Monday, March 14, 2011

The Trouble with Systems

I apologize for the long break since the last post. Call it sick leave: my stress levels, rarely comfortable, have hit near-record highs over the past few weeks. Posts may well continue to be sporadic for some time.

What really hurts is that just as God seems to be developing in me a solid sense of my long-term calling--"to write Christ's comfort to the stressed, depressed, and hard-pressed"--He also seems to have decided I need more experience as one of them. No sooner is one anxiety relieved than another asserts itself; and no matter what I do (including prayer) in terms of time management, there's never enough margin in a day to keep me from getting frazzled.

All too easily, time management mutates from a tool to aid in God's work into a substitute god; if you're anything like me, dropping an item from the schedule can feel like surgery without anesthetic. We think we have everything laid out and under control--and then "life happens." It hurts to admit we judged poorly in scheduling something; it hurts to cut our forward momentum and turn onto a new path; and it hurts to give up something we'd been counting on.

Such happenings are, of course, God's tools for reminding us only He can be counted on. Sometimes we want to scream at Him for letting us go in the wrong direction in the first place, particularly if it was a good direction in itself. It seems that not only would our lives be easier, but God's work would get done more efficiently, if He were a bit more specific in His guidance. But He evidently has more important ends in mind--ends we can't see from our human perspective.

So is it wrong to make plans and schedules? Of course not. What's wrong is to become addicted to them--so fixated that the God of the still small voice can't get our attention without shouting.

Every book and every website--
So it seems this hurried day--
Knows the "secret" to resolving
All life's struggles and dismay.

If you use this planning system;
If you pray this acronym;
If you think along these guidelines,
You will never stress again.

Are you sure? Just look at Scripture:
Mood swings plagued the Psalmists too,
And the prophets knew frustration,
And apostles failed like you.

Even Jesus, Who was perfect,
Had His days of stress and strain--
That He might be fully human,
And might truly know our pain.

Peace of mind is won through struggle;
Growing pains may last for years;
God is never in a hurry.
All our setbacks, all our tears,

Are His tools to make us stronger,
Shaping us to go His way.
Trust His hand and wait in patience;
Bear your burden every day.

In the end, when all is finished,
When we reach God's perfect rest,
We will see how trials and struggles
Made us His and made us blessed!

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