This is the last post in a three-part series called “Lessons from Last Year.” As I finished out the year and reflected on family changes and life in general, I realized that the last year has been a good one even though it was often quite challenging.
Here is the last of three specific changes I made over the last year that had a significant and positive impact on my life.
The title gives a bit away, doesn't it? In case you haven't already figured out, I'm a goal-oriented, type-A personality. If you are, too, then even reading the title may stress you out as you attempt to add relaxing to your to-do list!
Relaxing can be a catch-22 for those of us with a drive to accomplish. We're stressed, so someone tells us (or we tell ourselves) to calm down. It seems like a great idea, but we can't figure out how to do it for the life of us! So we get more stressed because we're stressed. (Hypothetically, of course.)
However, it is possible to start down this journey of relaxing. This last year has seen a much less stressed and therefore happier college student.
A moderate dose of reality can go a long way towards helping anyone who tends towards optimism.
(Hint: if you consistently think you can accomplish waaaaay more than is possible in a day and have long to-do lists that would wow a superhero, you just might be an optimist. Running late may also be a sign of an optimistic personality because we convince ourselves that we can magically fit more into the time we have than is actually feasible.)
I cannot keep a 4.0 GPA, sleep 7 hours a night, eat healthy meals, exercise multiple times a week, go on excursions with friends every weekend, visit often throughout the week, volunteer at church, join 3 clubs at school, start and maintain a side business, spend hours in prayer and Bible study, take up a hobby or pleasure reading, make time for family, and always look put-together. Hello, I'm one human.
Sometimes, "I Can't" Is OK
It took me a decent amount of time to realize that I truly am one person and therefore cannot live three lives simultaneously.
That means I won't have the stereotypical college social life. (But I can intentionally build relationships.)
That means I won't have all my assignments done a week in advance. (But I can plan ahead, know what is coming, and set reasonable goals.)
That means that I can't count on myself to make life work. There will be unforeseen setbacks, crazy weeks, and challenges. But I can count on God to supply everything I need.
It's kind of silly. I had faith in God to save me and take me Heaven "one day," but I didn't always have faith that God would get me through this day.
Yet, that's exactly the kind of faith He wants us to have. It's the kind of faith Jesus describes in Matt. 6:25-34.
Faith isn't an abstract concept; it's very practical. Do you need food? Your Heavenly Father will feed you. Trust Him. Do you need clothes? Your Father is well able to provide. Trust Him. Are you facing a bewildering situation? He already has an answer. Trust Him. In fact, lay all of the cares of this world in His hands and seek Him first (Matt. 6:33).
God does tell us to work (Prov. 6:6). But we can work from fear and stress that it won't happen if we don't make it happen, or we can work from faith that God will bless our work and supply our needs.
That's why I've been able to smile and even laugh when my well-laid plans fell apart. (Hours of planning, mind you!) That's why I've gone to class with only half or - gasp! - none of the chapter read and not worried that I would fail. That's why I've prioritized the things on God's heart - like relationships with people (post #1 in series) - above being the perfect student.
Living in faith instead of abstractly believing has allowed me to both seek God more intentionally and invest in others more intentionally. Isn't that what Christianity is about? We're to love God and love our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-39).
So don't focus on stressing less. Stop looking to your own ability and start marveling at God's ability.
When you seek Him first and are faithful to the best of your ability with the little He's given you, His faithfulness will be abundantly obvious in your life.