Handling Stress God's Way

stressThis past week has been stressful.

Stressful as in Category 5 stressful. Stressful as in "stick a fork in me because I'm done" stressful.

Most of this stress has to do with the insane vagaries of self-publishing, the details of which I will save for another post when I have finally figured out what the heck I'm doing. (The short version is that it looks like The Twible will still be out in November, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. But it won't have been without a lot of toil and tears.)

And the calendar is too full. And the dog's been sick. And it's almost the anniversary of my mom's cancer diagnosis. And, and.

So, how do I handle stress? From the confident title of this post a reader might assume that I know the secret. I don't. But all I know is that I need to work on this problem, because when I feel this anxious, I'm not honoring God.

I'm reminded of a story. When one of my friends got married years ago, she was terribly anxious the whole day before the wedding. A bunch of us had traveled in from out of town, but she was too busy with wedding details to spend time with us. She worried about hurting our feelings, about the wedding ceremony, about the weather, about almost everything. The night before the wedding she was crying at the kitchen table, comforted by her fiance, who was very loving if a bit bewildered.

The next day she was much better. I asked her what had made the difference and she told me something I did not expect: she had realized that her anxiety was a sin.

I hadn't thought of anxiety and stress in this manner before, except to compound my guilt (e.g., "How can I be so worried about this particular First World Problem when people are starving?"). But if sin is anything that willfully separates us from God, then my friend was right: anxiety is a sin, and so is excessive self-focus.

So today, I said a prayer of repentance. Through my fault. Through my fault. Through my most grievous fault.

I don't know much about "handling stress God's way." Some people seem very able to just give all their problems over to God, but . . . let's just say that surrendering control is not my strong suit. I know that this trait adds to my stress, so the obvious solution would simply be to dump the stress. "Let go and let God," as the bumper sticker says.

But I am also a realist. The truth is that I'm unlikely to drastically change  my personality. I am slowly learning (emphasis on the s-l-o-w-l-y) that there is room in God's kingdom even for control freaks. And that I don't stop being a control freak just by commanding myself to; the accept-no-compromises approach is, in fact, exactly what a control freak would do.

I'm not going to make myself over, but I am going to confess my sin. There is power and comfort just from naming it, apologizing for it, and starting over with God's help.

"And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" (Matt. 6:27)