Worship: Instructions for keeping your head above troubled waters

Overcome feeling overwhelmed

My mother made me join the swim team each summer during my elementary school years. Some kids love to swim, but not me. It felt like torture rolling out of bed at 6 a.m. on summer days and jumping in freezing cold water for the 16-lap warm-up.

I never was a good swimmer, but one day I was struggling especially. Around lap 12, I couldn’t go any farther. I remember the feeling of panic as my arms flailed and my lungs took in a gulp of water. The edges of consciousness blurred as I sunk to the bottom.

Fortunately, someone jumped in to save me. But I’ll never forget that feeling of overwhelming helplessness.

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There are moments when I feel like that kid again, and I know you have too. I meet people all the time who say that they feel like they’re in over their heads. “I’m drowning,” they say, “just trying to keep my head above water.” The combination of hyper-busy schedules with no margins, excessive worry, and unexpected crises can leave one feeling fretful and in despair.

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Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

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We shouldn’t think that Jesus is some kind of genie-in-the-bottle, summoned to give us peace whenever we want it. Instead, Jesus taught us the kind of life that would bring us peace. It wouldn’t protect us from chaos and disruption, but instead would give us a life that would not ultimately be shaken.

How can you experience that kind of life?

First, build on something solid. Like a home, every life needs a foundation. Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) When we hear his words and put them into practice, we make a life of peace for ourselves. Refusing to worry, ceasing from judging others, telling the truth (all of these are found in the Sermon on the Mount) — these actions naturally incline toward a life of peace within and with one’s neighbor.

Second, be a peacemaker. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Be a “maker” (craftsman, artist, creator) of peace in your family, work and community friends (even among your enemies).

Third, pray in all things. This is one of the most challenging practices of the life of faith, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Paul wrote, “… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) The promise to follow is that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds.

There’s hope for the overwhelmed. The hardest thing to believe is that Someone is nearby to jump in when we hit bottom.

Brent McDougal  is pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church. The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and by the neighborhood business people and churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.

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