Whenever my busy thoughts were out of control, the soothing comfort of your presence calmed me down and overwhelmed me with delight.Psalm 94:19 TPT
One thing is certain from this scripture: God’s presence calms us down.
So if our hearts tend to be full of anxiety, fear, and stress, we need to look at the quality of our relationship with God.
Does your relationship with God calm you down?
Knowing that God is listening should comfort us and bring us faith in his power and protection, even when we are under pressure or overwhelmed by life. I often blame my circumstances for why I’m full of fear, instead of owning that I’m stressed because I won’t pour out my heart to God and trust him to help me.
God stilled the storm, calmed the waves, and he hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper.Psalm 107:29 TPT
The Bible promises that God can still storms, calm waves, and hush hurricane winds. In this study, we’ll learn how to build the kind of powerful relationship with God that enables us to stay calm, no matter what storms life throws at us.
Are you calm enough to silence strife?
A touchy, hot-tempered man picks a fight, but the calm, patient man knows how to silence strife.Proverbs 15:18 TPT
Can you silence strife or relationship conflict? One surefire barometer of how calm you really are is how you handle strife and relationship conflict. The kind of calm God gives us teaches us to silence strife around us..
That doesn’t mean ignoring conflict or avoiding it by trying to please everyone. Silencing strife means having the patience and understanding to resolve it.
Pause and reflect
- Do you calm storms of strife around you? Or do you create strife by being touchy and hot-tempered?
- How do you deal with relationship conflict? Do you avoid it? Provoke it? Compromise to get other people to like you? Or engage and understand?
Can you stay calm under pressure?
Can you bridle your tongue when your heart is under pressure? That’s how you show that you are wise. An understanding heart keeps you cool, calm, and collected, no matter what you’re facing.Proverbs 17:27 TPT
Controlling your tongue when your heart is under pressure is difficult. I tend to be much more angry, edgy, and impatient when I feel pressure and stress, and I often say (or text) things I end up regretting.
This scripture gives us a way to stay calm and control our tongue under pressure: develop an understanding heart. Only when I slow down to pray about my emotions, pressure, and stress can I get past myself to understand and empathize with others around me – instead of getting annoyed when they seem to get in my way.
Having an understanding heart also means understanding God and what he is doing. For example, it means understanding that God causes all things to work together (including pressure, stress, and relationship conflict) for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Knowing this can help us stay calm, cool, and collected no matter what comes our way.
There’s no use arguing with a fool, for his ranting and raving prevent you from making a case and settling the argument in a calm way.Proverbs 29:9 TPT
Can people settle arguments with you in a calm way? How receptive are you to a point of view different from your own? How easily do you accept correction from someone else? Or let go of ways you have been wronged?
In a recent argument with my husband I noticed that whenever he tried to bring up something I could change, I immediately shot back with all the things he was doing wrong and why I therefore didn’t have to listen to him. Eventually, I realized my “ranting and raving” were preventing me from even hearing what he had to say.
I learned from that argument that I need to settle down my emotions by praying to God about them before trying to talk to my spouse. God can give me the humility to take responsibility for my wrongs and express my feelings in a calm way so that we can settle arguments instead of developing more anger and resentment toward each other.
Pause and reflect
- Would your spouse or roommates say they can resolve arguments with you in a “calm” way?
- In what relationships do you have a harder time being calm and understanding?
- How do you think your relationship with God could help you control your tongue under pressure?
Faith protects our hearts from panic
Give him this message: ‘Stay calm! Be quiet and guard your heart! Don’t panic or be discouraged over these two smoldering stubs of firewood….Isaiah 7:4 TPT
In this passage, God commands King Ahaz of Judah not to be afraid of two kings who were angrily threatening to attack and invade his land.
This is a situation that would certainly make me feel pressured and panicky, but God’s perspective is different. To God, these two angry kings are nothing more than smoldering stubs of firewood; God is more powerful than they are, and he tells Ahaz to trust that he will take care of his people.
In fact, God tells Ahaz that he needs to guard his heart from panic and discouragement. How? By standing firm in his faith in God:
… If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.Isaiah 7:9 NRSV
Our relationship with God should give us perspective that sometimes the people and things we are panicking over don’t have to make us panic.
Pause and reflect
- What are some situations or relationships in your life that can make you feel pressured and panicky?
- What are some practical things you could do to guard your heart from panic and stand firm in your faith in God, even under pressure?
Faith in God brings instant calm
But Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you gripped with fear? Where is your faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the storm and said, “Be still!” And instantly it became perfectly calm.Matthew 8:26 TPT
In this passage, we see Jesus challenging his disciples for being gripped with fear. Being gripped with fear, he tells them, is a sign that their faith is low. They didn’t need to be afraid of the storm they were in because Jesus had the power to instantly calm it.
Pause and reflect
- How do you respond to the storms in your life?
- Do you “rebuke” storms in your life with powerful and faithful prayers? Or are you gripped with fear in any area of your life?
- What do you think your level of fear says about the power of your prayer life?
Staying calm comes from trusting that God cares
Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion.  So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. Mark 4:37-39 TPT
Have you ever felt swamped? Have you ever felt like waves are crashing all around you?
That’s what the disciples felt as waves crashed into their boat and swamped them with water. The disciples felt overwhelmed with fear, as we see a few verses later:
 Then he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?”  But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, “Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey him?” Mark 4:40-41 TPT
The disciples were afraid because they didn’t trust that Jesus cared about them. It wasn’t the waves and the storm that caused their fear – it was their lack of trust in God’s care for them.
Pause and reflect
- What do you think it means to be “overwhelmed by fear”?
- Do you trust that God cares about you? Why or why not?
- How do you think trusting God cares about you would help you respond differently to the storms of life?
God calms waves of wallowing
However, if righteous people are bound in chains and tangled in ropes of misery,  he tells them what they’ve done wrong and that they’ve behaved arrogantly.  He makes them listen to his warning and orders them to turn away from wrong.Job 36:8-10 GW
Sometimes, the “ropes of misery” I’m feeling in my life come from my own wrong decisions.
Recently, my husband and I had some new expenses come up and we felt stressed about how we would pay for them. We began looking over our budget and realized we had been overspending and would need to change our ways.
I could have responded to this with faith, seeing that God was showing me where I’ve been wrong so that I could turn away from my lack of discipline and handle these new expenses well.
But instead, I felt overcome with self-pity that I would have to change, self-deprecation over how undisciplined I am, and embarrassment over facing the reality that I’m not the financially disciplined person I like to believe I am.
In other words, I was overcome with waves of wallowing.. The situation I was in wasn’t really a “storm,” at all, it was waves of wallowing over having to face a difficult truth.
In a recent article, Zawn Villnes writes that the guilt and shame we feel over not being our “idealized self” is often the most painful kind of regret, though it doesn’t usually motivate us to change:
“People plagued by regret may feel guilt or shame about what could have been. They can even develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. … Although regret about one’s idealized self is often more painful, participants were less likely to take proactive steps to live up to idealized versions of themselves.
“A new study published in the journal of Emotion explores the psychological underpinnings of regret. Researchers found regret stings the most when people fail to live up to their ‘idealized selves’. Regret about duties and obligations is less painful..”Zawn Villnes, “Study: Regret About One’s Ideal Self Often Hurts the Most”
According to Karen Horney, a psychoanalyst, the “idealized self” is an idol of the imagination. The idealized self is an image of what we should be, must be or ought to be, in order to be acceptable.
How much do you wallow in waves of emotion over not being your “idealized self”? The Bible teaches that no one is good or perfect without God; our weaknesses, failures, and mistakes should show us we need God’s help instead of leading us to wallow in regret, self-pity and self-deprecation.
God calms our waves of wallowing by showing us where we’ve gone wrong so we can change.
Pause and reflect
- Do you get overwhelmed by waves of wallowing? Do you get caught up in your emotions and self-focused, self-deprecating, and self-piteous thoughts?
- What is your “idealized self”? How do you respond when you see that you’re not living up to that idealized self?
Prayer hushes hurricanes of emotion
….O God, hear my prayer. Listen to my heart’s cry.  For no matter where I am, even when I’m far from home, I will cry out to you for a father’s help. When I’m feeble and overwhelmed by life, guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.Psalm 61:1-2 TPT
We can become overwhelmed by life. The key to learning how to be strong on the inside is having a powerful relationship with God.
A prayer for those who are overwhelmed and for all the discouraged who come to pour out their hearts before the Lord, Lord listen to my prayer! Listen to my cry for help!.Psalm 102:1 TPT
How often do you pour out your heart to God? If we don’t pour out our hearts to God, we will be overcome by the hurricanes of emotion we feel about our lives.
Pause and reflect
- Do you pour your heart out to God, or pour your emotions out on the people around you?
- When you pour out your heart to God, do you decide to trust that God is listening to you?
Facing facts prevents wavering and wallowing
Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of your word makes my pathway clear.Psalm 119:105,107,109 TPT
God’s truth guides us in our choices and decisions. Telling ourselves the truth about our sins, weaknesses, and shortcomings will help us know where we need help from God and our friends.
Truth makes our pathway clear in the midst of storms and emotions; when we are honest, we can see clearly what to do.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”Romans 4:18-21 NIV
Abraham believed even in a hopeless situation – he and his wife were physically too old to have children, yet he believed God’s promise anyway. He is a great example of someone who went through a storm of life without weakening in his faith:
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.Romans 4:19 NIV
One of the things we can learn about Abraham is that he maintained his faith by facing facts. Sometimes we think facing facts will make us feel more pain and doubt. But facing facts made Abraham stronger, not weaker. The facts forced him to put his faith in God’s power instead of his own.
How easily do you “face facts” about your choices, your character, and your relationship with God? Or do you tend to make excuses, blame others, or deny truth about circumstances in your life?
- What are some tactics you use to avoid facing difficult facts?
- What are some areas of your life in which you haven’t wanted to face facts?
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God…Romans 4:20 NIV
- What do you think it looks like to “waver” through unbelief?
- What do you think “wavering through unbelief” does to your emotions?
… being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.Romans 4:21 NIV
Facing facts helped Abraham be “fully persuaded” that God had power to do what he promised.
When we’re going through storms of life, hurricanes of emotion, and waves of wallowing, we need faith in God’s power in order to stay calm. God can still the storms and hush the hurricanes in our lives if we trust him and pour out our hearts to him.