There are times that we all feel the pressure of life closing in on us from all sides. You face challenges at work, struggle with personal relationships and the cumulative weight magnifies even the smallest matters. It is during those moments I want to throw up my hands, move to the mountains, grow a long beard and simply escape from normal society. Yes, I know this is unrealistic, but that is what acting on pure emotion will do when times are tough.
Back in 1988 I was living in New Zealand and decided to buy a motorcycle to save on gas (at least that was my rationalization). When I attended riding school they used a driving illustration that has served me well all my life. We were asked to take a pencil and focus on the eraser end. As we held the pencil away from us, we could see the full spectrum of what what in front of us, but the closer we drew the pencil to our eye, the greater portion of the landscape was blacked out by the eraser. The instructor was trying to teach us how deadly blind spots can be when driving a motorcycle, but the application fits into our daily lives so very well.
In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus tried to warn us of the dangers of worry. Surrendering to worry and pressure is like looking at that pencil eraser. The closer we draw it to us and the more we focus on that one small aspect of our lives, the more we block out all the good that is happening all around us.
This morning was one of those days for me. The phone started ringing and with each subsequent call there was more bad news. Nothing earth-shattering! No one had died, my bank account had not been hacked (not that it would matter much) by some internet scammer, and the sun was actually shining when I took a minute to look out the window. Still, I felt the pressure of important decisions closing in on me. I knew the challenges I faced required me to confront situations that I would prefer someone else handle, but that is not an option.
So for all its worth – here is what I try to do when I feel the sky is falling, or the walls are closing in on me:
- Take action. Most of the struggle in life is deciding what to do. The pressure usually lifts quickly once a decision and course of action is taken.
- Step back. Step one may take some time, but once you have a course of action plotted, step back and look around. I usually stop, have a cup of coffee and insert something positive into m life. It may be a podcast, or reading someone’s blog that I appreciate and respect. Sometimes I go for a walk, or to the gym to work out some of the stress. Most importantly, at least for a few minutes, I move away from the stressful situation and that adds clarity of thought.
- Take stock. My life is really good. Even with all the stress and struggles that seem to find me on a daily basis, God gave me a really good life. I have lots of nice things, a comfortable home, a beautiful family and it is amazing how quickly we forget all of that because one bad thing happens. Are we really that self-consumed and selfish that we forget all of God’s blessings simply because the heating coil in the dryer went out, or we had a flat tire on the way to work?
I am now a couple of hours removed from the headaches that welcomed me to a new day and already things are better. Decisions have been made, I have reflected on the overall good in my life and how I am ready to move forward with optimism and enthusiasm. I still have problems to work out and challenges to face, but I can now face them with a renewed spirit.
I have walked through much darker valleys than the one I faced this morning and it is a welcome reminder that I am still here. I have worked through tougher situations and this one too shall pass.