Psalm 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."
When I am stressed, my first response is typically not to let God console me. I let escaping in a good movie console me, or a big bowl of ice cream, or a long conversation with a friend, or a big hug from one of my children. But mostly-- and I am just being honest-- my first inclination isn't God. I am too quick to look to the world's offerings: Get a massage! Take a vacation! Go shopping! Have a drink!
But the truth is, not one of those things brings joy to my soul. Sure, they bring joy to my flesh: fleeting, temporary joy.
But my soul stays empty because I don't fill it with what I truly need.
God's consolation looks different than the world's. It involves listening, seeking, pursuing... Him. I have to be intentional about it by focusing on His Word and making His message to me a non-negotiable part of my day, as my friend LuAnn Prater says. I have to remember to pray-- to go to Him first and not my friends. And I have to remember that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me-- that I have everything I need for life and godliness, as II Peter 1:3 says. With all of that working on my behalf, I can handle the stresses of life. And amazingly I can even find joy for my soul: deep, abiding joy.
Recently our family's been dealing with some stress. The other day I was feeling very overwhelmed by it, fighting feelings of anger and the urge to flee the situation, wanting to handle things for the short term and not for the long run. (The long run mentality is SO much harder!) In a moment of lucidity, I got out my little spiral bound index cards of memory verses and flipped to a couple of verses that I want to describe our family. Now they didn't describe our family at that moment, but I could hold them up as a bulls-eye to aim for, a promise straight from God's Word to my heart. I put the card where I could see it throughout the day and I just read that verse to myself every time I walked past. I whispered the words as a prayer.
And slowly but surely, peace began to fill my soul. The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) It can cut through to the heart of any issue you're dealing with and slice off all the ugly, unwanted feelings you're struggling with. The trick is to remember to go to it-- and not the world-- when you're in those tight places. I have sought the consolation of the world and come up empty. I want the consolation of the Lord to bring joy to my soul.