Admit it. What songwriters call "the most wonderful time of the year" can also be "the most stressful time of the year." And when tension runs high in the home and mom is stressed, everyone is stressed.
If you're like me, you tend to dread the coming holidays because of all there is to do. Or all you have to buy. Or all there is to eat.
And when we focus on our finances (Do we really have to spend that much this year?), or our full schedules (Do we really have to be in that many places?), or that inevitable weight gain that happens this time of year (Do I really weigh that much, after only one glass of punch?), we set the tone in our home for a not-so-blessed time of year.
Pushing Stress Out of Your Life
But, stress and anxiety don't have to invade your heart and home like unwanted guests this Christmas. In fact, we can push stress out of our hearts and minds altogether so that we'll anticipate the holidays with a quiet heart and get through them feeling refreshed, refueled and rejuvenated. That's what I want. And I think you do, too. Here are five things I've learned through the years that help me experience a stress-free, peace-filled Christmas.
1. Rely on God for your emotional support.
With so much to do to prepare for the holidays, it's natural for us to rely on people around us to notice when we're overwhelmed and offer a helping hand, or just lend some encouragement and support.
The reality of you and me expecting others to appreciate us or come to our emotional aid at this time of year is that everyone else around us is as busy as we are.
During these times, I've learned that God has the best listening ear.
Scripture says God understands our thoughts while they're still far away (Psalm 139:2); He is a refuge for us when we need to pour out our hearts to Him (Psalm 62:8); and there is nowhere we can go—physically or emotionally—where He is not right there with us (Psalm 139:7-12).
When we look to others to understand what we're going through, we are often disappointed. When we depend on others for emotional support or a kind word to keep us going, we tend to feel let down. We tend to put a burden on them that they often can't meet.
But God, your Maker and Sustainer, knows and understands what you're feeling. Go to Him in prayer throughout the day. Talk to Him about how you feel. Rely on Him for what you need. And be refreshed knowing He hears, He cares and He understands.
2. Refresh yourself in God's Word.
I am convinced that if I don't go to God's Word first in the morning, I won't get anything done. I also realize if I don't spend at least some time in God's Word each day, I am a mess. I've found, especially at this time of the year, that Scripture can be a spiritual source of energy to get me through the day.
Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness." That means reading Scripture is like getting a breath of fresh air from the Living God.
Start in the Psalms. Read of the songwriters' depression or anguish or complacency. See how they work through it by recalling Who God is and how He is worthy of praise. While many of the songwriters start a song flat on their faces in pity, they end on their feet in praise. Their focus on God gave them the energy to get up off the floor and onto their feet.
It can do the same for you and me if we struggle with even getting out of bed! Fuel yourself by getting into God's Word—even if it's just reading a Psalm a day—and see if God doesn't breathe His life and rest into your day that calms your heart and soul.
3. Refocus on rest.
Rather than thinking of all you have to do this season, can you consciously slow down long enough to remember why (if there is a reason) everything needs to get done?
Christmas was never meant to be a time of busyness, stress, long lines and packed to-do lists. Instead, it's a time to slow down and reflect on the greatest gift that we have received—the gift of a Savior.
The Bible instructs us to "be still, and know I am God" (Psalm 46:10, NIV). That verse, in context, was a reminder to God's people that in the true knowledge of God and His deliverance, there is peace, in contrast to the troubled nations that didn't know God or His deliverance.
If you and I know God, and His deliverance through His Son, Jesus, we can know peace in a way that the rest of the world can't imagine. In the New American Standard Bible, that verse reads: "Cease striving and know that I am God."
Can you and I "cease striving" to do all we think we must do and remember that simply knowing God (and the fact that He has delivered us from the punishment of our sin) amounts to peace and rest? And that peace is not just in eternal matters. If you and I can trust God with our eternal life, certainly we can trust Him with our everyday life. To rest is to trust Him in all things. And to trust Him in all things is to rest.
4. Remember your priority relationships.
When we remember what's most important in life, it can keep us from running on empty.
We were made to love God and enjoy Him forever. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). That means all you think you have to do and all the money you feel you have to spend, pale in comparison to the people right in front of you.
As you start to stress, ask yourself these questions:
- What is more important, the project or the person I'm neglecting in order to get it done?
- A perfectly decorated house or my children who want me to play with them?
- The amount of money I spend on someone or the time I'm willing to spend with them?"
In your busyness this Christmas, don't neglect the One this season is all about. Don't neglect the loved ones He has given you to share your life with. As you prioritize people over productivity, you'll find it's easier to let some things go.
Tell yourself: If I say no to more things, that's more time I have with those I love.
5. Reflect on what matters most.
Christmas is about the greatest gift you and I could ever receive—the gift of a Savior whom God sent to be a perfect example of living faith, to die for our sins and be the perfect sacrifice God required for our justification, and to rise again to conquer death and offer us life eternal.
Because there is nothing we could ever do to deserve that gift, we accept it humbly and, out of our love for God and His perfect gift to us, we seek to emulate that love and give to others.
I often tell my daughter, "Christmas is all about what God gave us, so we need to focus on what we can now give to others." But giving to others doesn't have to be monetary or materialistic. Maybe you give someone your time, your heart, a much-needed smile, a helping hand, a watchful eye or a listening ear.
Ask God how you can give to each person who means the world to you, and to others who might not mean anything to anyone. As you do, you will be giving God the greatest gift He could receive, your desire to be more like His Son.
What do you think? Can you try one, two or all five of these ways to exchange panic for peace? Try. If you do, you'll be focusing on the few things that really matter this Christmas and feeling a lot less stressed.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.
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