almost home, their horses are tired, they are tired: bone tired. Their nerves are on edge; they havent slept properly in weeks.

They havent had a decent meal in as many days. They are on the edge of physical, emotional, and mental burnout. The one thing that keeps them going is knowing they will soon sleep in their own bed with their own family.

THEY KNOW THEY ARE GOING HOME. They have kept going by saying, “Just a few more days… just a little longer… and we can eat a square meal and rest all we want. Then we will be with our wives and our families. Even if we must go out again, at least we can have a time of refreshment.”

Now the day has come. They can scarcely hold their horses back; they sense they are almost home. Just over one more hill… But as they approach that last hill, they see smoke spiraling upward into the sky. They get that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs. There is something wrong.

As they reach the top of the hill they see it. What used to be their town (they occupied the whole town) is a charred out skeleton. It is still burning in places. Every home has been burnt to the ground. What can they say? They are speechless. Their town is razed to the ground.

They go through the ruins searching for bodies, but there are no bodies. Nobody was killed in the fire. Nor are their possessions in the ashes. They begin to realize what has happened. In their absence their town was invaded by a bunch of desert thugs, the Amalikites. The Amalikites were a bunch of wandering gangs that would come upon communities like this and steal all the possessions of the inhabitants and put all the captives in chains to sell them on the slave market in Egypt and Iraq. After such forays, they made off as fast as they could.

Now as David’s men view this tragic scene, suddenly they snap. This is the last straw and the camels back is broken. Not only have they come home weary and tired, but they’ve come home to a major crisis. They have lost everything: their wives, their children, their possessions GONE!

The only thing in their favor is that the embers are still hot. It means whoever did this is not far away. Maybe they can catch up with them before they hit the slave market. But they don’t leap back on their horses and chase after the marauders. Instead, they just fall apart. It is just too much for them.

Stress Upon Stress

You know, there is a time when the mind just snaps. Because they were us “tough guys” in the West it says, they wept until they could weep no more. These great men who were the champions of David, sat down and sobbed and sobbed. THAT IS STRESS.

They had “bitterness of soul” : deep, deep pain and grief. It means pain of mind .. it is not a headache; it means our thoughts hurt. Embittered in soul is not just sadness, but agony of emotion. And within it all there is a rage, a helpless rage; it is as if everything inside is screaming, “No, No.” Why did we leave? or why was there not a man in the place to help them? They blame themselves, beating themselves up.

Of course, David has had it, too. Their great charismatic leader is there with his head in his hands like everyone else. He succumbs to that helpless depression that comes over a man: the sort of depression that paralyzes you, when you are not doing anything in your grief, you just want to blame somebody.

Despondent David makes a magnetic target. David’s men begin to shift the blame to him, after all, they had just done what they were told. This wasn’t their fault, (they are coming out of it now). They have to blame somebody, and the name that comes to everybody’s lips is “David”.

He is the one who commanded them to go off and leave their families. He is the one. Aren’t they incredible? These men, just a few days earlier, would have laid down their lives for David. They adored him. But, when you are flat on the floor without an emotion that works properly, it is amazing who you will blame and lash out at. They lashed out at David.

They wanted to vent their rage on a human scape goat. So they began to sound like a lynch mob. They were saying, “Stone him.” Not that anybody actually got up and did anything, but they talked about it. They spoke it.

David could hear them talking. David sat there and felt helpless. He probably thinks, “Can anything else go wrong? I have lost everything and now the only friends I have left are blaming me for what a bunch of thugs did.” He has lost everything. It was STRESSFUL.

Distress

It says he was distressed. Understand what this word means. DISTRESS is the word of the 1990s. In Hebrew it means to be overcrowded. They used it with Elisha when he had the Bible school and the students came and complained everybody was in their face.

There was no room to sleep. Everybody was on top of everybody. The word used there is distress, but it was used to describe being overcrowded. I feel overcrowded. Everything is coming at me. Everything is in my face. I dont have any room to breathe. I dont have any private space.

Also, this word is used by the Hebrews to describe walking into a canyon where the sides get pretty close to you. It is a narrow place. As you walk on in it gets narrower and narrower. Finally the sides are touching you on either shoulder. You try to turn around but it is too narrow. You’re in a narrower and narrower place.

If you want one word to describe stress, it is a NARROW PLACE. It evokes feelings of claustrophobia. It is when life completely overwhelms you. It is when people are all coming together to get in your face. It seems that every enemy has found your address. They all arrive at the same moment. You are overcrowded, overwhelmed. It is too narrow, too tight to breathe. You want space, so you go lashing out: get out of my way!

Sometimes it is translated surrounded. Same idea. Pressing in. It describes a mind that is in torment because my thoughts are crowding me. You cant think straight because as fast as you try to think along this line, other thoughts come to you from the other direction.

Obsession

Would you understand the word obsessed? That word in ancient English meant to be haunted by ghosts. So when we say the mind is obsessed, we mean there are shadowy fears, anxieties and stress. Sometimes I dont even know what they are. I just feel I am obsessed with fears, anxieties and stress. Grown men feel like whimpering like little children. Have you ever been there? I know I have. Crying and sobbing uncontrolled. Life becomes too big to live. I want to run away but there is no place to run.

David had a time like this and wrote a Psalm and said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove that I might fly away and be at peace and get out of here!”

That is all wrapped up in the meaning of this word. In one place it is used to describe being attacked by a swarm of bees. When problems come like a swarm of bees. Everything is coming at you. At the office or at home; everything is coming at you at once. It is like the beginning of a panic attack.

There are many levels of distress, various degrees. He said, I am greatly distressed. He is in the narrow way; overcrowded with problems. The canyon has crushed him. The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

The Spiritual Secret

What David did at this time could be the foundational Spiritual secret of Davids life, because it tells us what he did in this situation, while he was in the narrow way. It says, David strengthened himself in the Lord.

Here are ways the word strengthened is used in the Old Testament: (1) picking up a little child and holding it, because the child doesnt have the strength to stand by himself; so I hold it and by so doing I am imparting my strength to him. (2) Or to hold on to; you may want to go out that door, but my strength holds onto you and I empower you to stay by imparting my strength.

Remember, Pharaoh hardened his heart; it means that it became strong, immovable in saying No. He didnt say, “Well, no.” He said NO! And there is no discussion. He was stubborn, obstinate, strong, and immovable.

Another place the word appears is in a bankruptcy, where a person does not have the money to pay his bills and a rich brother comes and bails him out, “gives him relief.” But the Hebrew word used there is strengthened. If you have bills that you cant pay and someone comes along and pays your bills, he takes the pressure off your shoulders and strengthens you financially. Your weakness is carried into strength by someone else giving you his or her strength.

In Other Words

One last use: suppose I told you that if you are the last person to leave this place, be sure and turn all the lights out. That is: be strengthened that the lights are all out. Dont just say, “Well, I guess they are out”, and just go on. It means you will not let one room get past your notice, not one switch will be unchecked. That is to say you will be strong in this matter. You say to the kids, BE SURE TO DO THIS. You mean no ifs and no buts.

David strengthened himself in the Lord. That is, David was strengthened; he received Gods own strength imparted to him: Divine strength, the unbegun, infinite strength of God, which was specifically needed for this moment, was actually imparted to the humanity of David.

Did you get that? No ifs, no buts, no areas of weakness. He was held on to by Gods strength. God actually put into David His strength so that Davids bankruptcy disappeared in the strength God gave him.

Now, that didnt just mysteriously happen. It isnt that as David sat there weeping, distressed, and broken, he was suddenly zapped with the Spirit and became strong. NO! He was not an uninformed church member; he knew how things worked.

Overhearing

Note: It says that David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. What does that mean? We overhear this in Davids life all the time.

Let me tell you a few places we overhear it.

Ps. 3, 18, 23, 27 come to mind.. Have you ever heard this phrase before? “THE LORD IS MY ”

My shepherd, my light, my life, the lifter of my head, my tower, my shield, my rock, my salvation

Who is saying that? David is saying that. He is strengthening himself in the Lord. He is taking of all the resources of God and he is actually making them his own. He does it with that phrase “THE LORD IS MY”

What’s in a Name?

“THE LORD is my ” That means the name of God: LORD: Jehovah: YAHWEH. It is the name Moses asked about when he said, “Who are you?”

A name described a persons character. Asking for your name meant one wanted to know everything you are. Moses was asking God to give him a complete course in Theology in ten minutes. If we were to paraphrase the gist of Gods reply, “I am”, conveyed, “Moses, you want to know who I am. What a joke.

“You cant know who I am. I am the limitless God; there is no end to me. In a trillion years you could not know who I am, but I will tell you who I am. I AM the one who will become to you in your history. That is, I wont give you a theological textbook on this and say read page 44.

“I wont have you study theology to know me, but you will come to know me as you live out your life, Moses, in every experience that you have; I will show myself to you in a way that you have never seen me before. You can write that in your book and say, ‘Now I know who that is who He is because God has become to me who He is.’ ”

The whole of the Old Testament is the story of God BECOMING. From every story in the Old Testament, we know something about God that we didnt know before. I think your life is that way. You dont read about this in a book, you make the book. If you read it in a book, it is still not yours, you dont know it for sure, you heard it second hand, because God still is Yahweh, the becoming one. He becomes to us who He still is.

David encouraged himself in the BECOMING ONE.

I am at the pit of despair. I have never been this low and I am looking to God. That is, I am saying that He is going to become to me WHO HE IS in this situation that I shall discover my God as I have never discovered Him before in this experience that I have never lived before. He will become to me this.

The Holy Spirit

This is the role of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit connects me to God. The Holy Spirit makes God real to me, unites me to Him in my situation. So David says, the Lord, Yahweh, the I am that I am, the Lord is my that He is now revealing Himself to me, but He is revealing Himself in me, the Lord is my strength, my shield, my high towerHe is revealing Himself to me, and in me and by me. So, the LORD is my fortress, my rock, my _____ in my experience, in my life. The Lord shall be revealed.

What to Expect

I know that He is love: unconditional love. He is limitless wisdom. He is absolute goodness. He is almighty power. He is ALL of that. And He has given Himself to us in covenant and He has promised, given His Word, that He will be our guide and our protector and our Wisdom in all circumstances.

That He will be love to us at all times, that He will be our caregiver, provider, and comforter, He promised all that. You see there is general truth that God is Love, but David is saying that He is love to “me”. It is generally true that God provides for His own, but he says He provides for me. It is generally true that God protects His people, but he is my shield, my tower, my refuge. He is becoming to me in a most specific, personal way that which is generally true. “The Lord is my”

I want you to notice something else about him encouraging himself in the Lord, David doesnt pray. It doesnt say, Oh, Lord, please be my shield, be my protector. It is a statement: it is a declaration. The Lord is My David is taking a leap of faith; from being conscious of his need into conscious supply. He is not saying, God please bridge the gap; I know you are the answer, please bring the answer over here. He doesnt do that. It is a leap of faith. He says, I am aware of the need. Therefore, the Lord is the supply. Whatever the need is, He is the piece of the jigsaw that fits in perfectly as the supply.

He makes it a statement: “The Lord is my .” He declares that God is joined to him by the Holy Spirit and in so doing God becomes to him all that He is.

The Great Exchange

I am always conscious of need and he is always the supply. The Christian life is always saying here is the need, You are my supply. Thank You. It is done. The Holy Spirit makes it happen.

You confess He is Lord of the situation and you are saved. The Lord is my strength and He brings it together by the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is the continual fact that He is my life, whatever life is for me is at this point. It is not asking Him to be that; it is daring to believe He said He is it: so He is it. And I declare it: the Lord is my

David did not do this out of his feelings. No! He did it in spite of his feelings, in the face of negative feelings. Faith is an act of will by which I choose to respond to the character from the Word of God. It is not a feeling.

You see my true self, who I really, really am, since I have been born again: Christ lives in me. He is my identity. I am joined to God in my inmost being and so are you. But we go through things like David did.

And my true self becomes flooded with feelings. Feelings that arise not from who I am, but from who I call my FALSE SELF, that is made of subjective feelings. It is not my life; it is the feelings about life. But they never tell the truth. They are incapable of telling the truth because they never include God in their summation.

Because you see, God is not seen and is not felt. So they have nothing to report on. They say, we are reporting on what we see: enemies are out there and they want your head. That is all they can see, but it is not the truth because they left God out of the equation. They leave out the fact that in my inmost being I am joined to God. My feelings report to me what they feel, and they want to become my identity. They want me to say that is who I am, but I am not.

Feelings or Truth?

I feel wiped out, washed out, a wretched person. My feelings are telling me thats who I am. Many Christians believe their feelings and that is where they live most of their lives.

David had feelings, but in the face of those feelings he chose to be present to his true self. He dared to declare his true identity with God even though he couldnt see and presently couldnt feel it. He overrode all of the feelings with their words and their pictures that poured through his mind and his emotions. He overrode them by declaring, the Lord is my strength.

I dont have a feeling in my body to support that, there is not a reason in my mind to say it is true, but I know it is true. And I stand into the truth and I declare the truth because it is the truth. He doesnt wait for his feelings to change before he declares the truth.

Some say they would be a hypocrite if they say that and they dont feel it. No! You are not a hypocrite if you live out of the truth. He didnt wait for his feelings to tell him that it is true. It is true. It is his feelings that are the liars. The Lord is my strength even though my feelings tell me otherwise.

He didnt wait till he felt more like a believer. Many days I dont feel like a believer. Today, our kids are being taught in school to live by their feelings. Those teachers are liars. We do not live by our feelings; we live by the truth. Many times my feelings are the opposite of the truth.

So David encouraged himself in the Lord and declared, I am not my feelings, I am who I am in my God. No apologies. No explaining. God knows how we feel. He planned that we would be weak. We have to be weak if we are going to contain His strength. David stands into the truth. And he did it by saying words that declare who he really was in God.

Confess with your mouth the Name of the Lord. The Name of the Lord is a strong tower and the righteous run into it and are saved. If you dont yield to the Holy Spirit you wont know what I am talking about.

Amazing Truth

This truth is amazing: that my humanity, at the point of its weakness, is united with divine strength. At that point, not at a general point, but at that point I am made a partaker of the divine image.

David said, “THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH.” Somewhere in that process, knowing that the Lord Who is utterly other than the creature, the Lord Who is not me, as I dare to stand in that truth and say, “The Lord is,” it happens! And that which is the Lords, is actually made manifest in my humanity. So, the Lord is my strength, my life, my salvation. Thou art my glory. The exchange has taken place. “The Lord is my ”

Not Stronger

Can I push it one point further. It doesnt say that the Lord has taught me how to be strong in myself. I dont learn strength; I learn who is strength. What I am trying to say is, you will never be strong in yourself. If you could only see that.

Some ask me to pray that they will be strong. Sorry, the Bible says, we have this treasure in earthen vessels. I will always be the earthen vessel which will always send up to me these surges of weakness telling me I cant do it.

Look: I have a cup that contains coffee. I dont care what the cup is like. All I care about is what is in it. You are just a cup: an earthen vessel; some of us are cracked, but you have within you the treasure.

When you ask to be strengthened you are saying, you want to be the coffee. Sorry, you will always be weak and in your weakness you will express His strength. Some think as they mature they will be stronger. No.

Maturity in the Christian life is that you realize how weak you are. I know my weakness better today than ever in my life. We are ashamed of weakness, but I find that a mature Christian is one that not only knows he is weak, but rejoices in his weakness.

Paul says I boast in my weakness because I found that when I am weak then I am strong. He said to me, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God doesnt teach you to be strong.

So you see this is not a process. David sits there on a burnt log, wiped out, and then he says, the Lord is my strength. Now he can rise up from that log in Gods strength. He didnt go to school in between. This isnt something he learned in the natural, this is the impartation, this is the divine exchange of his weakness for Gods strength and that takes place like that. Immediately.

Me – Him?

The first time I really struggled with this I was taught you have to do a work FOR God. It was like a person is over here and another person is over there. I was taught that while God is UP THERE, I am going to work FOR Him DOWN HERE.

The Scriptures said very plainly that it is HIS strength and that He is doing it IN ME. I would ask, “How do we do that? How can God be inside of me?” Another Scripture said, “I live and yet not I, it is Christ who lives in me.” How does that work?

“FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST.”

The Mirror

There was a fellow walking by a great cathedral. He was in a deep shadow. Suddenly he was blinded by the sun and yet he was still in the shadow. What is happening, he wondered? Then he saw a little kid with a mirror. He was catching the rays of the sun and systematically blinding everyone as they walked on the sidewalk in the shadow.

That is it. A mirror is made to reflect other. A mirror: all that was needed was to be in a right relationship to the sun. Wow! The mirror didnt go to school to learn how to shine, nor, if it could speak would it say that the sun taught me to shine. If it gave testimony, it would say, the sun is my light. See?

The mirror wasnt shining. It was in a position to contain the light of the sun and then be as the sun. We dont live the Christian life in the sense that we are trying with our will power to be like Jesus. The Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus and we respond to Him who is the center of our true self and we say, “The Lord is my .” (fill in the blank).

Don’t Try

When you feel every nerve of your body screaming, when you feel life is too much for you, when you are stressed out with decisions you cant decide, when you dont know where to turn, when every enemy has found your address, when that canyon is crowding you in that narrow place; dont try to handle it and be a good Christian.

No, dont try to be a good Christian, just simply be still and recognize that every feeling that is flooding your being is a subjective feeling from your false self and it is trying to make you think that it is you. You are not that. You are the one in whom Jesus lives. You are the mirror of Christ in you.

Speak in that situation the truth: “The Lord is my” (whatever you need in that situation:) the Lord is my wisdom, my strength (strength of emotion, strength of mind, strength of will)

You may be a salesman who is on the road a lot, and you may be ashamed to tell your wife or pastor what you are tempted to do while you are out on the road all alone. I commend you that you wrestle against it till a cold sweat runs down your back; I do, I commend you. But the real way is not to wrestle with it, but to say that the Lord is the strength of your life; the Lord is the strength of your will, the Lord is your true love (love for your wife, love for others, which forbids you to do this thing.) It is not struggling to become, It is declaring that in Christ you are able and the Holy Spirit makes it happen as a reality of your confession.

In such an experience the Lord became to me what I had heard by rumor. I had read second hand, I had heard it on a tape, but He has become to me in each situation: I have been strengthened, I have been encouraged in the Lord. It has happened and I am living it. I make these choices myself everyday.

One Thing More

It is all of God. Why did David suddenly stop bemoaning his circumstances and begin to encourage himself in the Lord? What started that? If he was uneducated in spiritual things he would say, a thought came to me, why dont you do that? But, I think he was more educated in the things of God.

The very thought, the nudge down inside of you, “turn your eyes on God, declare who you really are”, isnt your thought. Christ inside of you, the real you, is told (and He really is your life). He drops His word into your head in the middle of your temptation and HE says, “I am your strength. Invoke my name; confess that I am Lord of this situation.” And you say, “What a marvelous idea.”

David did that; knowing it was all of Him. You are joined to God because He came to you in Christ. He saved you. He now lives within you. In the deepest trial He urges you to declare who you really are and how He is your strength. And when you declare it, He becomes who He is, only this time you know He has become to you who he really is.

Not Being Like Jesus

Some who hear this will really hear this. To live is Christ. This is CHRISTIANITY. Christianity is not that nonsense struggle to try and be like Jesus. It is recognizing He is.

Remember when his disciples asked Him, “Who then can be saved?” In Mark 10:27 it says, “He looked on them.” As if to say, you arent going to believe this, “With man, it is impossible.” I wish we would hear that. You say, “How can I live the Christian life?.” It is impossible.

It isnt you doing it FOR God. It is you continually – a thousand times a day bringing your weakness and declaring His strength for your weakness. You dont go and say, “Well, God, I was a bit better today, wasnt I?”

No, you are saying, “I am the coffee cup. I perfectly contain the coffee. Christ in me completely express my life for me.” You spend your day encouraging yourself in the Lord.

The Message

Well, there it is. In a sense it is a message for the battle. You know what I mean. If you are not in the trouble, then God will not become to you. You cant read this in a book of theology and have it become reality to you.

Do you want to be raised from the dead? Well, you have to die first. The experience: that is what I am talking about. Wouldnt it be marvelous to know the peace of God that passes all understanding? Well, yeah, but you have to be in a position of living hell first. God wont become to you peace unless you are in a state of disquiet and non-rest. Do you follow that?

Wouldnt it be great to know the Love of God better? Well, He may arrange for the most unlovable wretch to move next door so you will know the love of God. God becomes to me in my history. That is, God says He will never be theory to you. He will never be theology to you. You will know Him in your history. Just declare Him for He is the “I AM” for whatever the need is- He is.

The Blessing

Now God bless you and keep you and lead you and mature you, especially if you are in that narrow place, in whatever stress you are dealing with, let him be your supply in that situation and be who you are. Amen.

The Prayer

Our Father, from whom the whole family of believers in heaven and on earth derives its name, I pray that out of your glorious riches you may strengthen your people with power through His Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.

I pray that we being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses mere intellectual knowledge that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. AMEN.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.