Activated

Appearances and the Big Picture

By Maria Fontaine, adapted

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Do you sometimes feel like a failure? Things haven’t turned out the way you thought they should have or the way you wanted? Your expectations have been disappointed, your goals haven’t been reached?

Well, let me tell you about a man who felt like a failure.

He was sickly, often depressed to the point of wanting to give up on life completely. Both of his parents had died by the time he was 14. He was expelled from college, which meant that his dreams of higher education and his goal of being a minister were out of the question. He struggled with loneliness and isolation. He battled with fear of death. He died at a young age in poverty after severe illness, with what seemed like few accomplishments to his name.

He was a failure in his own eyes and in the eyes of many others at the time. Yet his story has inspired many missionaries and workers for God, both past and present. His converts went on to witness to others, and his missionary work influenced many. Generations of Christians have been inspired through his prayer journal.

He died not knowing if he had accomplished anything, except for gaining a handful of converts. His life was only distinguished after his death.

It was his life’s struggles on this earth—his so-called failures—in the form of his doubts and depression, his anguish of spirit, that helped many other missionaries and encouraged and strengthened them in their missions.

Was it truly failure? Or did God want to use his life as a candle—however small the light and however briefly it would shine before being extinguished—to bring illumination and encouragement to future generations of workers for God?

Did God make a mistake? Is it possible to look like a failure and still be a success in God’s eyes?

His name was David Brainerd. Here’s a brief overview of his life, which I’ve compiled and condensed from several books and online sources:

David Brainerd, missionary to the North American Indians. Born April 20, 1718.

By the age of 21, he had received Jesus as his Savior and determined to be a witness. In September of 1739, he enrolled at Yale College. It was a time of transition at Yale. When he first entered the school, he was distressed by the religious indifference he saw around him, but the impact of evangelist George Whitefield and the Great Awakening soon made its mark. Prayer and Bible study groups sprang up overnight—usually to the displeasure of school authorities who were fearful of religious “enthusiasm.” It was in this atmosphere that young Brainerd made an intemperate remark about one of the tutors, commenting that he had “no more grace than a chair,” judging him to be a hypocrite. The remark was carried back to the school officials, and David was expelled after he refused to make a public apology for what he had said in private.

Brainerd persisted in his efforts to spread the gospel, even though, by almost every standard known to missionary boards, he was considered a risky candidate for missions. He had by his own description a melancholy disposition. He was physically weak, experienced frequent bouts of illness and depression, and had to take frequent furloughs.

In 1742, he obtained a commission as a missionary among the Native Americans. His first year of missionary activities wasn’t particularly successful. He couldn’t speak the language of the natives, nor was he prepared for the difficulties of life in the wilderness. He was lonely and deeply sad. He wrote:

“My heart was sunk. … It seemed to me I should never have any success among the Indians. My soul was weary of my life; I longed for death, beyond measure.

“I live in the most lonely melancholy desert. … My diet consists mostly of hasty-pudding [ground-up grain mush], boiled corn, and bread baked in ashes. … My lodging is a little heap of straw laid upon some boards. My work is exceeding hard and difficult.”

His first winter in the wilderness was filled with hardship and sickness. His second year of missionary service he considered a total loss, and his hopes of evangelizing the Indians faded. He seriously considered giving up his work.

His third year, he moved to a different area and there his meetings began to attract as many as seventy Native Americans at a time, some of them traveling 40 miles to hear the message of salvation. There was a religious awakening, and after a year and a half, the traveling preacher had about 150 converts, some of whom went on to witness to others.

Brainerd’s first journey to one ferocious tribe resulted in a miracle that left him revered among the natives as a “prophet of God.” Encamped on the outskirts of the native settlement, Brainerd planned to enter the community the next morning to preach. Unknown to him, his every move was being watched by warriors who had been sent out to kill him. F. W. Boreham recorded the incident:

When the braves drew closer to Brainerd’s tent, they saw the paleface on his knees. And as he prayed, suddenly a rattlesnake slipped to his side, lifted up its ugly head to strike, flicked its forked tongue almost in his face, and then without any apparent reason, glided swiftly away into the brushwood. “The Great Spirit is with the paleface!” the Indians said; and thus they accorded him a prophet’s welcome.

That incident in Brainerd’s ministry illustrates more than the many divine interventions of God in his life—it also illustrates the importance and intensity of prayer in his life. On page after page in Life and Diary of David Brainerd, one reads such sentences as:

“God again enabled me to wrestle for numbers of souls, and had much fervency in the sweet duty of intercession.”

“Spent much time in prayer in the woods and seemed raised above the things of this world.”

“Spent this day in secret fasting, and prayer, from morning till night.”

“It was raining and the roads were muddy; but this desire grew so strong that I kneeled down by the side of the road and told God all about it. While I was praying, I told Him that my hands would work for Him, my tongue speak for Him, if He would only use me as His instrument—when suddenly the darkness of the night lit up, and I knew that God had heard and answered my prayer.”

“In the silences I make in the midst of the turmoil of life, I have appointments with God. From these silences, I come forth with spirit refreshed, and with a renewed sense of power. I hear a voice in the silences, and become increasingly aware that it is the voice of God.”

After all the hardships Brainerd had endured, his health was broken. He died at the age of 29 on October 9, 1747. His selfless devotion, zeal, and life of prayer inspired other missionaries, like Henry Martyn, William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, Adoniram Judson, and John Wesley. His influence after his death was greater than any results achieved during his lifetime. His journal became a classic that has inspired many to engage in missionary service. His influence is proof that God can and will use any vessel that is willing to be a tool in His hands, no matter how fragile and frail.

 

 

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Activated

God’s Surprises

By David Brandt Berg, adapted

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The things we need to know, God tells us, and sometimes the things we want to know, He tells us; but often He throws a veil over the future so that it is known only to Him. In any case, regardless of what we know or don’t know, He’s promised to never leave nor forsake us. “I am with you always,” He says, “even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) And He’s given us the torch of His Word to show us where our path is going. We can always throw the light of God’s Word on the path ahead. (See Psalm 119:130)

The Bible says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) So whenever a situation is uncertain and I’m not exactly sure if something is God’s will and whether He’s going to work it out or not, I always pray, “Lord, You’re still the boss and You’re still God, and if things don’t work out just the way I expect or the way I hope or the way I’m pushing for, if that’s not what You want me to do, if You have some other idea and You’re going to accomplish something maybe even better, or maybe teach me a lesson I need to learn, or whatever Your purpose is, help me to just do what You want me to do.”

It’s better to leave your mind open to whatever God wants you to do. Ordinarily, it’s something that’s reasonable and logical and just common sense. But sometimes God does things that aren’t according to our natural expectation. In those cases, we need to be willing to trust Him, even if He seems to change His mind or things don’t turn out how we thought they would.

We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future!

 
The Blank Sheet

Many people are more concerned about having God hear what they have to say than they are about hearing what God has to say. They’re trying to put their program across on God and get Him to sign His name to their program. I heard someone say one time, “Are you willing, not to present your program to God for His signature, not even to be presented with God’s program for your signature, but are you willing to sign a blank sheet of paper and let God fill it in without your even knowing what His program is going to be?”

—David Brandt Berg

 
 

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Activated

Oasis of Peace

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Six Steps of Meditative Prayer

Step 1: Choose an appropriate location. Most people find that meditation is best in quiet, uncluttered surroundings, ideally away from where they work or spend most of their waking hours. A secluded spot outside can be especially conducive. Fresh air not only renews us physically, but it also helps to illustrate how God’s Spirit can clear our minds and spirits.

Step 2: Take time to wind down. It’s nearly impossible to immediately go from the affairs of a busy day into a state of deep meditative prayer. Sometimes it helps to spend a few minutes on a transitional activity to phase out the material world, such as listening to soothing music, taking a short walk, or breathing deeply. As you try different things, you’ll find what works best for you.

Step 3: Leave your cares at His feet. If problems are distracting you and weighing you down, they’ll hinder the peace you could receive through meditation. Take a minute or two (or as long as you like) to give your present cares to Jesus in prayer. Be specific. Describe to Him what is troubling you, and ask Him to lift and bear it. Focus on God’s ability to bring solutions, rather than on the problems themselves. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Step 4: Get relaxed. Several minutes of gentle stretches and deep breathing, followed by a relaxation exercise (concentrate on relaxing your face and neck, then your entire body, part by part), can help. If you’re feeling especially tense, a shower or a bath or a short walk in nature might help you relax. Or if you’re very tired, a nap may be just the thing, because if you’re exhausted, you may not benefit as much from your time of meditation.

Step 5: Select a comfortable position. In meditation, the position of your spirit matters much more than the position of your body. You don’t have to sit a certain way—or even sit, for that matter—except of course you should be comfortable, so you can more easily focus your thoughts and mind.

Step 6: Meditate. You’ve found an appropriate spot and wound down physically. You’ve put your problems and cares into Jesus’ very capable hands. You’ve disconnected from the affairs of the day and are relaxed and comfortable. Now you’re ready to begin a time of meditation.

You might choose to focus on Jesus Himself, thinking about one of His attributes, or on some special blessing He has brought into your life. A specific thought from God’s Word can also be a subject for meditation. Reading a passage from the Bible or some other short devotional material may help get you started.

 

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You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
—Isaiah 26:3 NLT

 
If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.
—Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686)

 
Meditation is simply talking to God about His Word with a desire that your life and those you pray for come into agreement with it.
—William Thrasher

 
When we find our souls at all declining, it is best to raise them up presently by some awakening meditations, such as of the presence of God, of the strict reckoning we are to make, of the infinite love of God in Christ and the fruits of it, of the excellency of a Christian’s calling, of the short and uncertain time of this life, of how little good all those things that steal away our hearts will do us before long, and of how it shall be forever with us hereafter, as we spend this short time well or ill. The more we make way for such considerations to sink into our hearts, the more we shall rise nearer to that state of soul which we shall enjoy in heaven.
—Richard Sibbes (1577–1635)

 
In place of our exhaustion and spiritual fatigue, God will give us rest. All He asks is that we come to Him, that we spend a while thinking about Him, meditating on Him, talking to Him, listening in silence, occupying ourselves with Him—totally and thoroughly lost in the hiding place of His presence.
—Chuck Swindoll (b. 1934)
 

*

 
Peace on the outside comes from knowing Jesus on the inside. You can do that by simply inviting Him into your heart:

Dear Jesus, I want to know You and enjoy Your peace. Please come into my life, give me Your peace, and help me get to know You better and grow in the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of Your Word. Amen.

 
 

Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.

Activated

The Prayer Principle

By Peter Amsterdam, adapted

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“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” (Luke 11:1 ESV)

Prayer was an integral part of Jesus’ life and ministry. There are numerous references throughout the Gospels of Jesus praying. He taught His disciples to pray, they saw Him pray, they heard Him pray for them, and He gave counsel about praying. Before many of the major events, miracles, and decisions in Jesus’ life, and right up until the time of His death, Jesus spent time in prayer. The fact that Jesus made a point to pray and to teach His disciples about prayer indicates that it is an important part of discipleship.

Taking time alone in prayer was a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life. He took time away from the crowds, and sometimes from His closest followers, to pray. (See Luke 5:15–16; Mark 1:35–37) He also prayed in His disciples’ presence.

Seeing Jesus’ example of prayer had a definite impact on the disciples, as evidenced throughout the book of Acts, which often speaks of them praying. Jesus also gave His disciples instructions on how to pray. He said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9–13)

He also taught His disciples how not to pray: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5–8 NIV)

Jesus taught about being persistent in prayer, as the Gospel of Luke recounts: “Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1 NLT)

He also taught the power of prayer, that prayer gets answered, and that prayers should be prayed in faith and confidence—knowing that God is all-powerful and that nothing is beyond His capability to answer and do. In the book of Matthew, He said, “If you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” (Matthew 21:21–22 NLT)

He exhorted His disciples to watch and to pray against falling into temptation and sin. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” (Mark 14:38)

Jesus also prayed for others, as Matthew recounts in his Gospel: “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’ And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.” (Matthew 19:13–15 NLT)

As shown by the accounts of His praying before His arrest, Jesus prayed desperately. The Gospel of Luke tells us: “He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, ‘Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.’ He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” (Luke 22:41–42,44 CEB)

Prayer is important in our lives; it’s part of our communication with God. Prayer is a means of communicating with God, of abiding in Him. It’s a means of connecting to His power. It’s a means of loving and helping others as we pray for them. It’s a means of guarding our spiritual life and health. It makes a difference in the lives of others as we pray for them. It gives us the opportunity to humble ourselves before God, as we implore His help and when we ask Him for forgiveness.

 
 

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Activated

A Tale of Two Brothers

Author unknown

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According to legend, there was once an abbey which had a very generous abbot. No beggar was ever turned away, and he gave all he could to the needy. The strange thing was that the more he gave away, the richer the abbey seemed to become.

When the old abbot died, he was replaced by a new one with exactly the opposite nature. One day an elderly man arrived at the monastery, saying that he had stayed there years before, and was seeking shelter again.

“Our monastery cannot provide for strangers like it used to when we were wealthy,” the abbot said. “No one seems to make gifts towards our work nowadays.”

“Ah, well,” said the stranger, “I think that is because you banished two brothers from the monastery.”

“I don’t think we ever did that,” said the puzzled abbot.

“Oh, yes,” was the reply. “They were twins. One was called ‘Give’ and the other, ‘It will be given to you.’ (See Luke 6:38) You banished ‘Give,’ so his brother decided to go as well.”

 

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Freely you have received, freely give.
—Jesus, Matthew 10:8

 
I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.
—Joyce Meyer (b. 1943)

 
I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance, but by our disposition.
—Martha Washington (1731–1802)

 
The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won’t let you outgive Him. Go ahead and try. See what happens.
—Randy Alcorn (b. 1954)

 
In all of my years of service to my Lord, I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised. That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to outgive God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I have given.
—Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892)

 
 

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Activated

Points to Ponder: The Peace of God

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Inner peace

 
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 4:7

 
If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.
—John Bunyan (1628–1688)

 
Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.
—Unknown

 
Our daily lives can easily become filled with stress, pressure, and confusion. But we can stop at any moment and slip away into the presence of God’s Spirit through prayer and meditation, and there find peace and refreshing.
—Mottos for Success

 

Dear restless heart, be still, for peace is God’s own smile,
His love can every wrong and sorrow reconcile;
Just love, and love, and love, and calmly wait awhile.
—Edith Willis Linn Forbes (1865–1945)

 
Jesus lay in the boat sleeping. The waves rose, the wind blew and the storm battered the small vessel about. His disciples were afraid: afraid of the wind, afraid of the waves and fearful for their lives. They came to Jesus, woke Him up, begging for His help. The answer lay in His power. He said, “Peace, be still,” and there was peace. The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (See Mark 4:35–41) No matter the turmoil of our life, we too can find peace if we turn to Jesus for His help.
—Marge Banks

 
Let My Spirit rest upon you and fill you with peace. Let My Spirit flow through your thoughts, mingle with your spirit, and give you strength.
—Jesus

 
Peace with those around us

 
Live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
—2 Corinthians 13:11

 
All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.
—Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471)

 
All works of love are works of peace. … Peace begins with a smile.
—Mother Teresa (1910–1997)

 
Jesus gave us the key to happiness and harmony when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) And remember, “neighbor” doesn’t only mean the one who lives next door; your neighbor is anyone He brings across your path.

When people don’t treat others with much love, of course they’re going to have problems. In fact, many of the evils in the world today can be traced back to people’s lack of love for God and one another. The simple love of God and one’s neighbors is still God’s solution, even in such a highly complex and confused society as ours. If we love God, we can love others, and follow His rules of life, liberty, and the possession of happiness.

—David Brandt Berg (1919–1994)

 
Sometimes it can be difficult to do the right thing, especially when the person you’re dealing with hasn’t done right to you, but I didn’t say, “Do to others as they do to you.” My code for living is far above that normal perception of fairness. I want you to live on a higher plane. Anyone can be nice to those who are nice, but the person who can be nice to those who aren’t is the bigger person and more blessed by Me.
—Jesus

 
Peace in a world of conflict

 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
—Matthew 5:9 KJV

 
We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.
—William E. Gladstone (1809–1898)

 
Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely an absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.
—Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964)

 
Pray for those who are touched by war at this very moment. They need your prayers, and each one needs Me, the Prince of Peace.
—Jesus

 
Peace with God

 
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—Romans 5:1

 
“In the fear [reverence] of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26) This place of refuge is promised to all believers, yet so few venture therein. I say unto you, come aside, My dear one. Come under My wings, into My place of refuge, that you may experience My love and My peace.
—Jesus

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You can have God’s peace in your own heart by inviting His Son, Jesus, to come in. He says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” (Revelation 3:20 NIV)

Dear Jesus, please come into my life and give me Your peace. Forgive me for the wrong things I’ve done, and help me get to know You better and share You with others. Amen.

 
 

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Activated

Stressed Out

By Marie Story

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I have a six-year-old nephew who loves video games. The other day I was sitting with him while he was playing a racing game on his Wii. The levels were getting progressively more difficult, the speed was faster, and the courses were more hazardous. I could see him becoming more and more stressed—his face was turning red, his hands were getting sweaty, and he couldn’t stay in his seat.

Finally, it got to be too much for him. He burst into tears and yelled, “I can’t take it anymore! I’m just too stressed out!” All of a sudden, this game that he had been enjoying became sheer misery. I had a little chuckle at his dramatic outburst, then turned off the TV for a bit so he could take a break.

The very next day, I felt like yelling too. Several big projects came in at once, and deadlines were tight. I usually enjoy my work, but I felt the pressure building up and I wanted to yell, “I just can’t take it anymore!” I didn’t burst into tears, and I didn’t throw a tantrum, but I sure did feel like it.

Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental, or emotional response. Life is a delicate balance, and while some stress is natural and can be healthy, too much pressure in any area can produce negative effects, such as trouble sleeping, withdrawal, emotional instability, and health issues. The longer you wait and allow it to build, the more hazardous it can be.

So what are some ways to deal with stress? Well, stress isn’t a new development—it’s a problem that’s been around for ages. Because of that, the Bible is full of solutions. Here are some important ones:

 
Talk with someone

The apostle Paul tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2 ESV) Others may not be able to solve your problem, but often just being able to unload your troubles to a listening ear can be a tremendous relief. And many times, once you’ve talked it out, your problems don’t seem so formidable anymore and you can tackle them without feeling stressed or overloaded.

 
Break down goals into smaller chunks

If we’re under too much pressure, it could be because we’re trying to tackle too much at once. Jesus tells us that His yoke (or workload) is easy, and His burden is light. (See Matthew 11:28–30) So if your burden is too heavy, maybe you need to set some of it down for a while.

 
Set realistic goals

If you or others can’t meet your expectations, maybe you haven’t thought them through enough. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. What is the first thing you will do? Won’t you sit down and figure out how much it will cost and if you have enough money to pay for it?” (Luke 14:28 CEV)

 
Focus on things you can control

Jesus tells us, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6:34 NLT) There’s enough to think about today without stressing over stuff in the future. And “tomorrow” isn’t just talking about the day after today—it means anything you don’t have control over. If you can’t do anything about it, just trust that God will help you handle it when the time comes.

 
Take care of yourself physically

Often when everything’s piling up, personal care is the first thing you cut out. But that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. If you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising, you’ll feel better physically, which will help you to face challenges with more confidence and energy. Paul explained: “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. … So use your body to honor God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 CEV)

 
Take breaks

Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “a cheerful heart is good medicine.” Sometimes all you need when you’re stressed is a little break. Taking time to rest and relax will help to clear your head, and you’ll come back to your task refreshed, happier, and more focused.

 
Take time with Jesus each day

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

King David, who faced extreme stress in his life, advises us: “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV) Peter also tells us to “cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV) Talk to Jesus about your troubles and ask Him for His solutions and advice. He has promised an easy yoke, so if yours is too heavy, He can show you how to lighten it.

Remember that Jesus understands the pressures you’re facing. “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are.” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB) As you take your cares and concerns to Jesus, He’ll give you the strength to handle each task and responsibility—without getting stressed.

 
 

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