When We Feel Distressed

Scripture Reading:

     “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 NIV).

Commentary:

     The day-to-day of this life—of cooking, cleaning, tidying, organizing, schedule-izing, parenting, spouse-ing, and everything else that we do in our day—can lead to some unhealthy habits if mindlessness is left unchecked.  Turning to food (for example) to ease anxiety and to relieve tension and to comfort our soul might be okay in small doses, but if we get used to handling our stress like that, then we might end up with an over-weight problem and a body that’s a breeding ground for disease.  The same goes for every kind of distraction—if we perpetually lose ourselves in books and projects (for example), we may find that nothing else gets done that really needs to get done.  Same with emotional release—if we get used to unconstructively venting through yelling or throwing things (for example) instead of the more healthy-for-all feeling-then-releasing method of regulating emotions, then we might be creating an environment in our home of unrest, discord, and contentious conflict instead of rest, peace, and conflict-resolution. 

     I have found that the more I turn to God in my distress, the more my mindlessness melts away and the less I choose an unhelpful path.  I think this has something to do with being spiritually connected to the Root of Life: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5 NIV).  And so the more we focus on God’s holiness, the more we want to be holy like him—and the more we choose to be holy like him. 

     The original Greek word for holy in this verse (1 Peter 1:16) is hagios, which Strong’s defines as “sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated):—(most) holy (one, thing), saint.”  Holiness is nothing we can earn for ourselves—it is God’s gift to us (the Holy Spirit writes through the apostle Paul, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.  I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8–9 NLT)—however, verses like 1 Peter 1:16 remind us that we are still very much in control of our behaviors—and we always have a choice in how we act and what we think and what we say and what we do and how we respond to the situations we find ourselves in. 

     Let us meditate more and more on the holiness and goodness and omnipotence and wisdom of God—because this is how we displace the urges we have to participate in unhealthy and unhelpful behaviors that do not reflect the holiness that God is (like compulsively turning to food, escapism, or unconstructive emotional venting—what are your urges?). 

     God’s holiness: “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2 ESV). 

     God’s goodness: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1 ESV).    

     God’s omnipotence: “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! / His understanding is beyond comprehension!” (Psalm 147:5 NLT).   

    God’s wisdom: “Wisdom is more precious than rubies; / nothing you desire can compare with her” (Proverbs 3:15 NLT).

Prayer of Response:

     Oh Great God, help me today to resist the urge to fill the void (that you have placed in me for you) with things and behaviors and coping mechanisms that only lead me away from you.  You are the only answer to my distress that I will ever need.  Help me to see that.  Help me to walk in that.  I lay down my fear of emptiness and my fear of loneliness and my fear of achiness, and I take up the warmth and healing of your love.  I focus my mind on your holiness, and I lay aside all behaviors that do not line up with your holiness.  You are good, and you are all-powerful.  Help me to grow in your wisdom.  I rest in your greatness, in your all-encompassing peace.  Nothing else compares with you.  

Confession of Faith:

          I will be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16 NIV).

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