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The sun has long since slipped behind the horizon, but I’m still at my computer. My back aches from sitting in the same chair. My mind feels like the inside of a beehive, full of restless buzzing. I’m exhausted, but I push myself to click a few more keys. I can’t stop.
I didn’t have a glass in my hand, but there was a season in my life when I worked like it was an addiction. It’s been years ago now, but I still remember how it wreaked havoc on my life. My relationships suffered. My health declined. I had no peace of mind. All of this came back to me in a recent conversation with a friend. We talked about how some of the things that destroy us are also, ironically, the ones that bring us the most praise from others.
No one had an intervention with me about my work habits. I didn’t get arrested. I never attended rehab. Instead I got told, “Good job!” and “Keep at it!” Productivity and busyness gave me a sense of worth; they made me feel needed and valued. I’ve personally come to believe anything we consistently do to excess can become a trap.
It doesn’t matter if our behavior is labeled “good” or “bad.” It’s the effect on our lives and relationships that matters. I’ve seen people become dependent on ”good” things like helping, legalism, meeting needs, and religious activities. We all have something we’re consistently tempted to go to in order to numb out, cope with stress, or avoid facing difficult emotions or experiences. Sometimes it’s just harder to recognize.
This tendency to gravitate toward what takes us captive is part of human nature. As the Apostle Paul said, “I have discovered this principle of life — that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” (Romans 7:21-23) When we’re caught in this cycle, it’s impossible to have peace because we’re at war with whatever we’re doing to excess.
We all know what this is like — to live fighting off the urge to have another drink, eat another cookie, say “yes” to one more request or put in another hour at the office long after we know we should have gone home. The good news is we don’t have to win the battle on our own. “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25)
This doesn’t mean we simply say a prayer and have automatic victory. Getting free may involve counseling, accountability, a support group, many times of trying and failing, as well as practical and spiritual resources. What these words do mean is that Jesus will empower us to overcome what we’re struggling with and help us regain our peace.
When Jesus began to free me from finding my identity in my work, I felt terrified. If I didn’t keep up the pace, then surely everything would fall apart. This is what addictive behavior tries to tell us — that if we stop we will never be okay. But I discovered when we stop trying to hold it all together we can finally rest in what we need most — a God who holds us.
God, it’s so easy to give our worth over to something other than You. When we start to do so, even if it’s a “good” thing, draw us back to You and remind us we have nothing to prove. Set us free, restore our peace, bring us victory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Ruth Mills says
Amen Holley! Thank you for this bottom line truth.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Hall says
WOW!!!!!! I can totally identify!!! My tight hold is my chronic illness. I thought I had to keep going no matter what. Well,
That changed, God stopped me in my tracks. I am thankful He did. It was very hard to adjust to, still is at times and it has been
28 years. Going from busy mom, RN, active in my church to disabled. Now my doctors told my 4 years ago I was dying there was nothing in medical science to help me—God must have other ideas—I am still here. Home bound, but here and have a prayer ministry. I also keep in touch with hurting people in my church. Some days I feel I just can’t face another day, but somehow God knows and gets me through.
ANGELA B JOHNSON says
God bless you, Elizabeth. You are still a light no matter what story your life is telling now. Stay strong in God!
Holley Gerth says
I love that you are serving so faithfully right where you are, Elizabeth!
Beth Williams says
God uses various things to get our attention. He wants us to have a relationship with Him not just busyness. So proud of you for starting a prayer ministry & helping hurting people in your church. There’s always something we can do to assist God in His work.
Have you seen or read about Jennifer Roland? She has a Face Book Page that offers advice & help to those with chronic illnesses. I love reading & hearing her interviews. She also has ideas about foods to eat that will help some with chronic illness. Might be worth looking into. Just a thought.
Brenda M. Russell says
Hallelujah. Thank You Lord for reminding me and others that we don’t have to prove who we are. We are who You says we are every single day. This has been a long time coming for me and my family. I grew up being in the top three percent of my classes and I was Valedictorian of my 1977 High School graduating class.
Now I have been married 42 years and I have three lovely daughters. I tried to groom them the same way my mother and grandmother groomed me for success. But just sometimes these are different and our children want to slow down the pace of academics and watch movies and visit their friends. Wow, I didn’t know that even was a choice when I was growing up. I had a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
Maybe if I could turn back the hands of time, my children and I would have a lot more to smile about regarding their early childhood memories and “homework” and “extra credit projects” it seemed to never end. Smile. High School, College, and that infamous 1st Real Job. I know my prayer life was on repeat all the time. “Lord, please watch over my children and teach them right from wrong and show them the best path for them to walk every day.
I am still praying for my children and my family. I don’t have grandchildren, my daughters are not married. I do have two grandcats and one grand puppy. I like them a lot. I know who holds the future in His Hands, our Creator. Jesus is our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth, corrects us and comforts us. So, why does it take so long for us to just yield our wills to God and ask Him to take care of us and show us His perfect plan for our lives.
We can relax and rest in the love of Christ.
Holley Gerth says
It’s clear you love your family so much, Brenda!
How I remember those days. There was a point I began to lose my hair from the stress of 70 hour work week, raising a family, and all the volunteer work. I was not happy and everyone around me suffered. I do not remember what the final straw was, but I finally said enough. And made some big changes. And one of them was reconnecting with my faith. I still struggle with not feeling like i am doing enough at times, and find my finances are a bit shaky, but when I focus on gratitude and trust in God, I feel such a relief. When I read your words, it is a reminder I am not alone.
Holley Gerth says
I can relate to so much of what you shared, Madeline. Whew, so grateful for a God who calls us home to grace.
Thank you, Holley! This is just what I needed this morning!
Powerful. Thank you.
Amen! Thank you, I needed this reminder
Thank you for this ! So true and such an important reminder – every day every hour sometimes , i ought to point myself towards Him whom my heart loves and lean not on my own understanding Who is the king of glory ? It is the Lord !
Holley Gerth says
Thanks for being here, my fellow Holly! 🙂
Ann O'Malley says
Our culture sends us a message every day: People won’t notice you, love you, appreciate you if you’re not on the go 24/7, achieving the impossible, sacrificing your all.
The most dangerous message: God won’t either. Several years ago, I read somewhere that many millennial Christians feel like worthless failures if they haven’t changed the world by the time they’re 21. (Adapted from my blog at https://thosewhoweep.blogspot.com/2019/03/lemmings.html.)
Thank you for reminding us that the answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. I pray that the world around us will see our peace and calm and be drawn to Him.
Alma Gosh says
I can relate to Elizabeth (Betsy) Hall. I’ve been putting up with abdominal issues for 22 years. Menopause started it all. I’ve tried to live a Godly life and get closer to Jesus. Maybe I need to make more prayer time. I know our Father loves me because he shows me in that He never lets me go hungry, shows me amazing sunsets, blesses me abundantly. I’ll keep praying.
Beth Williams says
It is so easy to fall into the trap of temptation. The devil is crafty & works hard to keep us down & feeling like we need “this”. Truth is all we really need is to let go & trust God. He will hold, love & give you a true rest. A deep soul cleansing rest that will calm our weary souls. Stop trying to hold it all together & let God help you with life.