Are You Stressed?
How do we define stress? Oh, the house mortgage is late, there’s no food in the cabinet, clothes are wearing out or shrinking on your children, everyone’s calling wanting something while all in all, you feel like just shutting the door to your closet and crying yourself to sleep. Is this stressful enough? Or how about the preacher who is under pressure to get this sermon done, make that devotional, spend time preparing Bible class lessons, counseling others, visiting this person and helping that person, evangelizing and trying to raise a Christian family while hearing all the complaints from the congregation on how their preacher and his family is inadequate? Is this stressful enough? What about the Christian who tries to pray when people make fun of her, or is made fun of at work or school when standing on Biblical principles, or even mocked by other Christians who considers you to be a Bible thumper while people from all walks attempt to pull Christianity right out of your soul. Is this stressful enough? How do we as Christians deal with stress?
You know, stress tends to be put on us when we are already tired and sick or have too many responsibilities. Basically, when we feel our circumstances are out of control, we feel stress. We feel that things are not being met, that things are not going our way and our safety is threatened and we get anxious. When we feel like this, we know that it takes on many shapes and forms, but generally, stress boils down to one basic idea–a lack of trust in God.
Most Christians are under the impression that God is sovereign and in control of our lives. We believe He is the author of our life and that He has given us everything we need for life (2 Peter 1:3). So, when stress dominates our lives, somewhere along the way, we have failed to trust God. The statement, “To trust God and you will never deal with stress again” is a wonderful statement. But oh, if only it were as easy as that statement. The fact is, we are not perfect and life is much too complicated that we, at times, give in to it. However, stress does have a positive side. It can be a reminder that our lives are drifting away from God. It can be an indicator that we have stopped depending upon Him daily for strength. Perhaps, we have forgotten all the promises in His word. So, let’s notice some ways in which Christians can cope with stress.
Of course, getting enough rest, a proper diet, regular exercise and keeping a balanced life between work and family are always important. But, I believe the Bible gives Christians, from a spiritual point, three more basic disciplines. First, there is prayer. Consider the words of Peter, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Instead of worrying over our problems, turn those problems over to God. Let Him be in your corner to not only comfort you, but to relieve your anxiety and stress. Paul mentions to us to, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). This is such a wonderful and comforting promise in that, as we pray, our minds are protected by a peace that goes beyond our ability to understand. In our life, we ought to be praying often.
Second, meditating on the Word of God can call to your remembrance all the promises that God has given man throughout the years. In addition, Paul said, “. . . brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The way to protect ourselves from the world is to focus on God’s Word, the Bible. For, His word is magnified above His name (Psalm 138:2). It is His special revelation (Psalm 19) and we are told how to obey it (Acts 15:7-11) because it instructs, corrects, rebukes, and teaches us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, if we want to be sanctified or set apart from the world and dedicated to the Lord, we will reflect deeply and at great length, the Bible. We ought to be reflecting on the comforting words of Jesus, such as in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus offers a comfort that only He can offer. That of knowing our sins are forgiven and how comforting it is to know that the eternal glory of Heaven awaits the faithful child of God at the end of the world. However, without reading the Bible, we would not know any of this. So, read your Bible. Third, praise God. Think of all the things God has done for you. Counting our many blessings will give you the faith and reassurance that God is there for you. Praising Him for what He has already done will develop inside of us, a heart of thankfulness. When we begin thinking like this, it is almost impossible to praise God and still be stressed. Praise God for who He is, praising Him for the sacrifice of His Son. Praise God that we are not of this world. For as Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). God does not want us to deal with the same pressures and worries that everyone else in the world faces. Consider Matthew 6:31-32, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” Instead of being consumed by the world, God ask you to not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2), but to seek after the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). These are great words of wisdom! But, do you spend the majority of your times seeking God’s kingdom? You know, Jesus went even farther into this explanation of seeking God and stress and asked, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:27). When we begin to praise God, when we truly focus on God, suddenly, our problems do not seem to be so big compared next to the greatness of God. Praise God.
You know, the world is unable to cast all their cares upon God (1 Peter 5:7). The world does not care that God told us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and good report (Philippians 4:8). But know this, throughout the day, God wants us to be happy. Even when we look at being persecuted or put under the stress of opposition for being a Christian (Matthew 5:10-12), Jesus tells us to rejoice and be exceedingly glad! Controlling our thoughts are often difficult, taking on the battles of life are even a greater challenge, but we must control our stress by giving to the one who can help us with it–God. It is only when we turn things over to God that we begin to relieve ourselves of stress and to walk in peace.