Heart Rate Recovery

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

A few years ago Mark Schultz wrote a song about someone living a go-go-go, overly-busy life and he entitled the song “Running just to catch myself.” Ever been there? 

There’s a Hebrew word that shows up 70 times in the Bible (mostly in the Psalms) that, sadly, many English translations of the Bible have relegated to a footnote. That’s too bad because Selah is such a powerful word. Unless we want to live our lives “running just to catch myself,” we all need a take time to Selah. Look how some have translated this word:

  • “Stop there and consider a little” (Matthew Henry) 
  • “the sacred pause” (Charles Spurgeon) 
  • “pause and calmly think of that” (AMP) 

Whether it’s a planned exercise time or just something that frightens or excites us, our heart rate is designed by God to increase—this is how we prepare for fight-or-flight. Doctors say that one of the most vital statistics they now look at to gauge overall cardio health is heart rate recovery (HRR). Doctors want to see a significant increase in HRR after exercise, fright, or excitement. 

A few of the factors that boost HRR:

  • Regular, planned exercise 
  • Getting the proper amount of quality sleep 
  • Reducing stress 

Respond-and-recover is part of a health-building cycle. But if we’re “running just to catch myself” all the time, this time of recovery isn’t happening. Not only are we not recovering well, but we are not properly prepared for the next time our heart needs to start beating faster.   

This HRR is just as vital for us emotionally and spiritually as it is physically: We cannot always be stressed or always be “on.” We need a Selah—a time to stop and consider, a time to take a sacred pause to calmly think. 

This is what David teaches us in Psalm 68. Check out the “bookend verses” where he reminds us that when God arises His enemies are scattered, and that God is awesome and He gives power and strength to His people (vv. 1, 35). And look a the middle verse where David says that when God ascends in victory He gives gifts (v. 18). 

This tells me two things: (1) God is sovereignly in charge (not me or anyone else), and (2) In His love, God delights to use His sovereign power to bless His children. 

The question is not IF I’m going to be confronted by difficult things or difficult people, but HOW will I recover from these confrontations? 

May I suggest a 3-step process to increase your spiritual HRR? 

  1. Acknowledge your situation—don’t try to cover it up or justify it 
  2. Selah—pause to take a deep breath  
  3. During that breath, redirect your thoughts from the difficulty to your awesome God (see 2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:4-8)

Look at David’s example in this psalm:

Reflect Worship
God defeats enemies (vv. 1-2) Be glad, rejoice, sing (vv. 3-4)
God is a Father and Deliverer (vv. 5-7) Selah (v. 7)
God is sovereignly in control (vv. 8-18) Praise and Selah (v. 19)
God defeated Death (vv. 20-23) Join the procession of worshippers (vv. 24-27) 
God uses His strength to care for His people (vv. 28-31) Sing praises and Selah (vv. 32-35)

As you breathe deeply in this worship of recovery, think on this: “Your sigh can move the heart of Jehovah; your whisper can incline His ear to you; your prayer can stay His hand; your faith can move His arm.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Our Selah pause leads to proper perspective, which allows us to recover more quickly. That, in turn, helps us to be better prepared for the next time we’re confronted by difficulties. 

To check out the other lessons we’ve learned in our ongoing series called Selah, please check out the list I’ve compiled here.

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Whom To Fear

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. … In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise—in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11). 

Have you ever been afraid of someone? Have you ever experienced the fear of God?

Interestingly, it’s the same Hebrew word (yaré) for both. This word can mean either something that causes me to fight or flight, or it can mean reverential respect. David is saying, “When I begin to feel the fear of man, I instead turn to the fear of God, and I am no longer afraid.”

Or to put it another way: “When I think I have to fight or flight on my own, I instead choose to reverence God and He takes care of my fear.” 

In both verses 4 and 10, the word “praise” is the Hebrew word for “Hallelujah!” When David feels fear of man creeping in, he looks to God’s Word, finds a promise on which to stand, and reverentially begins to worship God: “Hallelujah! With this promise, I no longer need to fear man!” The Amplified Bible says, “On God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear.” 

There is one other difference in the Hebrew language that is not readily apparent in the English translation. In verse 4, David uses the name Elohiym for God. This means the Mighty God who is Supreme over all. In verse 10, he uses God’s covenant name Yahweh or Jehovah. To me, this sounds like David knew that the fear of God could combat everything from general fears of human philosophies to a specific fear of a specific mortal. His conclusion is a good one: What can man—a mere mortal—or any of his worldly philosophies do to rattle me? Absolutely nothing because I am secure in God! 

We all become fearful at times. If we choose to fight or flight the fear, we do it in our own strength. This may result in temporary relief, but the fear will come back around again. However, if we decide to fear God—to say “Hallelujah!” to His promises—He is able to completely remove our fear. 

The choice is ours: fear man or fear God. 

To paraphrase the declaration of Joshua: “Choose this day whom you will fear. As for me, I choose to fear God!” 

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Interrupt Your Anxious Thoughts

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

David taught us how to pray after we’ve been stabbed in the back. Aren’t you glad that you can pray this prayer just once and everything is all better?! 

Oh, wait. It doesn’t really work that way, does it? At least it hasn’t for me. After I’ve been hurt, it takes quite a while to get to a place of healing. We have cliches for this sort of thing—phrases like “Once bitten, twice shy” and “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” 

We begin to react to the past instead of reflecting and responding in the present.  

It’s interesting that those who compiled the Psalter placed Psalm 55 where they did. There is no introduction that gives us a background or setting, but David still seems to be looking for those “Ziphites” that betrayed him to King Saul. 

Here’s an important physiological and psychological truth: Our brains cannot tell the difference between a real threat and an imagined threat. Our physical bodies react the same way in response to any threat. 

It’s interesting to note that both Selahs in Psalm 55 are in the middle of a sentence, almost as if David is interrupting his own thoughts. Which, I believe, is exactly what he’s doing. 

As this psalm opens David is still praying, but he’s praying about his internal threats: 

  • my thoughts trouble me 
  • I am distraught 
  • I notice the conversations and the stares of potential enemies  
  • my heart is in anguish 
  • I feel like terrors of death, fear and trembling, and horror are closing in on me! 

This leads to David’s fight/flight response (although really, it’s his flight response): “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert.

David has been listening to himself, and he finally at least attempts to put a halt to these distressing thoughts with his first Selah—which means “pause, and calmly think of that.” 

Most of our natural reactions are driven by fear. But fear—by its very nature—is limiting. Fear keeps us tunnel-visioned on the perceived threat. Fear closes us off to accepting any new information. Fear limits our creative responses. Fear perpetuates more fear. 

So David tries a second time to Selah. He is attempting to interrupt his negative thoughts—to stop listening to himself and start talking to himself. To move from a self-preserving reaction to a God-glorifying response requires a Selah pause to reflect. Reflecting on things like:

  • Where will these thoughts ultimately take me? 
  • How has God responded before? 
  • What does God’s Word say? 
  • Could I imagine Jesus responding the way I’m responding? 
  • What changes can I make? 

I love David’s conclusion: “But as for me, I TRUST IN YOU.” He’s saying, “I’m not going to listen to those negative fears anymore. It’s time to put my trust in God.”  

David had to do this “evening, morning, and noon”—again and again and again! Until finally he could say, “I will cast all my cares on the Lord and He will sustain me; He will never let me fall” (Psalm 55:22). 

This is what Jesus promises us, “Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access them all by clicking here. 

A Surprising Way To Relieve Stress

Paul writes some pretty straightforward words to the Christians at Philippi about how to overcome anxiety.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a problem-free nor a stress-free life. That’s simply not possible. Our bodies were created to deal with stress in a healthy way. But stress that is unhealthy, or unnecessarily prolonged, or not flushed properly from the body becomes anxiety. Anxiety is the culprit responsible for a whole list of bad things!

When we face a stressor, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. The main function of this hormone is to prepare us to fight or flight. Sometimes this looks like over-engaging in problem-solving, and sometimes it looks like complete withdraw from life. Sometimes cortisol leads to sleeplessness and a diminished appetite, and sometimes it makes people sleepy and craving comfort food.

But the bottom line is the fight-or-flight response is very me focused!

The strategies Paul lists for us take the focus off me and put it on God. He especially counsels us to pray to God and to praise God. Between these two healthy responses is something unexpected. He writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

What in the world does gentleness have to do with relieving stress?!

First, let’s consider the motivation: The Lord is near. I think this could mean:

  1. The Lord’s name is near, as in we are called “Christians” and so we should act in a way that glorifies God.
  2. The Lord is near to help us.
  3. The Lord’s return is closing in where we will have to give an account of how we have lived our lives.

Then there is this word gentleness. This word means:

  • moderation
  • considerate of others
  • patience toward our situation and toward others
  • or as The Message says: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.

Cortisol is naturally removed from our physical bodies through rest and exercise. Anxiety is naturally removed from our emotional lives the same way—resting in God’s presence (honk!) and gently and considerately exercising a blessing for someone else.

THE BEST WAY TO DE-STRESS IS TO BLESS! 

When anxiety builds:

  1. Honk
  2. Bless
  3. Repeat

Don’t let stress win by making you self-centered. Defeat stress and anxiety by praising God and blessings others. And then make that a daily habit!

Your Greatest Stress Reliever

Stress relieverSadly our country is anxious and worried. Based on the number of anti-depressants that are prescribed each year, we are a people dealing with a lot of issues!

When worry or fear begin to interfere with normal thinking and functioning, doctors call it anxiety disorder―that is, disorder in our lives creates the anxiety, and more anxiety creates even more disorder.

What causes anxiety in the first place? One of the main culprits is chronic stress. Things like marital problems, financial pressures, relationship breakdowns, emotional traumas trigger the fight-or-flight responses in our bodies. This leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate, interrupted sleep patterns, digestion issues … and all of this leads to the chronic stress, which leads to anxiety, which leads to even more disorder!

But here’s the great news―Getting into God’s presence could be your greatest stress reliever!

There’s a story in 2 Kings of a woman who is clearly stressed out. Her husband has died, she’s exhausted all her resources trying to settle up with creditors, she has sold nearly everything in her home, and one creditor is ready to carry her sons off into slavery. Talk about anxiety!

Elisha asks this widow two questions:

  • How can I help you? Jesus said that our Heavenly Father knows our needs before we even ask Him, but in the very next verse Jesus says, “This then is how you should pray…” (Matthew 6:8-9).
  • What do you have? God will use even what we think is insignificant to show His superabundance in our lives!

God did meet this woman’s needs. He gave her enough to pay off her creditor. But that wasn’t all―God also gave this family enough to keep on living stress-free!

God Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think―infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams. (Ephesians 3:20, AMP)

Don’t try to carry all your stress yourself, cast ALL your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

I’ll say it again―Getting into God’s presence could be your greatest stress reliever!

We are continuing our series on prayer next Sunday, and I hope you can join me!

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