Sometimes life seems just so overwhelming. Finances, strained relationships, stress on the job and so much more all take a toll on us. Some days I want to stand in the center of a crowded mall and scream until they cart me away to a nice, safe rubber room. Other days I want to stay safe in my bed, pull up the covers and dream it all away.
But we can’t do that, life insists on grinding on and if we are not careful, it will grind the life and joy right out of us. How can we do that, you may ask? Life is hard and those financial, relational and work stress-makers aren’t just going to go away because they are bad for us. Of course not! We can choose, however, whether or not we will let those things turn us into zombies, going through the motions but without life.
“Yet man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7
Ever been to a campfire and a jab with a stick sets off an eruption of sparks? Do any of those sparks fly downward? Nope, they all leap toward heaven, set free from the tongues of flame that seek to devour them. They escape for a time, but all too soon those bright spots of life die into grey ash and fall back to earth. Coals are different. They don’t seek to escape, but use the heat of the flame to feed their own glow. In fact, the coals will live long after the flames are gone.
“For in the day of trouble, He will keep me safe in his dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle.” Ps 27:5
When coals are buried in ash, they can continue to smolder for days. How do I know this? One of the first warm nights this spring, my family had a bonfire. It was lovely with sparks flying up, logs flaming brightly and coals glowing contentedly. 3 days later, my husband was mowing the lawn and needed the chairs out of the grass. Without thinking, I piled the chairs in the fire pit so I wouldn’t have to cart them very far. The ashes were grey, there was no smoke or sign of heat, but guess what, when he came to that part of the lawn, the chairs had become a towering pillar of flame. I guess those coals were still alive under there somewhere. (Moral of the story, don’t assume that where there is no smoke there is no fire . . . or coals anyway)
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Ah, here is the secret, trust in the Lord and allow his peace to fill you. Sounds good, but how do we do such a thing? It is not easy, I still struggle on a daily, even hourly basis. It takes practice, practice and more practice. I think one of the verses that helps me the most is one Paul wrote to the Philippian church.
What you focus your mind on has a direct impact on your attitude. Sure life is tough, it doesn’t really matter what our circumstance is, rich or poor, fed or hungry, alone or surrounded by the best of friends, we all have trouble of some kind. If you focus on the hard things, they will fill your mind and spirit with bitterness, anger and discontent. If you focus, instead, on the good things around you, no matter how small, the peace that Jesus promised us will have the chance to grow and spread. Our lives will be better for it.