Stress, Boxes, and Guarantees

There has been a lot of stuff going on in my life lately that has resulted in an inordinate amount of stress.  It’s easy to look around and see some of the usual suspects like work, travel, finances, some commitments that maybe were not the best idea, but now they are part of life.  The problem is that lately those usual players have been out on a recruitment spree and have been bringing a lot of other players to the game.  The worst part of that? Many of the new players are in one of two categories.  Either they are unwilling players in the game, or they are unaware that the game is even going on.

So, this is where I have found myself.  How do I deal with the players that are here to take me down at all costs while not laying waste to those who do not even know they are playing the game.  Well, there is something else to stress over!  Looks like extra innings…

So, as I have been dealing with all of this I have also become aware that I have not been spending time in the Word like I should.  So, I began getting into it again and I read through 1 Corinthians in a fog.  As I got into 2 Corinthians the fog began to lift, and as I came to the end of chapter four and the beginning of five, I am beginning to see some things.  Not only as a result of these two chapters, but also some other verses that have been popping up with some “coincidental” regularity over the last week or two.  So, today I am sitting down to try and kick some of this together into a coherent set of thoughts for myself, and if they do anyone else some good, then so much the better!

I can’t remember which author I heard talking about their book, but they commented on how a man’s mind is like a warehouse full of thousands of cardboard boxes.  Each box contains a thought, topic, memory, emotion… you get the idea.  A man’s mind works best when he thinks on one thing at a time.  In his mind he opens a box, dwells on it, uses the contents to solve a problem, and then he closes that box up and puts it back on the shelf before taking down the next box that is needed.  This system is how God designed the male mind and it works well until something happens that requires the opening of several boxes at once.

When we start getting too many boxes open at one time, stress sets in.  It is not the contents of the box that brings stress into our lives, but the fact that we are unable to close the boxes back up.  If the boxes are not closed back up and more boxes continue to be opened we end up with a mess in our minds.  I’ve heard it said that if a guy wants to understand what a woman’s mind feels like then they should imagine a computer screen with 5,837 different windows open – ALL THE TIME!  Yeah.  I think I just felt my heart stop.  This is something that women are definitely designed to handle better than men.  I’m sure it stresses them too, but they are better at handling it.

Another feature of the male mind is that we have a “Nothing” box.  This is another topic for another time, but suffice it to say, the “Nothing” box brings us a sense of comfort, because when we can find our “Nothing” box and crawl inside that for awhile it helps us be able to better handle things.  The danger comes when we crawl inside that box and close the lid to keep everything else out.  What can I say?  It is true, and men should be willing to acknowledge this weakness that we have.  Alright, moving on to what I wanted to talk about.

So, as I have been dealing with all of these boxes that are open I am getting more and more stressed.  I am seeing the toll that it is taking on my wife as she stands there in her box and begs me to listen to her.  I see my kids in their boxes as they wonder when I will have time with them.  I see my extended family as they are in their boxes and they look as if they wonder if I even remember them.  There are a lot of other boxes that hold friends, my church, some of my responsibilities around the house.  All of these boxes are open, the contents spilling out and crying out in my mind to be dealt with.  None of them want to bring me pain or discomfort, but are nevertheless part of the struggle in my mind that has been brought on by too much everything, and not enough nothing.

So, how am I supposed to make this right?  How am I supposed to get these boxes closed and back in order so I can get my head functioning properly again?  What on earth is God thinking in allowing all of this stuff to go on in my head to bring me such miserable feelings?

Again, in my reading the Bible I have been looking at how our struggles here on earth are with our short-sighted thinking.  We see the temporary, but lose sight of the eternal.  It is not until we can look past the temporal that we will see that God has things under control, and we can have victory if we will just set our sights on Him and His power to carry us through them. We must put off the flesh and put on the eternal.  So, what is God trying to tell me about beating the stress out of my life?

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV)

The truth is, the things that I am facing in my life are not unknown to God.  He is not sitting there thinking, “Wow!  Didn’t see that coming!  I hope Tom can handle this because I am just stumped.”  No, it says He has prepared me for this very thing.  The things I am facing in my life were foreseen, and if I take the time to think over what I know from the things I have learned and experienced, I can find the answers I need to face the stresses I am feeling and put things back in order.  God Himself has prepared me for this!  That should give me confidence in itself, but He gives me even more.

God has given me His Spirit as a guarantee.  The NASB uses the word “pledge”.  You could say that He has sworn on Himself that He will see me through the things I face.  That is a very powerful and humbling thought, and it has been absolutely pounding inside my skull for the past few days as I have been wrestling with coming to grip with this concept:

The God of the universe has prepared me to deal with the stresses and activities of my life in a way that will not damage my relationships with my family and friends.  He has given me the tools to put my thoughts in order and to be a productive follower of Christ in all aspects of my life, and He has promised me I can do this through the power of His Spirit working in me.

OK. I understand that.  I believe that.  How?

In a way this feels like another box opening up in my mind and that scares me.  I want my nothing box, but I can’t find it! I’m starting to worry that I am going to be the cause of this failure because He has given me the answer and I can’t figure out how to make that work in my life.  What am I supposed to do?

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. – Philippians 4:6 (AMP)

It is time for serious and specific prayer.  If I read this verse and really think about it, God is commanding me through His Word that I am not allowed to fret or stress about anything.  I am supposed to pray about everything, and don’t, don’t, DON’T stop until I get the answer I’m looking for.  I want this stress to go away, and I have been praying about it for the last week or two, and I’m starting to feel that the answer is coming now.  The situation is not changing so much as I am not feeling the pressure because God is working in my mind.  He is closing some of the boxes for me and putting them back on their shelves in order to bring me that peace I am looking for.

Last night I was sitting on the couch for a few minutes before bed, and I was struggling with the fact that I was going into work today to put in a half day so I could take the day when I wanted to take it rather than because the calendar says today is a holiday.  I didn’t want to work today, I knew Tammi didn’t want me to work today, I saw no benefit to working today, but I felt I had to work today because I told people who did not expect me to work today that I was going to work today.  Logical?  Not so much, but that was the spot I was in.  As I sat there I thought about it and I took a minute to pray and really ask God for an answer to what I was supposed to do, and I believe He gave me a clear and definite answer because after I prayed I knew I was supposed to stay home.

Last night I slept more soundly than I have in a couple of months.  I slept for 9 hours, and I cannot tell you the last time that happened.  This morning I feel better than I have in weeks.  You can argue that it is because I got some rest.  That’s your prerogative.   I will tell you it is because I followed the leading of the Spirit and I received His peace through prayer and obedience to the Spirit’s leading.  The clarity of mind I am feeling today is not due to anything other than that.

As I sit here and think about all of this I am reminded that getting to this point would not have happened if I had not made a concerted effort at getting back into the Word.  That was reinforced when these verses came up three different times in some things I looked at this past week:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

God has given us His Word as our guide for life.  It contains what we need for every trial and struggle that we face.  He has given this to us so we can succeed.  It is through reading that we gain the knowledge that the Spirit can then use to overcome the problems that are in our lives – especially those of our own doing.

So, today I have fewer boxes sitting open in the mess of my mind.  There are some that I am going to try and close up today as well.  I know that there will still be some open and they are going to try and pull others down and rip them open as well, but I going to make a deliberate and intentional effort to keep bringing them to God and letting Him set them in order.  I will fail, but I will get up and try again.  I know I will succeed if I keep trying.  I’m going to be more intentional about this because I see the need for it for the health of my walk with God, and my relationships at home.  I know God is going to bless the efforts.  I have a guarantee!


Author: Tom Tanner

I'm a follower of Christ, husband, and father. Over the last few years I have been learning how to dig deeper into God's Word and letting it influence more of my life. As I learn, try, fail, and repeat in this process I am seeing God's hand more and more in my life and that of my family as well. This journey is long, hard, and at times a little lonely, but living a Relentless life for Christ has rewards that reach beyond me and my family. My prayer is that it brings God glory and leaves a legacy that will show His influence in my life.

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