"I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear." Psalm 143:4 NLT

Amazing how one lump of putty can mimic life?

Though I can't imagine many kids being satisfied with it now, Silly Putty provided hours of entertainment when I was a child. Unlike Play-Doh, which would turn hard and crumble if left uncovered, Silly Putty maintained its elasticity.

Sunday was the most exciting day for using Silly Putty. Comics had their very own section and were printed in color. Pulling the Silly Putty until it was stretched thin and then pressing it on a comic strip resulted in a color picture on the wad of putty.

More than 40 years later, I've discovered Silly Putty mimics life. Life episodes have caused me to say or think what the psalmist said: "I am losing all hope." I've been pulled and contorted into all types of shapes and sizes by stressful circumstances.

STRESS means Struggle, Tension, Restlessness, Expectations, Stretching, and Satisfaction. When I'm stressed, I Struggle-perhaps with which decision to make. Sometimes wrong and right are clear cut but at other times they aren't.

Stressful situations have a way of unloading Tension. I find myself wound up like a top that needs someone to let it unwind.

Stress almost always has an inherent Restlessness about it. Restlessness because I need to make a decision, change my mind, or because I'm thrown into uncontrollable circumstances.

Expectations can allow stress in. Unrealistic expectations of myself but often those of others I have to endure.

Stretching is a normal part of stress. If I wasn't being stretched-willingly or unwillingly, I wouldn't feel the stress.

If I respond to all of the previous characteristics positively, I'll experience Satisfaction. Stress isn't inherently negative. The way I respond determines the outcome. Stress can teach me new ways to handle circumstances and it can prepare me to handle life-but only if I approach stressful situations from a godly viewpoint.

The psalmist took his stress to God. Letting God take control and teach us the proper way to respond are the only ways to come out ahead in stressful circumstances. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves trying to handle stress in sinful ways which will only intensify our stress level and set us up for further complications.

Are you handling stress like Play-Doh or Silly Putty?

Martin Wiles Hodges, South Carolina, USA

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