Little cries from the closet next to my bed have become a bit of an alarm clock, although it’s not yet fully morning. For some reason this sixth baby has decided to chart her own little course and refuses to consistently sleep through the night.
Last Friday, it happened at 3:45, and after feeding her, I settled back under the covers to sleep until my actual alarm went off. But no matter how hard I willed it to happen, sleep never came.
Summer is coming to an end. There are school supplies to buy, clothes to sort, planners to fill, and appointments to make. Meetings dot the calendar as we prepare for various ministries that will pick back up in a few weeks. Papers from last year still need to be put away and new daily chore and task charts written so that we can keep up with everyone and everything.
We have a lot to think about. And the list above only covers some of the logistics. I haven’t even mentioned the emotional and spiritual needs of our children, family members, friends, and ourselves. If you took the time to list out every area of life that requires your involvement, you just might start to panic. All that you need to accomplish, all the ways you aren’t measuring up, and all the needs to meet can leave you feeling depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, and discouraged, and they might keep you awake in the early hours of the morning as you try to sort everything out.
We aren’t meant to carry the weight of the world but sometimes it feels like we have to.
I’ve been slowly reading through the Psalms this summer, specifically paying attention to the way the psalmist responded to life. King David, who wrote most of the psalms, was a man with a lot to juggle. He had a nation to lead, multiple wives, many children, enemies to thwart, and a throne to maintain. Surely he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and in the midst of that pressure, he penned some of the most beautiful words of Scripture. I’ve always been attracted to the way he expressed his feelings, but this summer I’ve noticed that his words also instruct us on how to carry the burdens of life.
Recognize God’s authority and relinquish your need for control.
I typically respond to pressures in life that are out of my control, by finding something that I can control. Last week, it was cleaning the mud room. I wiped baseboards, shook out the rug, put every loose item away, and even hung a wreath on the wall. It felt incredibly rewarding to look around and see things come to order because of what I had done.
There is nothing wrong with cleaning and organizing, but when we translate a desire for control to unsettled circumstances, people, or even our own hearts, we will never win. God alone controls all things, and if we could just get that to really sink into our souls, life wouldn’t feel so overwhelming. We can experience the peace of God when we believe and trust that he is working everything out for his glory and our good.
In the midst of trouble, David averted his fear and uncertainty with reminders of God’s sustaining strength. Psalm 3:5-6 says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side.”
David reminded himself about God’s sovereignty, his rule over all the earth and all people. Even when he prayed boldly for success and victory over his enemies, he coupled it with a submissive spirit and an ultimate desire to give God praise. He was the King of Israel, but he knew his authority was under the ultimate reign of God.
Because of God’s ruling power over us we can release our desire to control every issue of life and rest in the comfort of his capable hands.
Be content with limited knowledge and ability.
Three of our children were with their grandparents last week, which meant we only had three children at home. Half the number of people, half the number of needs, half the length of bedtime. It was manageable and easy in many ways. Parenting six kids has felt really overwhelming this summer, and as I anticipate the coming school year, I already feel behind. I know I’m going to struggle to keep up and many things will probably fall through the cracks.
You know what? It’s okay. We can’t possibly anticipate everyone’s specific needs because as much as we would like to — and try to — we don’t know everything and we can’t do it all.
This is perhaps one of the most frustrating things for us, especially in an age where information is at our fingertips and before our eyes constantly. We think complete knowledge should be within our grasp and with this knowledge we desire, we want to be able to do anything, do it well, and see perfect success from our efforts.
We’re missing it, friends. We’re trying to attain something that is reserved for God alone. Psalm 18 is a beautiful reminder that anything we know or do is only because of the faithful provision and strength of God.
Obvious, right? But how often do we neglect the most simple and yet profound source of fellowship with God? David’s life was characterized by conversations with the Lord. Some of his prayers were long and others were short cries for help, joy, hope, salvation, and comfort.
Psalm 32:6 says, “Therefore, let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately.” Is this our first response to the weight we carry in life? Unfortunately, it isn’t always mine. Worry, calling or texting a friend, or even posting something on social media tend to be our default. As freeing as it might feel in the moment to vent about stress and look for relief in those ways, we will never find true peace apart from the Lord.
The turmoil we experience from the issues of life resides in the soul. When we understand that this is the soil that needs tending, we will turn our attention to the one who can water it, shed light on it, and ultimately produce fruit from it.
Respect your tears.
During a recent drive in the car, a song came on the radio that immediately brought tears to my eyes. It was an inconvenient time to cry. I happened to be a passenger, though, so I turned my head away from the kids’ view, and as the words of the song echoed the struggle of my soul, I allowed my tears to fall.
Tears take time and require attention, two things that are regularly in short supply. But over the years, I’ve learned to give my tears a place because somehow crying has a cleansing effect on the soul.
Have you ever noticed how crisp and clear things appear after a good rain? We had a good storm last Saturday night, and on our drive to church Sunday morning the normal haze of humidity was gone, the trees and flowers distinct against the blue sky. The rain had washed away dirt, dust and other debris, leaving fresh foliage.
When we let our emotions bubble up and spill out in the form of a good ugly cry, we experience the same sort of cleansing. Problems aren’t solved but stress and pressure are lifted. David cried before the Lord, sometimes drenching his bed with tears. He was confident that God saw this expression of sorrow, recorded it, and he found strength in knowing that God was for him, even in those moments of weakness.
Be aware of your vulnerability to sin and confess often.
If you put a pot of water on the stove, cover it with a lid, and turn up the heat, during the first few minutes the lid stays in place and nothing noticeable happens. But as the temperature of the water rises and reaches the boiling point, the lid starts to rattle and jump. Eventually water begins sputtering out over the sides of the pot onto the stove, and you find yourself with a big smelly mess.
Pressures we feel in life rise up similarly in our souls often resulting in sinful reactions to the world around us. Irritation, impatience, harsh tones, anger, apathy toward the needs of others — each of these tend to spew out all over those we love when we’re trying to carry the weight of the world.
David loved God and desired to be in his presence more than anything else, but he also failed miserably. When you read the account of his life in 1-2 Samuel, you find murder, adultery, unhealthy relationships with his children, and deception. He was far from perfect, but he was also aware of both his committed sin and his tendency toward sin. Psalm 51 is the most familiar prayer of confession, but throughout the psalms, he asks God to reveal the sin in his heart and examine his thoughts and intentions.
During seasons of transition, change, and feeling the pressures of life, we need to pay attention to our reactions, pray for a spirit of gentleness, and be quick to confess when we sin against the Lord and those around us. Using Psalm 51 as a guide, we can find hope in the God who restores our souls.
My sweet little baby alarm continues to go off at various times in the early hours of the day, but I’m learning to accept those moments as gifts from the Lord. Clarity is coming from the darkness. Not with answers to my questions, or by taking away the pressures of life. No, he’s giving me something better.
Jesus is lighting my darkness with the gift of his presence and he’s lightening my load with the promise of his strength.
For further reflection, read: