For me, the biggest lesson I have learned came from first two chapters. The realization that my stress level is controlled by me, and not by anything going on around me, has really changed my life. Some amazing passages include the following:
- Chapter 1 - Discovering the Real Problem:
- "It takes a lot of effort to stay negative, and, when it's all said and done, absolutely nothing is achieved."
- "As my journey progressed from the stress zone to the faith zone, I allowed God's promises to seep into every ounce of my being. I slowly began to understand that I was the only person who had control over my mind. I was the only person who had authority over the joy in my heart. I was the only person who could determine my attitude on any given day. I had to choose to be an optimist, despite negative circumstances. I had to make a decision to live life on purpose, as God intended, or to just simply be alive. I was the only person who can control how stressed I felt. Even when other people or circumstances were the external cause of stress, only I could allow those problems to suffocate my internal peace. Only I could grant permission for the flame in my heart to be snuffed out like a candle."
- "I realized that most of my stress was rooted in trying to control circumstances that I had no control over. I was freed from trying to change people that I couldn't change, from attempting to fix things that I had no resources to fix, from focusing on the unfairness of life instead of the blessings that I had been given because of God's undeserved grace, and from worrying over problems that I had no power to remedy. I was wasting infinite amounts of time, energy, and emotion on things that were completely, 101 percent, out of my control!"
- "As you continue to read through this book, my prayer is that you will learn to understand and believe without a shadow of a doubt that, despite your valid emotions, raw feelings, open wounds, and heavy heart, you are the only one who has authority over your attitude, your joy, and, yes, even your level of stress."
- "Stress typically does not come from the situations in our lives but rather from the ways we handle those situations."
- "You have complete control over whether you spend life stressed and depressed or happy and fulfilled, despite the circumstances you face."
- "So, since stress in every form is here to stay, what we must realize is that it is not the stressful situations in and of themselves that cause our stress but the way we process and handle those stressful situations."
- Chapter 2 - Does It Really Matter?
- "Ask God to grant you the courage and strength to let those problems go, and let him take over."
- "A much better definition of peace is one that rests on the ability to rise above our circumstances, overcome our innate tendency to stress out over problems, and learn to remain calm and confident despite what is going on around us. That is real peace - a peace based on Christ, not on people or circumstances. A peace based on faith, not on personal desires being met. A peace based on a quieted heart, not on a quiet house. A peace based on the love of Jesus, not on an easy day at work. A peace based on trusting God in all things, not just the easy things we can handle with no problem. A peace that is present in our hearts, even when our entire life is overflowing with chaos. That is the kind of peace only Jesus can give, and, once we get a taste of that kind of peace, we are never the same again."
I love how Tracie does not sugar coat any of this! It was like a slap in the face at first, but one I definitely needed. I have been blessed to know people who have been incredibly happy and joyful despite cancer, despite loss of loved ones and jobs, despite bankruptcy, despite abuse, despite divorce, despite all kinds of life situations no one wants to be going through. This made me look up the following definition:
Despite - without being affected by; in spite of
- I can be happy and peaceful without being affected by broken or struggling relationships
- I can be happy and peaceful without being affected by financial difficulties
- I can be happy and peaceful without being affected by patients, clients, coworkers, or people in general who are unkind
- I can be happy and peaceful without being affected by my own mistakes
- I can be happy and peaceful without being affected by my initial reactions of frustration or anger
I can be happy and peaceful without being affected by anything negative or bad in my life, and by being affected in a positive way by the joy of the Holy Spirit!
I also thought of others in my life who are strong:
- My amazing and incredible mother, who is such a joy to be around (I could write an entire blog post just on how amazing she is!) - joyful without being affected by any of the multiple stressors in her life!
- My wonderful and fun father (I could also write a blog post on how amazing he is, too!) - fun without being affected by any of the multiple stressors in his life!
- My amazing, incredible, strong single friends who are so much fun to be around, fill me with joy,and are encouraging to me and others - strong without being affected by divorce.
- One of my coworkers who is so much fun to work with, always ready to help, always smiling and laughing - delightful without being affected by financial difficulties and a son who has made some not-so-great choices.
- My office manager who is always calm, always willing to stop and help and answer questions, always forgiving, a great listener, is fair, and is just wonderful - wonderful without being affected by office drama, her mother-in-law living with her, and the stress of four children.
Being happy and peaceful really is as simple as making a choice to BE happy and peaceful! As I learned last week in Philippians 4:8, if I keep my thoughts positive, this will make my life more joyful and pleasing to the Lord!