Peace Be With You…

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Philippians 4:6-7, (ESV)

Stress. It is something that is guaranteed in this life. Whether it be financial stress, especially in this current climate. Or stress in the work place, where, though the pandemic taught many lessons about the importance of work-life balance, our culture is centred on working hard to get to that next pay rise or promotion. Stress in the home with strained relationships. Physical stress and illnesses. The stresses of trying to do it all and be everything for everyone. The bottom line is, life is filled with stresses. Sometimes brought on us with the pressure we put ourselves under, or, especially in the last few years, outside factors we have no control over. But the comforting thing is God is with us and not only has He equipped us with the tools we need to work through our different stresses, He is also our companion through it all.

For me last week was a very busy week and this one doesn’t seem to let up at all either, not that I’m complaining because it’s all blessings and exciting things, but takes up a lot of head space. And in those moments you find yourself being quite unfair to yourself and less patient with those around you. So I had a little pray to God yesterday about it and He woke me up an hour earlier than normal today. Annoying in some ways because I would have welcomed more sleep, but great in the sense that it allowed me to do some Pilates and spend some time with the Bible before the rest of the house woke up. And that really centred me for the rest of the day. What a difference slowing down and being grateful makes. What a difference praying to Him and spending time in His presence makes.

This International Stress & Awareness Week, falls alongside our Prayer & Fasting Week which is focusing on Hope, which strikes me as a God-sent coincidence. He wants us, our little church family, to spread the news of His hope and His Shalom and His being with us now. With increasing stresses and strains, it’s more important than ever for us to know His presence and lean into Him.

So what can we do to help alleviate the stresses in our every day lives?

Turn To God In Prayer

God is ever present and whatever we are feeling, He is feeling with us. Through prayer, especially Listening Prayer, we can talk to Him and find a way, an answer or even just comfort. God promises to give us peace beyond our ability to understand. He also promises to create beauty from the ashes of our lives as we discover that hope comes from loss and joy springs from times of brokenness and suffering. (Isaiah 61:1-4) Here are some prayers that may help in times of stress:

Breathing Prayer

The Church Of England has some resources for taking care of your mental health, one of which is breathing prayer:

By not rushing through the words, but simply giving space to breathe, our body, mind and spirit can work in harmony wordlessly to release anxiety and tension, and to breathe in God’s love and grace. Such breathing prayer can be literally ‘inspirational’. For example:

Breathing out: I give you my pain and anxieties.
Breathing in: God, I receive your abundant love.
Breathing out: I give you all that stops me from receiving it.
Breathing in: God, I receive your mercy.
Breathing out: I give you my brokenness.
Breathing in: God, I receive your wholeness.
Breathing out: that I might live.
Breathing in: God, I receive your forgiveness.

Prayer of Welcome

Come and bring your hidden places.
Come and bring your hurting spaces.
Come and eat with hearts that break.
Come and drink, new worlds to make.
Come and feast, your vision spread.
Despair and hope connects the fed.
Jesus says, ‘come!’
© Christopher Newell 2012

Prayer for Wholeness

O Lord, penetrate those murky corners
where we hide memories and tendencies
on which we do not care to look,
but which we will not disinter
and yield freely up to you,
that you may purify and transmute them:
the persistent buried grudge,
the half-acknowledged enmity
which is still smouldering;
the bitterness of that loss
we have not turned into sacrifice;
the private comfort we cling to;
the secret fear of failure which saps our initiative
and is really inverted pride;
the pessimism which is an insult to your joy, Lord;
we bring all these to you,
and we review them with shame and penitence
in your steadfast light.
Evelyn Underhill

Turn To the Word

The Bible is filled with incredible promises from God. Meditating on these words of assurance can help dispel any worry, doubt, fear, and stress. Here are just a few examples of the Bible’s stress-relieving verses:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30, (NLT)

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” 

John 14:27, (NLT)

I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.

Psalm 4:8, (NLT)

For more examples of His steadfast love, check out the CofE mental health resources.

Praise & Worship Him

I have a Worship playlist on my Spotify that lifts me up no end when I’m having a bit of a moment. It really does wonders and I would recommend putting on your favourite song that lifts up His name and see what He puts on your heart. Or if you have a playlist, pop it on shuffle and see what messages He sends you. God has many different ways of letting us know He’s there for us and that includes through song. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are my go to songs at the moment:

In saying all of that, there are every day stresses that can be helped with everything mentioned here, but there are other more profound stresses where you might need further help. And that’s OK. Speak to someone; a friend, relative, priest (Anna, Sam & Urbain are amazing listeners and advisors!) or therapist. Whatever it is you need, give yourself the grace to do what’s best for you and remember Jesus is our Emmanuel. God is with us. Always.

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Joseph Scriven 1855

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