How to Practice Selflessness in Seasons of "Stressfulness"
Perhaps the hardest time to practice selflessness is during times of high stress. When the pressure is on, when life feels out of control, it's natural to turn inward. It's almost inevitable to spend most of our energy and focus on ourselves - what we have to do, what we are worried about, what we hope happens, and more.
Recently, life has taken a plunge into the, what I would call, "not ideal". The plans Matt and I thought we had all set up for a perfect beginning to the start of a new phase in life couldn't have gone more differently than planned. The whole plan in its entirety has been put on hold and completely taken out of our control. We've had to readjust the sails, talk through some big changes, and adjust to different dynamics. It's inevitably been a challenge and with that has come different degrees of stress.
When life doesn't go according to planned, in the back of my mind I know to trust God, but I still reach with all my might to control anything I still can to keep things as close to how I want them as possible.
Maybe you can relate to this.
Unfortunately, in my efforts to control this particularly stressful situation, I became frustrated the more and more control I lost. The more I tried to keep things how I wanted them, the more they slipped out of my control. This eventually led me to an emotional burst of frustration that not only affected me but also my relationship with Matt, and with God. I was bitter and failing to abide in His love and share His kindness regardless of my own circumstances.
As I was vigorously pedaling away during my spin workout today, God made it so clear to me - I have been so wrong. I have been so focused on the inconveniences and stress that I've failed to abide in Him fully throughout this time. Therefore, I've failed to practice selflessness - to practice Christlike kindness.
In the stress of changing circumstances and uncertainty, I slid down the slippery slope of turning inward. I began focusing on what I wanted and fought like heck to get it that way.
But during my workout it hit me. The storm isn't to destroy me; it's to refine me. I can't fix it, but I can choose how to handle it each day.
Stressful seasons aren't meant for us to overcome on our own nor are they meant to be our demise. The more we focus on how to control it, on how we want things, or on how we will accomplish tasks A-Z; we lose sight of the whole point. We become selfish rather than selfless, we become prideful rather than humble.
Selflessness requires laying down our desires and our agendas at the cross and reaching out to others in love, despite our own struggles. Selflessness requires consciously choosing to focus our energy outward, looking for opportunities to wrap others in the kindness and love of Christ,
when our own life is overwhelming.
, we are commanded to be kind and build each other up, to be compassionate to one another showing mercy as God has shown us mercy.
That sounds great in theory, but when life feels overwhelming and stressful, I'm much more impatient with others, quicker to snap at someone I love, and much more prone to selfish and bitter thinking.
I'm sure you can relate.
So how do I do this whole selfless love thing when MY life feels a mess?
In order to put on selflessness and love during these times, its crucial that we make the conscious choice to let God's grace take over so that we may do the following:
1) abide in the Source of kindness
2) yield to the Spirit allowing Him to guide our words and actions
3) submit to the Father.
But it's not a one time fixes all thing. Please, don't finish reading this and say, "Okay God, I'm laying it all down, I need you. Help me to be more selfless", and then think it's all fixed.
I think this is where we get lost. It's easy to say a quick prayer like this and forget it the next morning. As we begin to feel the stress again, our minds naturally begin to turn back inward.
My selfishness in this situation isn't fixed once and for all. It's a constant battle to combat each moment that it starts to creep into my mind. I must have the discipline to turn to God, asking Him to crush my pride and wipe away my selfishness so that I can trust Him in these moments.
Practicing selflessness in stressful times requires the grace and humility to beg
for God to create in us the selflessness that we can't create for ourselves
. It's not just one and done, but instead every
time we begin to turn inward.
The bottom line is, despite our own efforts, we cannot create our own selflessness. Practicing kindness and selflessness in the moments its hardest to do so has to be from God. It is the kindness and love of God that prompts our kindness and love of others, but we have to be willing to let Him lead, to abide in Him fully.