When I sat down this morning to work on my blog, my mind was a perfect storm of anxiety and anger. Mental hurricanes can sneak up on me causing me to be high strung and live with an undercurrent of anger which comes dangerously close to the surface. I, for sure, could not think straight enough to write a coherent thought. My husband could sense my fury and carefully backed out of the room.
The truth is when I get wound up like that, I often don’t know why. I could look at my calendar and blame it on my hormones or my busy schedule but brushing over it like that will not bring relief. I could try to manage it by sheer will power but self-control fails to bring back any level of peace.
So, today I’m giving you a sneak peak at how I deal with my messiest emotions and inner hurricanes. Here are six steps to still your inner storm.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:15 NIV
The first step is to STOP and pay attention to what you are feeling. This verse implies that the peace of Christ serves as an umpire or referee in our hearts. If the peace leaves, the whistle is blown and match play should stop. Pause, take a deep breath and ask God for help.
For me this morning, when I felt the rage building in my heart and looked at my blog topic this morning (Colossians 3:15) I knew I had to pause and take account for each piece of the storm flying around in my heart. If I simply tried to steer through the inner hurricane using my “self-control” alone, there would have been a lot of collateral damage.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. – Psalm 100:4 NIV
Next, consciously invite God’s presence through giving thanks and offering Him praise. Purposefully thanking God in detail for the blessings in your life interrupts the stream of negative thoughts or feelings which may have taken over your mind and reminds you that life is not all that bad. Follow your thanksgiving with adoration. Offering God praise for His character, His power and His worthiness pushes the remaining distractions away and centers your heart on His enormity and goodness.
This morning my thanksgiving started with God’s physical provision for us—our home, our finances, our vehicles, etc. Next I thanked him for my husband’s kindness and my relationship with my kids. I turned on some worship music (in this case IHOPKC Worship – One Thing Live “Worthy of it All”) as I prayed and praised God with words like “hallelujah” and phrases like “I praise Your Name” before I began to worship Him for some of His specific qualities (goodness, sovereignty, worthiness, power, attention to the details in my life, etc.).
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
With the negative thoughts put in their place and God put into His place as preeminent, now it is time to deliberately give Him every care. When this verse says “cast”, it means to throw intentionally. It is time to make a list of your cares and negative emotions and hurl them one by one “on Him because He cares for you.” Fight the temptation to casually lump all your worries together and toss them over to God. Now, think of yourself as a pitcher in major league baseball and each negative thought or emotion is a ball. Every pitch is a fastball thrown right into the catcher’s mit. Pick up each worry and ugly emotion and chuck it right at God. He wants to bear your burdens.
For me, this list either gets spoken out loud or written in my computer or in my journal. It seems better for me to write it, usually in list form. Today, I tried to dump out my specific fears, worries, anger, disappointment, and any areas where I feel like a failure. I write down what areas of my life are making me feel overwhelmed and any relational tension/disturbance I’m dealing with. Somehow getting it all outside of my brain and on paper helps me to begin to be rational again. I can pray about each item specifically and actively throw it onto God’s shoulders.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24 NIV
By now you may be feeling better, but don’t stop there. Let God search your heart for sin. This step is critical because mixed in with all those thoughts of anger, fear, disappointment, offense, anxiety and self-hatred are cracks in your spiritual armor. Our sinful reactions in life give the enemy access to wreak havoc in our hearts and minds. It is important to let God examine you and show you what, in all this mess, is your own sin. When you repent of your junk and rebuke whatever access the enemy has gained into your life, you are healing up the cracks in your armor and sealing the peace of Christ back inside.
Today I am repenting of entitlements which have snuck in to poison my perceptive. If I am a servant of Christ, then my truest joy and satisfaction comes when I am obedient. My peace of mind does not come from the false comforts I seek like watching shows in the evenings or hoping my husband will do something especially romantic for me. Today I’m also confessing the way I’ve let my to-do list eclipse my view of God’s ability to empower and lead me. He loves to help me and when I spend more time worrying about my list than asking for God’s input or help, I head straight to self-hatred and live with a undercurrent of disgust toward myself. It is poison, I’m telling you. Child like faith is way better. So I’m taking the time to confess my sin and rebuke whatever demonic influence my sin has let in the door to my heart.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. –Psalm 103:2-4 NIV
When we repent of our sins, it is critical to take a moment to consciously receive His forgiveness. Let Him replace the old nature with your new one. Receive the healing and refreshment that come when we confess and repent of our sins. Specifically let Him crown you with love and compassion. I don’t know about you, but when my inner rage is burning all my tender and empathetic emotions are no where to be seen. It is difficult for the peace of Christ to return where His nature (love and compassion) has been banished. Let God crown you again. Love and compassion are gifts He grants. You don’t have strive into them. He will place them in you and empower you to live in their fullest fruit.
For me today, the coronation process means purposely receiving His forgiveness. I am also forgiving and blessing the people who have disappointed or inconvenienced me. I’m letting the influx of faith I feel invade my heart and mind completely and letting myself dwell on and feel the way Jesus satisfies my heart. I already feel so much peace and I’m letting Him continue to renew me.
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. –Psalm 25:4-5 NIV
Everything we’ve done so far has dealt with our internal struggle—it’s been a spiritual transaction. The last step is to get practical and do a little problem solving on that long list you wrote of your worries. Resist the urge to leave God out of this process. Instead, lean into Him. Ask for wisdom. You may not be able to solve each issue immediately, but take the time to ask God about each item and listen, expectant for Him to guide you.
This morning, 90% of my list of worries can be solved simply by blocking off specific times in my schedule to work on each item. I have a talk to write, a book launch party to plan, a mess to pick up in my office, a slough of administrative tasks for our family, a bunch of laundry to deal with, a study guide to write for my book, a birthday party to plan, dinner to prep, etc. The Lord repeatedly reminds me that I have all the time I need. I just need to use it strategically. It is so much easier to see the clear path when the hurricane in my heart has been tamed.
If and when I do need to follow up on any relational issues, now I can tackle those conversations without all the pent up anger and go into them with a clear game plan from the Lord.
I hope this little journey inside my crazy heart and brain have been helpful for you today. Messy emotions are completely normal and are actually a true gift from God. All the anger, disappointment and inner grumbling signal to us that the peace of Christ is gone and we need to heed the warning. It is time to stop and ask for His help.
Be honest with Him and be thorough. Let Him into every ugly thought and seemingly enormous worry. He loves to redeem and make things whole. He will usher in faith where there was despair, a clear plan where there was chaos, and joy where there was sadness. The peace of Christ will return to your heart and stand guard, protecting you.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7 NIV