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Weekly Devotion: Stir Crazy

Pray: Ask God to instruct you as you meditate on His word. Ask Him to give you grace to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

Many people are walking through tough times. Dealing with personal illness or the illness or loss of a loved one. Facing financial uncertainty. Working long hours to keep the essential functions of our society going. Saving lives in our hospitals and clinics. However, for many of us, the most immediate challenges we face are those associated with being “stuck at home”. After a few weeks being “cooped up”, unable to venture beyond our property line or neighborhood except to pick up groceries or a delicious chicken sandwich, many of us are getting (dum-dum-DUM!) “stir crazy”.

What on earth is “stir crazy”? Why do we get “stir crazy”? My wife and I are currently living on a military base in Albuquerque, NM where I have been on a temporary work assignment the past 6 months. I have been primarily working from home, and under some form of a “stay at home” order for several weeks. We can count on one hand the number of times we have been off base in the last two weeks. We have a 2nd grader, a five year old, and a three year old. Although we cannot precisely define what “stir crazy” is, we know it when we see it!

In children, it typically expresses itself in incessant requests to do things they have been told aren’t allowed, lovingly coated with whiny-ness, topped off with a flood of tears and mucus. It also expresses itself in shockingly creative yet destructive behavior like throwing rocks at windows, trying to make a bike fly by riding it off a homemade ramp, or licking their fingers and sticking them in their sibling’s ear.

In adults, it may express itself in ways that are innocent enough. It’s the frantic pacing through the house, the mind clouded with fuzzy notions of what you should be doing. Why did I walk upstairs to my room again? It’s the unexpected degree of grief that sinks in when you realize you can’t take the kids to the park to play on the playground. On a normal day off, you might do this reluctantly. Now, you long for it like Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob?: “I want, I want! I need, I need!” It may also express itself in less innocent ways. It's the short, angry responses to benign requests from a child or spouse. It’s speech filled with complaints over boredom or a lack of productivity. It’s a fresh hole in the drywall and bruised knuckles.

Why do we get like this? The image of God in us desires productivity and delights in accomplishment. The regenerate heart loves to serve and bless others. Service and recreation, work and rest are meant to be a part of a balanced life. Being limited in our ability to give ourselves to these good things is disappointing. Perhaps a small amount of angst is warranted. This could be a big part of our “stir craziness”.

However, our own remaining sin cannot be ignored. The flesh craves control and autonomy. We demand options. We insist on being able to choose how we will spend our time and our money. We “deserve” the freedom to do what we please. It’s the American way, after all.

How do we distinguish between a “godly angst”, a “noble stir craziness”, if you will, and the sinful, self-centered variety? We look at the fruit.

When we think about another week “stuck at home” are we sad or are we sinfully angry? What do we talk about? Do we express disappointment at another plan that has to be cancelled, or do we rage about the injustice of it all? Do we, like Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, pray for this suffering to be taken away, yet submit ourselves to the Father’s will, or do we forgo opportunities for prayer, preferring another finger-pointing rant about who’s to blame for our unhappy predicament? What do we do when we don’t get our way? What do we do when the illusion of control disappears? Do we fight? Who do we attack?

James reminds us that a war within our own hearts produces the wars without.

[1] What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? [2] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. [3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  James 4:1-3

The war begins with a craving for something sinful, or an inordinate desire for something good. Let that desire go unmet, and KABOOM! We begin lobbing artillery toward the people we perceive as standing in the way of our happiness. Our own little proxy war breaks out in our living room (or across the internet). This isn’t the real war, this is just a sideshow of our own making. Afterall, our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).

What about you? What’s behind your “stir craziness”? Good things, bad things, or a mix? Does God’s word address this?

Romans reminds us that Christ died for our sins. He’s paid the penalty in full.

[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:8-11

Christ died for us when we were still sinners. By His blood, we are justified. Even though we have sinned (today included) we are counted righteous in God’s sight because of Christ. We are spared God’s wrath. We are fully reconciled to Him. This is very good news for the stir crazy sinner!

Hebrews reminds us that God fully understands what we’re going through. He can sympathize with our weaknesses. He has done everything necessary so that we can confidently draw near to Him. 

[14] Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

We will find grace and mercy to meet our needs. We do not have to be ashamed of “where we’re at”, or clean ourselves up before we go to Him. We can go now, weaknesses, filth, and all, with an eager expectation of receiving good things.

James helps us understand how our sinful hearts can bring about explosive consequences. More importantly, he reminds us that God “gives more grace”. His grace is broader and deeper than our sin and our sorrow! James shows us a better way to walk: the way of humility. God promises to respond to humility with grace. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we resist the devil, he flees. As we submit ourselves to the Lord, He gives us victory, especially in the real war for our souls. (James 4:6-10)

Ephesians reminds us to use our time wisely, because the days are evil.

[15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

There are many ways we can waste our time, especially during this season. Perhaps some of our angst could be helped by giving wise attention to how we order our days. Giving ourselves to good works, which might feel less “worky” and more “talky”, but no less crucial, may cure a tendency to be self-focused. Filling our minds and speech with songs of praise and thanksgiving to God will bring Him much glory and fill our hearts with joy!

[18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20

Let’s sing for joy. Joy tends to be contagious. Let’s spread some of that around.

For Thought/Discussion: 

  1. Are you “stir crazy”? What type of “stir crazy” are you?
  2. What would it look like to use your time wisely? What would be the best way to start off each day?
  3. How can you practice giving thanks to God more regularly?
  4. What can you do this week to serve others? How can you lay aside your preferences for the preferences of others?
  5. A big part of trusting God and keeping your wits about you is getting plenty of rest. What can you do to rest this week?

Pray: Thank God for Christ, and the righteousness you have by faith in him. Thank God for the free access you have to the Father, through Christ. Ask God to help you, and to give you grace. Ask Him to give you wisdom to use your time wisely. Pray for those in need. Ask for open doors to serve and bless others.