Reversing The Distress Cycle

God wants you to live in a place where your heart has unshakable security and tranquility. The Hebrew word is shalom, and the Bible gives us a “Shalom Cycle” that keeps us centered and grounded in God’s peace. 

But the Shalom Cycle begins to break down when…

  • …gratitude is replaced by grumbling 
  • …trust in God’s future grace is replaced by unbelief
  • …taking our worries to God is replaced by self-reliance

Anxiety causes our mind to race through all sorts of “what if” scenarios. My friend Josh Schram points out, “There are no benefits at all to having anxieties!” 

The disciples of Jesus were in an anxiety-producing situation—they were in a boat going through stormy seas. Jesus was in the boat with them, but He was sound asleep. Instead of going to Jesus with their worries, the disciples tried to get themselves out of the situation. As they did, the “what ifs” began to mount. 

What if the boat sinks … What if we get smashed on the rocks … What if not everyone can swim … What if (gasp!) Jesus doesn’t make it out alive … What if … What if… WHAT IF?!?

Until finally they screamed at Jesus, “Don’t You even care?!” 

Sadly, their last thought was to go to Jesus, instead of making Him their first thought. 

But Jesus cared more than they knew. Years later, Peter—who was in this storm-tossed boat—wrote, “Casting all your cares—all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all—on Him, for He cares about you with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully (1 Peter 5:7). 

Not—only your big concerns. 

Not—most of your concerns. 

But—ALL of your concerns; every single thing that robs you of even a moment’s peace. 

“Jesus, do You even care?” And Jesus responds with a loving, resounding, “YES! I care about every single thing that causes you anxiety, and worry, and care. Give them all to Me!” 

Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6). 

If we allow the Shalom Cycle to break down, the inevitable result in the exact opposite: The Distress Cycle—

 

The arrows are going the wrong way, and we’re being pulled farther and farther down. We need an about-face, a 180-degree-turn, a new direction. The Bible has a word for this: repentance. Instead of the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction: 

  • Instead of anxiety—prayer
  • Instead of worry—worship
  • Instead of tests—testimonies 

“Jesus is more concerned about changing our hearts than about changing our circumstances. He uses our circumstances to change our hearts, IF we will trust Him.” —Josh Schram

The Dangers In Grumbling

God wants to give us His peace. The Hebrew word is shalom and it means a deep tranquility found in a personal relationship with Jesus that is greater than all external circumstances. Sadly, many people block the shalom God wants them to have. 

The “shalom cycle” looks like this…

Our gratitude for the things God has done fuels our faith in God’s future grace. That faith-filled expectation serves as fuel for our prayers, and answered prayer gives us even more for which we can give thanks. 

But the shalom cycle can break down when we forget to be thankful. My friend Scott Troost says that ungrateful people are usually characterized by—

  • Being bitter and unforgiving
  • Constantly attending their own pity parties 
  • Struggling with low self-esteem
  • Being greedy and covetous for the things they don’t have

Scott goes on to explain how we can stop the grumbling ingratitude from derailing the shalom cycle. 

  1. Be thankful for what you have, instead of wishing for things you don’t have (Philippians 2:14).
  2. Keep a gratitude journal of all that God has done for you (Habakkuk 3:2). 
  3. Notice how God has given you strength to make it through challenging times in the past (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). 

“There’s a huge difference between being thankful for something and being thankful in something. We are to be thankful always.” —Scott Troost 

As I talked about last week—we need to think about what we’re thinking about. This is the key to spotting those grumbling, ungrateful thoughts before they derail the cycle and rob us of God’s shalom. 

Join us next week for the third part of our 4-part series in which we will be uncovering another way that the shalom cycle can become derailed. Please join us either in person or on Facebook Live. 

What Is Shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Some of the best definitions of shalom include ideas of completeness, soundness, and wholeness. One Jewish rabbi commented that when you say “Shalom” to someone, you’re really saying, “may you be full of well-being.” Or another way of thinking of shalom is—nothing missing, nothing broken. 

Some have tried to describe shalom as the absence of conflict, but that’s not quite accurate. On the verge of going into the Promised Land to fight their enemies, God commanded Aaron to speak a blessing of peace of the people (Numbers 6:24-26). And just before Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9-10). 

Shalom is not controlled by outward circumstances. Shalom is a deep-seated, rock-solid, unshakable assurance that I am in God’s hand. 

Isaiah describes how we live in shalom like this—

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind—both its inclination and its character—is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

How do we do keep our mind stayed on God? The Apostle Paul says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Psychologists call this process metacognition: when we think about what we’re thinking about. It’s being aware of our anxious thoughts that are robbing us of shalom and then talking back to them. 

What often robs us of peace is listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves! 

Someone once asked evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” Exactly right! 

Why do we make our thoughts obedient to Jesus? Because one of the titles given to Jesus before He was born was Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus assures us that His peace is unlike anything we can ever find in earthly things (John 14:27, 16:33). 

God’s peace is always there, but our divided minds keep us from experiencing His peace. So Isaiah tells us to keep our mind steadfast on God’s goodness, and Paul says the same thing—Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I want to encourage you to practice what the Bible calls capturing your thoughts—or what psychologists call metacognition. Ask yourself, “Why am I thinking that?” Capture those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Don’t let your worrisome thoughts rob you of God’s shalom.

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the “shalom cycle,” including the things that can derail it. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 29

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 29

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 29.] 

     The great message of the prophets is that evil and tyranny are there by the permissive will of God, there is never any room for thinking that these things happen by chance (cf. Isaiah 45:7). Never tie God up in His own laws; He is never guided by precedence. If a prophet is more concerned with logic than with loyalty to God, he will always mislead. … 

     We have no control whatever over external history; God has, and as saints we have to wait in patience wherever we are placed in the providential order of tyranny. …  

     Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage…. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Jeremiah commands the people to obey God’s order in the dust and dirt of captivity. When we become rightly related to God we are loosened from everything around us, and the danger is to imagine we have to get out of the world. Our Lord did not pray that His disciples should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from the evil. It is nothing but unmitigated cowardice to get out of the world; we have to remain unspotted in the midst of it. “Do you mean to tell me I can live a holy life there?” If you cannot, the grace of God is a fiction. External surroundings make no difference to our inner life, but our inner life makes a telling difference on our surroundings (see Philippians 2:15). … 

     Our problem is not one of proportion: how much worldliness can I live in? but of spiritual insight which will enable me to live a holy life in the midst of worldliness, looking for the fulfillment of God’s promises. 

From Notes On Jeremiah

Christians living here on earth are truly “temporary residents” or “aliens and strangers,” as Peter calls us. As such, we sometimes feel a bit perplexed about the evil all around us and how we’re supposed to respond to it and to the Earthlings who question us about it. 

Chambers reminds us that God is not surprised by the evil, nor is He surprised where we are. All of these things are under His sovereign control. 

We are not to give in to evil, compromise with evil, or even try to pretend that evil doesn’t really exist. We are to live with our eyes fixed on Jesus regardless of our evil surroundings. This is the only way we will shine like stars in our evil world, and point the way for Earthlings to have a relationship with Christ for themselves. 

Shine on! 

Simpatico

Have you ever heard the word simpatico? It means to be like-minded. The idea is being on the same page with someone else, ideally someone that is a positive role model. Peter calls himself a leader in the church (Greek word presbyteros) but then says he is simpatico with us (sympresbyteros). 

And this isn’t just for leaders in the church, because the same appeal he makes to leaders is the same appeal he makes to both young men and to all of you. 

Although Peter didn’t use the phrase servant-leader, that’s exactly what he describes. In fact, for Christians, the words servant and leader are really one-and-the-same idea! Peter says God’s leaders are:

    • shepherds (those who nurture, guide, and guard) 
    • serving leaders
    • serving not because you must, but because you are willing (it’s “want to” not “have to”)
    • eager to serve with a great attitude 
    • not lording it over others
    • realizing people have been entrusted into their care
    • being examples to the flock that are follow-worthy
    • being submissive to others
    • clothing themselves with humility 

Three key concepts that Peter brings out are all seen in the life of Jesus: clothing, example, and humility…

Jesus set the example for us when He said the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:25-28). 

When Jesus was incarnated in human flesh, He literally made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, which means He put on the clothing of a servant. He completely humbled Himself (Philippians 2:3-8). 

Jesus most clearly demonstrated this when at the last supper He wrapped a towel around His waist (i.e. clothed Himself as a servant) to wash His disciples’ feet, and then told us to follow His example (John 13:2-5; 13-17).

That’s why Peter tells us all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. The word Peter uses for “clothe” means keep on doing this every single day. 

God opposes the proud [those unwilling to be simpatico with Jesus] but gives grace to the humble [those choose to be simpatico with Jesus].

So here are two questions I’m asking myself—

Q: How do I know when I’m a servant?
A: When someone treats me like one. 

Q: How do I know I have a servant’s attitude? 
A: When I don’t mind being treated like a servant.

9 Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In Praying The Promises, Max Lucado gives us valuable instruction on how to turn Scriptural promises into powerful prayers. Here are a few of those prayers (the biblical reference in brackets is the passage that helped form the prayer). 

Thank you for being a God who wants me to know You.… Your wisdom surpasses all wisdom on this earth. Your ways are so much higher than mine. I could study You and Your Word for the rest of my life and still only scratched the surface of the depths of who You are. You are at once knowable and unknowable.… Deepen my knowledge of You, God. [Psalm 19:1-2; Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 1:19-20]

Help me rely on Your promise of grace because I have been found righteous through Jesus. When trouble comes, use those troubles to increase my faith and draw me nearer to You. [Hebrews 7:25]

Father, sometimes I convince myself that I need to earn Your salvation. I feel like I should do more, be more, and achieve more. But You simply want my faith. Help me let go of my striving and this need to perform for You and for others. [Romans 4:5; Philippians 3:4-7] 

Guide me during the difficult times. Give me hope as I pray and wait. Remind me of Your power and authority so that I will trust Your ways, even when I can’t see where the path before me is going. [Genesis 50:20-21; Ephesians 1:11-12; Romans 5:3] 

Forgive me when I look for guidance outside of Your Word. When I ask friends what to do before I open my Bible. When I am resistant to reading Your Word because I want to guide myself rather than be guided by You. Renew my desire and passion for reading the Bible. … May I learn something new about You and Your character each time I read it. [Psalm 32:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17] 

When a worry arises, remind me of Your presence so I will turn to You and not fear. [Psalm 23:1, 4]

Gracious Father, nobody is beyond Your redemption. Because of Your love and mercy, You provided a Redeemer for us in Christ, who graciously stopped us while we were on the path of sin, gave us refuge, and pointed us toward the road of redemption. [Galatians 4:4-5]

Forgive me when I try to fight my own battles. … If I try to fight for myself, I end up feeling exhausted and defeated by my own efforts. You have said You are fighting for me. Help me believe that truth even when I am so tempted to fight for myself. Go before me this week as I face temptation. Go before me as I face anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Protect me in every spiritual battle. Fight for me and help me surrender each battle to You. [Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; Psalm 20:7-8]

As concerns and questions come up, remind me to turn each of them over to You in prayer. I lift up my family to You. I lift up my work to You. I lift up my to-do list to You. Cover each worry with Your peace. Prioritize my day so that it aligns with Your will and not mine. [1 John 5:14]

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book by clicking here.

Saturday In The Proverbs—Do You *Really* Want To Hear This? (Proverbs 8)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Does not wisdom cry out…? (Proverbs 8:1).

Wisdom is accessible to all. Wisdom is not hiding; she is in plain sight and calls out to everyone (vv. 2-4). The question is: Do I want to find Wisdom? Do I really want to hear what she has to say? 

The Apostle Paul tells us to take all our thoughts captive and filter out the thoughts that aren’t obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). In other words, I need to eliminate the thoughts that are impure, false, vile, discouraging, unloving, proud, or un-praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). 

Wisdom herself says her words are: 

  • excellent
  • right
  • truthful
  • righteous
  • pure
  • easy to understand
  • sound
  • strengthening

The rewards for really listening to Wisdom’s words are pretty great too: 

  • treasures 
  • righteousness
  • justice
  • God’s blessings
  • eternal life
  • God’s favor

So with all that in mind, how would you answer the question now: Do you really want to hear what Wisdom has to say to you?

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