Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Matthew 6:19 NLT
The Mid–Stage of my life arrived much faster than I anticipated. Much to my surprise, when I received my pre-retirement Social Security benefit statement, it informed me that I have worked since the age of 13. However, the math and the retirement funds that I would receive did not coincide. In three years, I would be entitled to a gratuitous 75% percent of my calculated monthly payoff. However, if I would only wait until the ripe age of 66, then I would receive 100% of my benefits. I continued to look in disbelief; based on my calculations, I should have an increase of at least 50%. My plan to relax on a Caribbean beach for at least six months a year was not going to happen.
So, before you think, “oh well, she didn’t manage her finances correctly.” I want to clarify that I did not splurge. In fact, I paid for necessities-food, housing, car note, auto insurance, clothing, etc. As a single woman until 51, I had budgeted quite well-which enabled me to take a few enjoyable vacations, and give 15% charitable contributions in the form of tithe and offerings. My financial plan began to unravel three years ago, when my health took a substantial turn. As a healthcare professional providing care to patients, I worked in a fast-paced environment that required standing, and running around most of the 8-12 hour shift. I begin to notice the joint pain in both of my knees, which required frequent sit breaks. I remained in denial regarding my condition and did not seek medical intervention. It was only during a trip to Upstate NY where my left knee hyperextended and I returned home with an immobilizer and crutches. Subsequent follow-ups with my PCP and three orthopedic surgeons revealed a diagnosis of Bilateral End-Stage Osteoarthritis with recommendations for knee replacements.
I have recently performed a list of my assets according to biblical standards, and I am in good standing. God has supplied all of my needs, and I am doing fairly well with the desirable wants. Now I have to restructure and refocus my mindset. I do not need to “shop” for unneeded items. In fact, I am in the process of collecting clothing and other items (for donation) that I will never use again. Did it require a decline in my health status for me to start counting my blessings and stop spending the resources that God has provided for me? I will continue to ponder on that question. Who knows with the money I am no longer spending, my dream for time on that Caribbean beach may be within reach.
Is it possible to live without anxiety, worry or fear?
- According to the Texas UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, “Anxiety is hardwired into our brains…It is a normal response to uncertainty, trouble, or feeling unprepared.”
- According to the Bible, 1 Peter 5:7 NLT states, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
- “There is probably is a biological component to chronic worry, but there is also an early environment component,” agrees Sandy Taub, PsyD, a psychoanalyst in private practice in Wilmington, Delaware.
- In Matthew 11:28 NLT, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
- Simple definition: To be afraid of actual/perceived danger or threat; extended to pursuing dreams, progressing in one’s career, or facing new or unfamiliar situations.
- There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has torment, and he that fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 Darby
As I researched my question of living without anxiety, worry or fear; I was confronted with an overabundance of rationalizations, and reasons why a peaceful state of mind is not possible. The explanation that stood out blatantly was the fact that I was raised by an overprotective mother. While that may sound reasonable to many, I doubt that my upbringing has caused many sleepless nights due to a worrisome state of mind. My condition only worsened as I matured to middle age. Any change in my normal daily pattern caused an increased level of discomfort as I attempted to deescalate my level of stress-due to anxiety and worry.
When my contractual period of employment ended, I can remember sitting on the side of my bed, balancing my bank account. As much as I claimed to believe in God, I breathed out a short prayer telling God that I didn’t know what to do, now that I was not working. In less than a minute, I received a Daily Devotional notification on my cell phone that stated, “Make your day better. Read Matthew 6: 25-34.” Since this is one of my favorite Bible texts, I was already aware of what Christ instructed us not to do-Do Not Worry. I could not control the tears that flowed as I read the promises for my life. All I had to do was to believe.
During my season of unemployment, I have come to realize the reason that I had lived with insomnia for years was due to relationship issues. I did not believe that God would really stand by his Word; so, I failed to pray and study diligently. The result of self-reliance was brokenness and its byproducts-anxiety, worry, and fear. When I relied on my achievements, the faith and trust that God deserved were displaced. In spite of my disbelief, God reminded me of the importance of strengthening my relationship with Him. My prayer life is improving; I am sleeping much better; and I can achieve a peaceful state of mind-free of all anxiety, worry, and fear. Only believe.
Do Not Worry- Matthew 6: 25-34 NIV
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
At the conclusion of my physician’s visit, I was given a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue. My Dr. stated, “I recommend that you take off 24 hours-one day per week in which you stop thinking about all of your concerns and worries. In fact, eliminate housework, paying bills, running errands, and stay away from your computer, tablet, and cell phone (if possible). I would also like for you to read wholesome and uplifting books that leave you with a smile on your face.” I left the office thinking that I did not know how that would be possible. I was hoping for a prescription that I could take to my local pharmacy that would cure my fatigue.
I started to research the internet on how to take a 24-hour rest day once a week. Most of the articles were geared toward a person who exercised daily. I certainly didn’t have that problem. The only alternate article spoke about the importance of rest from a psychological perspective regarding innate qualities. I thought about the impossible task that my physician recommended, and concluded that I was really stressed out. I never expected to feel worse following my medical visit. I breathed a prayer for God to help me with the task ahead.
Out of nowhere, I begin to reflect on a group of patients that I cared for in New Jersey while doing Community Nursing. I can remember calling on a Friday evening to give critical lab values, and the change in medication that the physician had ordered. I left two messages without a response. On Sunday morning, I received a call back from the patient’s wife who explained that they kept the Sabbath, and did not accept or make phone calls. During the next visit, she gave further explanation that God had given us a 24-hour rest day from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. I have been keeping the Sabbath faithfully for eleven years, and have never suffered chronic fatigue again. I am very thankful that I believe in a God who loves me enough that he gave me a guaranteed weekly rest day.
When challenged with an unfamiliar circumstance, is it best to “go with what you know,” in order to quickly resolve the problem?
Is falling back on previous resolutions really a good idea, even if it worked for that particular problem?
When faced with adversity, how reliable are your problem-solving skills?
How strong is your relationship with those in your network?
During a job interview, it is inevitable that you will be asked to identify your strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this thought-provoking question is to assist the employer in determining your skill set as related to the right fit for the position. Utilizing the process of self-evaluation to identify your qualities is also helpful when trouble comes your way. Our reaction to adversity is dependent upon how we feel about our strengths and weaknesses. Once we have acknowledged our true qualities then we are ready to network. Simply ask God in prayer for help. It is impossible to be an overcomer without involving God in all aspects of our daily lives. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a disconcerting experience; however, the times that we live in demand motivation, determination, perseverance, and networking if we are to overcome adversity.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 NLT
Resolving unexpected life events with God
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 3 John 1:2 NLT
Annually, we are required to participate in an insurance health screening and assessment with a given deadline of August 31st. The screening assesses four metrics: BMI, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Hemoglobin A1C. In June, I received the postcard indicating the 30-day warning notice: the health screening/assessment was due by July 31st. As I reflected on my sedentary lifestyle, and increase in fast food intake, I begin to dread the assessment, and rationalized that the insurance company was utilizing tactics for failure. I needed that additional 30 days.
I started a mental debate on how well I had done within the past 6 weeks, and consoled myself by focusing on a recent 10 lb weight loss. I resolved that I would have to deal with my poor choices, and suffer the consequences. Nevertheless, I still had 30 days, and could make needed changes. Realistically, it was very hard to break the fast food habit. I was accustomed to ordering at the drive-thru, and my taste buds craved the high calorie delicacies. In fact, on the night of July 4th, I was still eating a midnight snack at 2am. At that point, I determined that I was totally out of control, and prayed for God to help me overcome the desire for unhealthy food.
With three weeks left, I was determined that I would make healthier food choices, and increase my activity. Kudos to me, I purchased a Fitbit, and ate close to veganism for two of the three remaining weeks. I scheduled my online appointment with Quest lab on July 27th, four days prior to the deadline. What I did not realize is that my recent efforts would not erase a year of poor choices. When I received the results, I had failed all four of the metrics. The parameters for the metrics were lowered to reflect an optimal level of wellness. I reviewed my results repeatedly. The level of disappointment that I felt was so overwhelming that I cried. Fast food had led to an increase in my triglyceride level of twice the level of the previous year. My HDL (good cholesterol) was still good, but my LDL (bad cholesterol) suffered.
The impact of my lifestyle stared back at me. So, I pulled myself together, and realized that I am not helpless in this situation. How important is my health and well-being? It is now my top priority. I am thankful that I have an insurance company that cares enough about their subscribers to require annual assessments. I am still facing the daily struggle of not choosing fast food chicken nuggets that were designed especially for me. However, I have made the decision to decrease unhealthy choices to once a month. I have replaced fast food with well-balanced meals. Not only do I feel better, I have lost an additional five lbs within two weeks.
Resolving Unexpected Life Events with God
Don’t store up treasures here on earth…Matthew 6:9
How many times have we heard, “You work hard for your money, enjoy your life, buy what you need?” Buying what we need usually translates into what we want by fulfilling our self-indulgent desires. In fact, we are being manipulated everyday by “Big Businesses” who utilize psychologists to develop marketing strategies to feed the beast of buying. Personally, I have never had anything to drink that would make me feel as if I were on a Caribbean beach with my toes in the sand; diamonds are not my best friends, and the list goes on and on. If you want a reality shock, start attending a few Estate or Moving sales-there is often an excess that would furnish 2-3 homes. The sellers are often functioning in the panic mode by the last day of the sale, slashing prices by 50 to 75%, or an offer to just take it.
How do we break the habit of “just buy it?”
Practical Methods for Breaking the Spending Habit:
1. Use the envelope method of a pre-determined amount of cash for food, shopping, and other expenses.
2. Organize your closets-donate or sell items you are unable to fit or have not worn in six months or longer.
3. Make a list of your assets; clothing, shoes, accessories, and household items.
4. Volunteer to help those in need. It helps to see life from another perspective.
Identifying our overabundance provides a reality check as to how blessed we are. Ask for help from God. It will take prayer and perseverance to change pleasurable behaviors. But, we can be overcomers in all things.
Resolving Life Events with God
Sonya Johnson-Ruiz RN