This past week has been hectic and stressful. Working in a public accounting firm for nearly a dozen years, I’m fairly used to the seasonal, deadline-driven nature of our business. However, this deadline was particularly crazy for me for a variety of reasons – both tax and audit had deadlines and the team of administrative assistants I manage has recently hired new teammates, who are wonderful but not fully up-to-speed on all our processes. So, I knew going in that the week was bound to be busy and stressful.
I’ve noticed a pattern in my life the past few years. I’ll be living in the moment, accepting various emotions and the ups and downs of life, and basically living with my struggle switch off and trusting God’s providential guidance. Then, as things go along well for awhile and I’m not having many negative thoughts, I start believing my thoughts more and more. This leads me to be “in my head” and I start to plan more. The urge for control creeps in, slowly and without detection. I find myself getting irritated more easily and, particularly if life gets a lot busier, I get overwhelmed and need things to go the way I planned. My thoughts become more negative and I don’t like the way that makes me feel.
Bam, my struggle switch has flipped.
When the struggle switch is activated, “negative” feelings are not acceptable and therefore become amplified. For me, frustration morphs into anxiety. When a few nights of insomnia are strung together, I realize how I’ve drifted away from reliance on God and gravitated toward my need for control.
Fortunately, experience is a great teacher. After the extreme anxiety from a few summers ago, I have learned a lot. The techniques of defusion, expansion, and connection that I learned through ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – have brought me back to acceptance, being present, and trusting God time and again. I know that the anxiety will be there when I’m facing these periods of letting go of control. But now, I can accept it and go about my day with a lot of prayer, thanking my mind for telling me such interesting stories, and making room for my feelings to come and go as they please.
Last Friday evening, after a long week and coming off the worst night of insomnia, I was feeling wound up and short tempered. On my drive to pick up the kids, I prayed The Serenity Prayer aloud, three times. As I’ve shared before, this prayer is so meaningful to me. The entire prayer goes like this:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
On the third time through, I stopped after “…as it is, not as I would have it…”
“Not as I would have it.”
I repeated the phrase quietly a few times. The message seemed so clear and heaven sent.
How often are we irritated, frustrated, and generally out of sorts because things aren’t going the way we would have them go?
People don’t act the way I want them to, circumstances don’t work out just right, and life serves up chaos that alters my plan. But, often, the problem is my perspective, my expectation, my plan.
When I drift away from trusting God and start trusting myself and my tenuous sense of control, I’m on shaky ground. It’s truly sinful to think that I can keep my world spinning, that I know best.
I can definitely beat myself up when I realize how far I’ve strayed. But, then I remember – God knows we’re unworthy and need help. As Saint Paul said,
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Corinthians 12:8-11
I’ve come to see these bouts of insomnia as God’s way of getting my attention so I’ll find my way back to surrendering and trusting Him. It’s a perspective that brings me peace and leads me back to a much firmer foundation.