These last few months have been busy. Productive, even. A proof copy of To Bring You Back, my first indie release, sits next to my keyboard right now, a physical manifestation of months of effort.

So much effort.

If I’m honest, the stress and fatigue have caught up with me a few times, leaving me to wonder if I’ve taken on too much between the book and other endeavors. But you know how life is. Sometimes, there’s no good way out of a busy schedule.

I’m so excited to have this book coming out, grateful for my part-time job, and thankful for my family… And even after I let go of a writing project I simply didn’t have time for, I didn’t see a good way to free enough time to reduce the stress I was feeling.

Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that when effort and busyness take a toll, reconsidering my commitments themselves is only part of the equation to reduce stress.

I also need to take a close look at where the stress is really coming from. Is it my schedule, or is it something else?

Motivation is Key

Though I didn’t start out this post with the intention of tying in the story, the heroine of To Bring You Back knows a packed schedule all too well. Only, she built hers on purpose.

Her secrets weighed on her, but she’d fought back by staying busy with good causes. If only busy were lonely’s opposite, the distraction might’ve worked forever.

To Bring You Back

Adeline packs her schedule to keep herself from pausing to think about the past while also hoping to make up for old mistakes.

Staying busy, even with good causes, isn’t always the best thing.

Sometimes, all that effort starts like it did for Adeline—with questionable motives.

Other times, our motives start fine as we head into an unavoidably busy time.

We check a few tasks off our lists and see success. Encouraged, we take a few more steps. Our plans grow more elaborate. Maybe those plans succeed too, and so we apply ourselves even more. The sky’s the limit! The only thing standing between us and our dreams are our own shortcomings, so if we just work a little harder…

Okay, maybe we don’t actually think that way. But do we act that way?

I know I do sometimes.

Believing success relies on my own efforts is panic-inducing, because I can never do enough to ensure success, whether the focus of my effort is a lifelong dream like a book, a job, a church commitment, or even family.

No matter the goal, we can never do enough to ensure success.

We were never meant to.

Trying to ensure our own success (or healing or fulfillment) through effort is the root of so much unnecessary stress.

Which raises the question…

Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Even our most elaborate plans are in His hands, and certainly, all the outcomes of those plans rely on Him.

When stress mounts and our schedules groan under the weight of our to-do list, let that be our reminder that we cannot do it all.

Re-evaluate with the question: Am I trying to do things for myself only God can do for me?

Adeline was trying to treat an emotional wound only God could heal.

I can easily start to act like my book’s success depends solely on me.

What about you? Is there a wound or a heavy lift you need to turn over to the God who is able?

How to Reduce Stress

Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21, NET

Recognizing that God is able is the first step toward reducing our stress.

The next step?

Trusting that God is not only able, but that He loves us enough to come through in every way that we need.

When I recognized that my answer wasn’t what it ought to be—I was trying to ensure my own success—I’ve been more purposeful about turning to God in Bible reading, prayer, and even in writing this blog post.

Elements of To Bring You Back (and the rest of the Rhythms of Redemption Romances, for that matter) are inspired by King David’s life and the Psalms, so I spent some time in the Psalms.

Somewhere along the line, I’d started thinking of Psalms as a place to see emotional struggles and human cries for help.

But as I paged through those ancient songs, that’s not what stood out. Instead, I found a record of God’s love, faithfulness, and provision.

Our heavenly Father is not only able. He is also good. He is our safe place, the one who establishes us, and the one who fulfills His purposes in our lives.

Even when our own plans come to naught and disappointment surrounds us, we can trust in His good provision for us.

I don’t know what you’re busy with these days. But I do know that whether it’s writing, motherhood, career, health, home, or a dizzying combination of those and more, the path to peace, productivity, and true success can’t be reached through our own efforts.

Busyness isn’t always bad, but when stress builds and efforts fail, it’s faith that saves the day.

Are you trying to do something for yourself only God can do?

Let’s put those unrealistic pressures down and turn again to the God who is strong when we’re weak and able when we’re not.

Busyness isn't always bad, but when stress builds and efforts fail, it's faith that saves the day. #busyness #stress Click To Tweet

P.S. I’m accepting applications for To Bring You Back’s launch team for another week or so. If you have space in your schedule to read and review the book and to occasionally share about it, I hope you’ll consider joining us! You can apply here.