We all stumble in many ways. – James 3:2
It was another hot August day. I was working outside and feeling increasingly irritated in the oppression of the afternoon heat. A hint of smoke from some distant wildfire loitered menacingly in the breeze. Alarmed, I paused to scan the sky for the dreaded pillar that signaled another threat to our home – a yearly occurrence. I saw none. But the brown hills looked the way I felt: tinder dry; brittle; apt to erupt in spontaneous combustion.
The project I was working on with my husband hit a snag. Instantly, we were at odds. It seemed to be happening a lot lately. I stormed away from the argument and grabbed the car keys, using the excuse of needing to pick up the mail as an opportunity to cool off. I cranked the car air conditioner up along with some of my favorite Christian music and headed to the post office.
There was only one letter in the box. The envelope was addressed to “The Wonderful Kevin Thorson and Family.” A pang of guilt shot through me. Kevin was fine, but the “Family” wasn’t feeling too wonderful that day.
My drive did cool me off, but I had to face the fact that I couldn’t blame my attitude on external factors. Why was I stumbling so often lately? What was I missing?
This moment happened several years ago, and now I can identify some of the factors leading up to my meltdown. Some are changeable; some aren’t. But I’m convinced it is less about external factors and more about internal pressures that afflict us all.
So how can we keep on our feet when our path is strewn with unavoidable pitfalls? How do we respond when we find ourselves face down in the dirt? As my daily scrapes and bumps have revealed to me, there are some vital strategies for staying sane:
*Don’t ignore the warning signs. When I’m feeling irritable, it might be lack of sleep, illness, or just the fact I’m letting things get to me. When the red flags pop up, it’s time for a little openness and brokenness with God.
*Make Bible reading as important as eating that next meal. Don’t lean on past knowledge or a set of principles to guide us through the minefield. It’s like using an outdated map to find a new city. God’s Word is active, living, and a well-worn Scripture can jump out at the precise moment it’s needed to save the day. We have to allow God to speak to us if we’re going to avoid the pits.
*Keep alert. Our enemy, Satan, is constantly on the prowl. Don’t get complacent.
*Know our limits. And don’t stray beyond them.
*Think beyond the event to its source. What causes us to lose our cool? Why do we react to certain pressures and how can we defuse those situations?
*Pray actively and constantly. It doesn’t take a “quiet time” to talk to God. Stay on the line with Him all day long. Pray on the fly, in the car, in the bathroom if you must. Be honest and be sure to listen.
*Remember we are just dust encasing a soul. We’re going to fail. We need to forgive ourselves and learn from our mistakes.
Yes, we’re going to fall along the way on our journey. We can, however, learn from our mistakes. God knows we’re prone to failure, but He does’t want us to fail. He wants to give us light for our path and bring us safely to the destination He has planned for us.
In fact, He’s just waiting for us on the path, if we choose to let Him lead the way.