A couple of Sundays ago, my husband was pulling up to drop me off in front of the church doors. We were almost in the circle, so I unbuckled and reached down to make sure I had everything in my bag. While I was looking down, a car entered on the right and didn’t see us, so my husband slammed on the brakes. I pitched forward, hitting my knees, but (thankfully) sparing my face!
In that split-second, I experienced the rush of brain chemicals that occurs when your body tries to protect itself.
I’m not going to bore you with words I can’t pronounce, but some of these chemicals make our heart race, blood pressure rise and muscles tense. Others cut off our peripheral vision and mess with our digestive system. They make us ready to fight or flee in order to survive; they can even cause us to freeze.
Well, since I didn’t SEE what was coming, I was pretty sure I had a major injury somewhere because it was such a “shocking” hit – but really I was fine.
Still, my uncontrolled reaction went something like this:
- I looked up at my husband with a killer glare that clearly asked, “what are you doing?!”
- My mind couldn’t put together the words to explain basic plans for the morning.
- So, I just stomped out of the car . . . and into church.
As I walked down the hallway, things began to settle. I took a few deep breaths, collected my thoughts, got a drink of water – and in just a couple minutes I was feeling pretty silly for my reaction.
It occurred to me then that I’d been experiencing these exact symptoms over and over during the past 2 years.
No, I haven’t been involved in a lot of near fender-benders in parking lots.
But I have been on an emotional roller coaster.
Because of situations out of my control, things I couldn’t see coming, I was drawn into emotionally stressful places–weekly, daily, hourly–that caused my body to release all those same chemicals. Since I didn’t need them to protect me from physical danger, a chemical stew kept churning.
It caused me to be smokin’ mad at times:
- glaring at God with “what are you doing?!”
- Or being pretty sure I was injured when I was fine.
- Or having tunnel vision about what to do or say in the stressful moment.
Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
PEACE can elude us in times like that, don’t you think?
The very thing we need the very most in stressful moments is the last thing our bodies go to. We’re fighting and fleeing like crazy on the inside.
I love that Jesus spoke PEACE so often. He knew about this whole chemical stew, didn’t He?
John 14:27 is a verse about peace we know very well
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
I can read that right now in this calm and quiet room and really believe it.
But in the middle of a chemical stew when my body is telling me to fight or flee, I may not receive an offer of peace very well.
Unless I know more about this passage, and remember that the previous verse says:
“the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” [vs. 26]
So, there’s something besides just a chemical reaction going on . . . there’s a spiritual reaction. And that comes with some HELP. Because of the Holy Spirit . . . WHEN I have a stressful situation in life . . . WHEN trouble comes, I don’t need to let my heart be troubled.
What am I learning in the midst of my chemical stew?
To let the physical reactions ride, but then settle my heart on the PEACE of Jesus.
Here are a few ways I’ve found that can help that along:
- Get moving
- Breathe deeply
- Take a drink or eat something healthy
- Focus on what really happened and offer that to Jesus
It is possible to live without fear when I trust Jesus to be my peace, but it doesn’t always happen in the moment.
My life may stay troubled for longer than I’d like, but I don’t want my heart to be troubled along with it.
I can control what I let settle into my heart. I choose this today . . .
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” Ps. 116:7