Here we are at week three! How is your holiday spirit holding up? Are you weary from the stress of trying to please everybody – with the right gifts, the proper holiday sentiments, and celebrations that exceed expectations? It is so hard to remain relaxed in the midst of December chaos.
I’ve been wondering…do you think Jesus ever felt stressed by expectations from others? I mean, c’mon, just think about a few of the tasks stacked up on his to-do list: turn water into wine at a wedding that had run dry (John 2:1-11), feed 5,000 hungry souls with five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-15), and raise a friend named Lazarus from the dead (John 11)! In these stories and many others, the people close to Jesus urged him to hurry up and fix things.
Yes, I think Jesus felt the stress surrounding him. What I find appealing is that he refused to react negatively to it. Time and time again, Bible stories describe Jesus’ calm, peaceful demeanor in the midst of crisis. In each case, he attentively listens to the issue at hand and then smoothly takes decisive action. I wish I could handle more situations this way, don’t you?
This week, for the Christmas Countdown Challenge, I am going to work on handling stressful situations with calm, purposeful action. As in the last several weeks of our countdown, I will write a related Scripture in the heading of my to-do list. Throughout the week, I will refer to this Scripture as I work through my Christmas tasks. My goal is to remain calm in the midst of stressful expectations, and feel more fulfilled by the season. I hope you plan on joining me! The Scripture for this week:
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 English Standard Version (ESV)
How can we calmly accomplish our tasks this week in spite of holiday stress? Here are a few ideas:
- Set boundaries. There are many examples in the Bible of Jesus stepping back from, and even saying no to others in order to care for himself. Remember we are better able to care for others if we first place priority on taking care of ourselves. Meeting personal needs for sleep, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation sets us up to be better listeners, involved caregivers, and creative problem solvers.
- Manage expectations. We tend to expect a lot of ourselves at Christmas. Set up a beautiful tree, host a cookie exchange, find the perfect gift, mail heartfelt wishes…the list goes on and on. It’s a tall order to fill, even for the most accomplished perfectionist. Trying to do all this day after day leads to burnout and quite frankly, “grinch-iness”. Managing expectations is not just about letting other people know what you can and cannot do; it’s also speaking truth to your own heart about how much you can handle. Let’s lighten our load and put our efforts into a reasonable number of tasks.
- Seek new perspectives. When things don’t go according to plan, or family and friends disappoint, it’s easy to jump into reactions filled with anger, blame, or sadness. Instead of reacting, we can ask God to help us think about the situation differently. What might be influencing the behavior of those involved? Do my own expectations impact my reaction?
- Scan for opportunities. During the holiday season, we face abundant opportunities to practice the way we handle stress. Even though stress surrounds us, we can practice maintaining a purposeful, yet peaceful demeanor. Each day provides a fresh start to harness our human nature and its fear-filled reactions to stress. Each problem situation offers a new chance to polish our more God-given characteristics of power, love, and self-control. Interesting, isn’t it? – how the birth month of our greatest gift, our Savior, is also a month full of opportunities to live more like him…
Prayer for the Week:
Dear God, Thank you for your guidance as I practice being calm and decisive during a stressful month. Help me as I prioritize my own needs, so that I can offer better care to others. Show me how to manage the expectations of others, and to be reasonable with what I expect of myself. Teach me to consider different perspectives before I react. Lead me in my words and actions, so I continually improve the way I represent you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Attached you will find a to-do list document with the Scripture for the week displayed in the heading. Print it, if you would like, and use it for your list while referring to the Scripture throughout the week. Find peace in your week!