I routinely have the opportunity to speak at events where many of the attendees are over the age of fifty. Although, I’m not quite fifty yet, my age group does share something in common with several of those in attendance – the notorious mid-life crisis! 

This life event tends to strike those in their 40s and 50s, with one of the major components and culprits of the crisis being stress. Thankfully, there are some steps we can take, and at just about any age, to reduce, avoid and/or recover from the symptoms stress can create and the dreams they deplete in order to pursue lives that are more healthy, wealthy and wise:

Healthy: When we are stressed, our bodies max out. For example, various studies reveal how stress can cause headaches, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, panic disorders, grinding of teeth, strokes, heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, decreased sex drive, insomnia, depression, and the list goes on and on. Reports reference some of the most common contributors to stress are trying to manage too many responsibilities, problems with finances and work problems. So, it stands to reason, one of the best ways we can improve our health is to reduce and manage our stress. But how? The answer is surprisingly simple – growing and giving. When we seek to multiply what we’ve been given and strive to give to the benefit of others, the results are nothing short of miraculous. For various studies have revealed giving is contagious, evokes gratitude, promotes connection with others, is healthy, and makes us happy psychologically, just to mention a few. In short, faithful stewardship and servant hearts aren’t only Biblical truths, but prove to be good for our health too (3 John 1:2). 

Wealthy: We tend to think wealth relates only to money, but it can actually be defined as “a plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing“. Therefore, all of us can seek to be wealthy in our family relations, our faith, practicing healthy lifestyles and establishing profitable habits for whatever amount of finances we may have. As a result, we will begin to break free from the defeating and stress-fueled lie that our self-worth is tied to our net-worth (Mark 8:36).  

Wise: As we begin acquiring and applying truth, we begin strengthening our wisdom muscle. This increases our likelihood to finish well. For our priorities will be properly aligned. We can then guard against the stress trap of discontentment caused by comparing ourselves to others and begin maximizing what we’ve been given. This is done by growing the areas of our lives we desire improvement and giving to the welfare of others rather than solely for ourselves (Colossians 4:5).

Application: “A Living Of Giving” – 1 John 3:16
When we give from our supplies of time, talents, treasures and testimonies, we realize we don’t have to trudge through life in a vain attempt to fill our cups and then walk anxiously as we try to not spill a drop from the cups we’re carrying. For we realize God has a never ending supply for each of us as we pour out what we have to others for His glory. This is not to say we are to be wasteful, or that we will all be multi-millionaires, Olympic athletes and Einsteins. It does mean there are great benefits that come to those who seek to grow and give throughout their lives – such as less stress, greater contentment and a fuller sense of achievement as we realize giving makes our living much more fulfilling.

Awesome Awareness

During a travel I was fortunate to make through parts of South Africa, I experienced landscapes that were literally breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, they are beyond description. This is a place where the tides of the ocean crash against jagged mountain cliffs and contrast themselves against crystal blue skies. Although impossible for me to adequately capture in words, I can still visualize the images in my mind and recall how my eyes swelled with tears as my senses tried to absorb such splendor. 

However, it wasn’t the beauty in and of itself that struck me, but rather Who it all pointed to. The awesome awareness of God’s profoundness as Creator was overwhelming. His magnificence overtook me and continues to overtake me on a daily basis. Despite living in a dark and sinful world, God’s glory can still be clearly seen as we take time to slow down and take notice:     

In Nature: Nature is an incredible gift God has given to us, and there are many responses people have towards it. For some it is worshipped as a god. For others, it is barely noticed, taken for granted, neglected and abused. However, for others, who know the one true God, we get to see His glory, masterful creativity and absolute genius. It shouts and declares His existence and for those of us who know His truth, it inspires our praise, worship and gratitude for all He is, all He has done, and all He does (Psalm 19:1).     

In Art: The sounds and sights of beautiful art can stimulate similar responses in us as nature does. For me, I cannot help but be in awe of those gifted with the abilities to create such masterpieces (Exodus 31:3). Although some clearly don’t believe in God, this only impresses upon me more a holy marvel towards my God – for His love is so great and graceful that He gives so freely such beautiful gifts to people even though they might deny Him.  

In Achievement: Whether it be athletic, business, personal and/or civic accomplishment, success stories are both inspirational and declarational. For those who overcome tremendous odds and obtain triumphant victories rally hopes and stimulate praise for the hard work and sacrifice that was made. However, they also declare and demonstrate the power and goodness of God – for it is from Him all good things flow (James 1:17). 

Application: “Existence Without Excuse” – Romans 1:20   
Life is not without cruelty, injustice and pollutants. However, there is also God’s divine grace and traces of Him wherever we find goodness, love, righteousness and beauty. Therefore, through Christ, despite the darkness, we are freed to see His love expressed through all His creation – which in turn comforts His children with an awesome awareness to the power and presences of God while declaring His existence to an unbelieving world so that they too may be without excuse

Along The Way

As I knelt praying one morning, I was struck by how many people on my heart and mind were enduring deep physical and emotional struggles and pains. This realization didn’t dilute the challenges I face, but it did put them in perspective. For it seems the things I allow to frustrate me are small irritants compared to the wars some of my friends are facing. No doubt, we will all face ups and downs in life along the way. Yet, we always have hope when we have Christ. We have His promises that He can turn all things for our good. That He has plans for us and that He creates us with purpose. It’s during these phases of life we must maintain focus on who He is and that He loves us more than we can imagine. Even when we don’t understand our circumstances, we can be confident He is with us every step of the way:

Our Selections: We make choices and then face the consequences. Sometimes they are good and sometimes not. However, when we leave our choices to God, we always receive His best. The challenge is knowing which choice He wants us to make when it’s not exactly spelled out. For me, I have discovered as I seek His direction and then submit my decision to His sovereignty, the choices I eventually end up making aren’t always the easiest ones. Instead, they’re typically the ones involving sacrifice, facing my fears and taking a “leap of faith” (Proverbs 3:5).

Our Struggles: When we face challenges, we can either view them as obstacles, or opportunities. However, admittedly, this is easier said than done. Even the Apostle Paul admitted he and his fellow passengers onboard a ship caught in a storm had lost all hope of surviving. Yet, it was during this struggle, God reassured and restored Paul’s peace. As a result, Paul was then able to encourage others, despite their hardships, enabling them to also receive God’s blessing (Acts 27:20-26). Likewise, when we go through struggles, God is there to strengthen and bless us, but let us also remember who God has allowed to be “in the boat with us”. So that like Paul, God may use our struggles to bless them through us and our Godly response.

Our Sustenance: God promises to provide for all our needs. However, there are also times He may allow these same provisions to be taken away. This can leave us confused and questioning why God would give to only take back. However, God shows us in the life of Elijah when He led Him to a brook, gave Him food and allowed him rest, He cares for our needs, but He also never wants us to grow more dependent upon His gifts more than Him. Therefore, He allowed the brook to dry up and what He once gave freely, He took away so that He could encourage Elijah onward (1 Kings 17:6-9). Likewise, when God gives to us, it’s for specific reasons and seasons of life, and if He chooses to take something away, it too is for specific reasons. The question is do we trust Him more we do His sustenance?

Application: “Cling Free” – Isaiah 43:18-19
A friend of mine recently described a time he accidentally tipped over his canoe in some rough waters. As he struggled to save his canoe, fishing rod, tackle and cooler, he realized in doing so he was risking his life. It was only until he was willing to let it all go that he was able to swim safely to shore. He lost his stuff, but his life was saved. This is much like our walk in this life. We cling to our “stuff”, but it’s only when we are willing to let it all go for Christ, that we are truly freed to live

Higher Ways

We simply can’t begin to understand all the ways of God. However, we can know what He has revealed to us, and one of the primary truths we have to cling to in times of uncertainty is that His ways are higher than our ways. Therefore, no matter what circumstances, problems and/or situations we face, we can take comfort in knowing He remains in control and can use all these things for our good and His glory:

Aggressors: This world is filled with aggressors. Those that seek to aggravate our wellbeing either emotionally, physically and for some, even spiritually. However, we do not need to allow these stressors to disturb us. For Christ is all-powerful and can use even aggressions to progress His purposes. This may be very difficult for us to understand and even trust at times. For we see unrighteousness and evil celebrating their victories. Thus, we cry, where is God? But as He reminds us, He is close to the oppressed and blesses those who are persecuted as He encourages us to fear not (Matthew 5:10). 

Associations: Our associations in this life can often work and be positioned in our life in ways we could never imagine. I know for me, God has used my associations to direct me in new careers, create new platforms of communication, open doors of opportunity and close doors of opposition. It is amazing how God can use others to advance His purposes in our life and use us to advance His plans in the lives of others (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

Authorities: The authorities in our life can be difficult. However, there is no kingdom, or ruler over God (Romans 13:1). Thus, no matter how challenging the authorities in our life may be, when we submit our lives to God and seek to serve Him over man, He can use even those above us to advance His purposes for His people. Ultimately, impacting communities, churches and countries.

Application: “The Good Life”John 10:10 
The all encompassing good life can not be found here on earth. For it is filled with uncertainty, but when we take our focus off the world and prioritize our life under God, we soon discover and realize He offers the best life. For in Him and through Him, we find peace in stress, joy in pain and confidence in chaos.