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More than 1,000 miles east of the Philippines lies the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of earth’s oceans—so deep it reaches into the earth farther than Mount Everest reaches into the sky.  That’s more than 36,000 feet, or close to seven miles.

Not even today’s sophisticated submarines can submerge to that depth without imploding from the pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch–the equivalent of a full-grown elephant standing on your big toe.

But in 2014 oceanographers constructed a cube-shaped basket, attached it to cables, and dropped it into the depths of the trench.  The descent took four hours. 

They left the basket in place for twenty-four hours, to gather data by camera and hopefully collect samples of life—if it existed at all in such inhospitable conditions.

At the end of twenty-four hours, they used acoustic signals to release the weights that had caused the basket to fall.   With the help of flotation devices, it then rose to the surface.  Against all odds, here is what the scientists found in the trap:

The new species of fish, about eleven inches long, received the name Mariana Snailfish.

Video revealed their activity in the depths—swimming, tail-swishing, foraging—what you’d expect from healthy fish.  They appeared to be perfectly content, unfazed by the bone-crushing pressure of the water around them.

So how do they survive?

God has especially equipped them.  For example, instead of bones snailfish skeletons are made of cartilage that can withstand pressure. These fish also produce certain fatty acids that help cell membranes stay flexible. Even at the molecular level, the muscles of the Mariana Snailfish contain certain enzymes that help them flourish at the bottom of the ocean.

In addition, scientists believe the following characteristics also contribute to their survival: big stomachs,  transparent skin, thinner muscles, and incompletely closed skulls. 

Just as the Mariana Snailfish can withstand extreme physical pressure, we can endure extreme mental, emotional and spiritual pressure—with God’s special equipping.

First, he’ll gladly help us develop resiliency—the ability to handle significant sources of stress. The snailfish manifests several characteristics in the physical realm that can be applied in the spiritual.

A Big Appetite

The large stomach reminds us that those who have a big appetite for God’s truth in the Bible also tend to be survivors; they’re strengthened to withstand the pressures of life.

Abraham Lincoln was just such a person, enduring great pressure from politicians, the press, and the burden of civil war.  He had this to say about scripture:

Transparency

This quality reminds us to be transparent about our concerns–before God and a few good friends. Just telling someone else about our stresses has been proven by researchers to reduce anxiety—a truth scripture has taught all along.[1]

It’s worth noting that just as the Mariana Snailfish lives completely at peace in the midst of physical pressure, we can live completely at peace in the midst of emotional stress as God frees us from worry and trusted, grace-filled friends support and encourage.[2]

Flexibility

These fish are also examples of flexibility—deep down at the cellular level.  You’ve probably heard the maxim, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  The flexible person will look to God for the adjustments needed to handle the pressures of life  and search out his guidance for how to cope.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, would have us remember:

If we allow the stresses of life to accomplish the latter, they will not only be survivable, they will be accompanied by the deep contentment of nearness to God.[3]

Notes:

[1] Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

[2] James 1:2-4; Philippians 4:6-7; Proverbs 12:25

[3] Philippians 4:11-13; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1

Sources:

  1. https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/11/28/theres-a-deeper-fish-in-the-sea/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01158-x
  3. https://theconversation.com/the-deepest-dwelling-fish-in-the-sea-is-small-pink-and-delicate-88991
  4. https://www.natureasia.com/en/research/highlight/12923

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.pxfuel.com and http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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If you happen to visit the Cincinnati Zoo tiger exhibit at just the right time, you’ll get to watch the enormous cats walk right past the observation glass. Then you’ll realize how massive they are, with heads the size of beach balls and paws the size of saucers. Our zoo’s Malayan species aren’t even the largest.

 

 

The Siberian tiger wins that distinction, growing to eleven feet from head to tail, and weighing as much as 660 pounds. Their canine teeth are longer than any other predator—up to three inches in length.

 

 

Experts say if a Siberian tiger and grizzly bear ever battled one another, the tiger would win. They are stronger, more muscular and agile, more active and aggressive than any other mammal. Tigers epitomize fierceness, intensity, strength, and power.

You may be wondering, why all the tiger talk? Because they can teach us a thing or two about getting ferocious ourselves. And what do we need to get ferocious about? Our fears. These days we have plenty to worry about:

  • The COVID death rate, perhaps to rise again during the winter months
  • The financial future of family and friends who’ve lost jobs or businesses
  • The future of those American cities plagued by violence
  • The upcoming election—likely contested—and its serious implications for the future of our nation
  • Troubling situations on the world scene

But how do we get ferocious against such fears? Here’s a strategy that might not readily come to mind: GRATITUDE.

 

 

To some that might seem silly. Gratitude sounds like a pretty weak strategy against fear. And who would choose the adjective ferocious to describe gratitude?

But Ann Voskamp firmly states from her own experience:  “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear” (1). Why? Because thanksgiving teaches us to trust.

So how do we get ferocious with our gratitude? By fierce attentiveness throughout the day, pouncing enthusiastically on every small blessing that presents itself:

  • Sunbeams turning floorboards into burnished gold
  • Raindrops-become-rubies on a backyard bush

 

 

  • A close encounter with one of God’s creatures—a soul-delight if ever there was one
  • Discovering family members among the contacts of the day—members of the family of God, that is—and sharing a word of blessing

Those are examples of what we could call grizzly-bear-gratitude—fiercely seeking out moments of joy even in the midst of trouble or pain. I suppose we could compare such a search to a bear’s quest for honey, even amidst bee stings!

 

 

And then there’s ferocious-as-a-tiger gratitude—the toughest, most intense kind of gratitude there is, but the most impactful over fear. Are you ready to get really ferocious? Thank God for those troubling and painful situations.

 

“When we thank God for sorrowful intruders,

frustrating circumstances, or maddening relationships,

we are indicating to God that we trust him

to work out in our lives that which is best for us.”

–Valerie Bell (2)

 

When we exercise that kind of fierceness, fear will slink away.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, O God, for giving us the wherewithal to battle fear. May we become ferocious fighters knowing that, even while traversing the darkest valley, you are working out your perfect purpose through it, and the other side is radiant with your glory.

(Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; L. B. Cowman (3)

 

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 203.
  2. A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 105.
  3. Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reiman, Zondervan, 1997, March 14.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (Paul Everett); http://www.wikimedia.org (Greg Hume); http://www.wikimedia.com (Rolph Dietrich Brecher);  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixaby.com.

 

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While perusing old photos, I came across this one, taken when our middle granddaughter was a toddler.

 

 

E. loved to be buried under those pillows, then explode out of them like a jack-in-the-box.  She’d stand tall with arms stretched toward the ceiling, and look up at me with triumph—all while giggling with delight.

It occurred to me: what if all those pillows represented our fears about the coronavirus? Our worries for family and friends? Our anxiety about losing income?   Our uncertainty of how long self-isolation might continue? Our apprehensions about the economy and the added debt we’re accruing?

Altogether these concerns may appear to be a heavy, insurmountable burden. But just like E. under her pillows, we can cast off our anxiety, stand tall, and look up in triumph.

How?

We can cast off worry with prayer and gratitude.

When the realization dawns that we’re buried in worry, our best tactic is to follow Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:6-7. You’re probably familiar with these verses already. Now might be a good time for us to post them around the house–even memorize them:

 

 

Did you notice the word thanksgiving sandwiched in the middle there? Now why would God consider that important?

Because gratitude expresses trust in him. It’s an affirmation that God is always at work, bringing hope out of despair, joy out of sadness, and peace out of turmoil (1).

It’s not that gratitude takes away our difficulties, but it does transform us for the better in the midst of them (2).

We can stand tall in Christ’s strength.

Let’s admit it. We’re weak. But the omnipotent One of the universe is our Heavenly Father. And what has he promised? First, he never assigns an overload, and second, his strength equips us for all circumstances (3).

With such firm promises as those to bolster our confidence, we do possess the wherewithal to stand tall.

We can look up in faith.

Way up–to Jesus. And where does he sit? In the highest place, at the right hand of God (4).

He is:

  • Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)
  • Head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:10)
  • Ruler over all (Colossians 1:17)

 

 

Our circumstances can change overnight. One day we’re free to come and go as we please; the next day we’re self-isolating except to pick up necessities or handle emergencies.

But Jesus is our never-changing Hope. If we habitually make him our focal point, we’ll never walk in the darkness of ignorance and fear (5).

“Worry looks around but faith looks up.

—Barbara Johnson (6)

Years ago, I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks (7) tell about this exchange:

He asked one of his students how he was doing, and the young man replied, “Well, under the circumstances, I suppose I’m doing alright.”

Dr. Hendrick’s response must have caught the student off-guard.

“Under the circumstances? What are you doing under there?”

Those words have stayed with me through the decades, reminding me that under the circumstances—buried beneath fear and apprehensionis not where I belong, as a believer in Jesus, and it’s not where I want to live either. I’m guessing you feel the same.

Let’s determine to put our energy into casting off our burdens with prayer and gratitude, standing tall in Christ’s strength, and looking up consistently with faith.

 

 

And then let’s add a flourish of joy—just like E. with her squeals and giggles as the pillows tumbled.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for the joy of your comforting presence, your residing power enabling us to persevere, your hope-filled promises, and the joy that results from contemplating your magnificence. Thank you for providing the way to triumph through our Savior and your Son, Jesus.  AMEN.

(Psalm 16:11; James 1:2-3; Psalm 119:162;

Psalm 92:4; Psalm 126:3, 1 Corinthians 15:57)

Notes:

  1. John 15:7; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 126:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:16
  2. David Vryhof, https://www.ssje.org/monasticwisdom/gratitude/
  3. Psalm 55:22; 1 John 5:5; Philippians 4:13
  4. Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3
  5. Hebrews 12:2; John 8:12
  6. Joyful Journey Daybreak, Perpetual Calendar, May 20
  7. Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, author and speaker (1924-2013)

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.uihere.com.

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