I’ve been freaking out for about a week now. My circumstances haven’t changed in a profound way so my emotions can’t be explained by a new onslaught of stressful circumstances. I’m just not doing as well as I had been living in my old stressful circumstances. Remarkably one of my stressor points is planning a vacation. For crying out loud! Hello Carrie: vacation equals good circumstance.
My freaking out has been somewhat contained by my faith in Jesus and the habit of comparing myself to those who have it far worse. (Don’t even get me started on the atrocities of ISIS.) But I’m still a jittery mess! So I asked myself, “What’s going on here? Why does everything feel overwhelming?”
Assorted answers popped into my mind: I need to eat better; a bad diet is a bad mood enhancer. The wear and tear of long-term stressors is finally breaking me down. The world news is beyond depressing. I’m not sincere when I give God the day. I’m not working enough on what God has called me to do. Yah-dee-dah-dee-dah. Blah-dee-blah-dee-blah!
Finally I paused and asked “Jesus, what’s going on here? Why does even a vacation stress me out?” My answer came in the form of a question, “Why do you think there’s a perfect way to plan a vacation and you have to find and execute that perfect plan”? I think my heart rate slowed to a manageable pace the minute I heard that question.
And it led me to ask that question about each circumstance that I’m freaking out about. The answers again came in the form of questions: “Why do you think there’s a perfect way to respond to your family and you have to find and execute that perfect way or else?” “Or else, what?” “Why do you think you’ve got to make your doctor and insurance company get their act together? How is that a judgment on you? Is even your physical pain a judgment on you?” Now I’m on a roll! “Why do you have to look a certain way? Why do you have to spend your hours in self-defined, perfect efficiency?”
I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing two recurring words here. JUDGEMENT and PERFECT. The thought of judgment wasn’t on my list of what has me freaking out. And I was oblivious to how I was chasing a godless idea of perfection.
John and Stasi Eldredge of Ransomed Heart Ministries, recently recorded a podcast series on suffering (www.ransomedheart.com). In it they discussed how suffering matures us into being more like Jesus and draws us closer to Him. The suffering that I’m struggling with (even the ironic suffering over vacation planning) is revealing to me my sin problem with wrongly judging what makes us valuable. I need to mature in the grace of Jesus and that’ll take becoming aware of when I slip into playing the part of Judge Carrie. I need to mature into a woman who values what God values.
When you notice that your emotions are getting a little chaotic try pausing and asking “Jesus, what’s going on here?” Now, before you start feeling all smug, and pat yourself on the back for not being as neurotic as me, let me suggest that asking “Jesus, what’s going on here?” isn’t just a question for when your emotions are wacky. Perhaps the way you talk to people or the way you treat yourself or others is wacky. Perhaps how you fill your calendar is wacky. Perhaps how you spend your money is wacky. Perhaps how you isolate yourself is wacky. Perhaps how you arrange your schedule to never be alone is wacky. Catch yourself and ask “Jesus, what’s going on here?”
The answer may not be as obvious as you expect. It may help with your heart rate. It will help move you into greater intimacy with God.