A few years ago, Jean and I and another pastor were ministering in Blantyre, Malawi, southern Africa. Stuart Palmer, one of our past students from East London Bible Training Centre, was director of an orthopedic hospital in Blantyre and had started a Bible Training Centre at his hospital using our Foundation for Christian Service course. We were there to teach a week of classes at the Training Centre and to meet with area pastors to give some encouragement and assistance. It had been a great week of ministry as well as time well-spent with Stuart and his staff at the hospital.
We were visiting three countries we’d never visited before, and we had to go in and out of Johannesburg, South Africa each time to travel between the other countries. Malawi was our second southern African country on this trip, and we still had about a week of ministry in Botswana ahead. Every time you cross an African border there are so many things that can go wrong! And besides, the national airline of Malawi, which at one point had seven planes, was down to one aging Boeing 737 that was so old it had ashtrays on the seat arms! It was rumored they might go out of business at any moment, and by that evening, we still needed to get out of Malawi, through South Africa, into Botswana.
I was so stressed! I had been saying to God that if he didn’t find a way to help me deal with the stress of Africa travel, I didn’t think I could keep doing it.
We stopped at our friend Stuart’s office at the hospital where we had held the Training Course and the pastors’ meeting, to pray together, to say goodbye, and to borrow his Land Cruiser and driver to get to the airport. We talked for a while and then Stuart prayed for us. He prayed for safe travel and several other things and then he prayed for peace. As he prayed, something engaged in my spirit and soul and I said, “Father, I receive the gift of your peace.” I consciously took all my “what-if’s” and gave them to my Father. I felt peace!
The day was long and the details of our travels were complicated. Our flights were late. But every time the stress started to rise, I consciously and intentionally said, “Father, I give you all these things I can’t control. Deal with them as you choose. I receive your peace.” It worked, and it has had a long-term effect. It still requires conscious attention, decision, and release. But it still works!
As time passes, I’m realizing some things about myself. I know, it’s about time, right!? One of the things I realize is that under my outwardly calm and cool exterior, sometimes there’s quite a bit of stress and anxiety going on. And in keeping with this entirely appropriate mantra for a 78-year-old: “Nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to hide, nothing to prove!”, I’m more often and more quickly facing up to and acknowledging some of this stuff. So this is that: I get really anxious sometimes, and sometimes I feel simply and darkly overwhelmed.
I mentioned some of this in a recent blog post “Emptying The Dishwasher”. If you missed it, you can read it here. But this is a little deeper dive into my anxieties and stress. I don’t know if it’s getting worse as I get older or if I’m simply a little more able to face and acknowledge it, but there are a couple of ways it hits me.
I get really anxious over details of things. Next week at this time I’ll be in Portland, preparing for the Stem Cell Harvest that precedes my currently postponed Stem Cell Transplant. I’ll keep you posted on when the transplant gets scheduled, but as I mentioned last week, the ICU beds at OHSU are filled with COVID patients so cancer treatment is postponed for now.
During my week in Portland, I’ll be undergoing testing of most of my body’s systems. I’ll be poked, prodded, and subjected to a variety of indignities. One of the procedures I’ll have is a bone marrow biopsy. I had one of those in April to confirm my Multiple Myeloma diagnosis. It was unpleasant. I’m going to have another biopsy next week. But you know what? It’s not the indignities and unpleasantness that make me anxious. It’s the details—the details of getting to the appointments, of finding a place to park, of worry over being on time, that sort of thing. My anxiety is far more related to the processes than to the outcomes. But it’s real nonetheless and it’s something I have to deal with.
Lately I have times when I feel darkly overwhelmed—times when I sit down and put my head in my hands and just feel bad! This occasional feeling of being overwhelmed is something I’ve just noticed since beginning cancer treatment. Part of my treatment is a fairly large dose of steroids every week. For two days after taking my steroids, I feel full of energy (well half-full anyhow) and I make plans for lots of projects around the house, things to do, places to go. Then I don’t feel so full of energy (as the steroids wear off?) and I discover that my brain has been writing checks my body can’t cash! And some weeks I start to feel overwhelmed – darkly overwhelmed. Is it the steroids or something else? Or maybe a little of both? Whatever it is, it’s something that has to be dealt with!
For those of you who are thinking, “Get a Grip”! Snap out of it! Thank you! I’m happy for you that you are able to be in command and control of your life in all situations. Thank you to all the people who have instructed me to “Get a Grip” through the years.
However, for those of you who, like me, face anxiety and an occasional sense of being darkly overwhelmed, this is about another resource… God’s peace. So today, I pray for you and for me, the way Stuart prayed for me a few years ago in his office at the hospital in Blantyre!
Father, I reach out to you in prayer today for my friends and me. I’m praying especially for my friends, who, like me, sometimes get stressed and anxious over details and processes and things over which we don’t have control. I’m also praying especially for my friends who experience times (moments, seasons?) of feeling darkly overwhelmed. Sometimes the details seem to spin out of control, and we get really anxious. Sometimes things seem heavy and dark, and we feel pressed down under the weight of it all.
I pray that you will give us peace in the whirling storm of detail and that you will lift from us the weight and burden that presses us down.
I pray the promise Jesus gave to his followers and I ask that by your Holy Spirit you would make this promise alive and personal to each of us who needs this promise and assurance today: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)
Thank you for your gift of peace. In Jesus’ Name!
Friends, let’s choose to let God control our today and our tomorrow! Let’s receive the gift of God’s peace!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.