Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing! But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”
We most certainly live in a world where stress is so widespread, and in many instances is simply out of control. So what is stress? It is an emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressure from the outside world and by wrong decisions we make. Common stress reactions include tension, irritability, inability to concentrate, and a variety of physical symptoms that may include headaches, stomach upset, a pounding heart and tight muscles that may cause pain and trembling.
Much of a person’s frustration in life comes from attempting to control what we can’t control and neglecting to control what we can. So, what difficulty are you currently experiencing today in your life that is stressful? Maybe it is a relationship, a financial burden, job insecurity, unhappiness with your circumstances, a difficult child, an aging parent, conflict at work, or in your church, and maybe with your neighbor? Some examples of stress would be:
(1) You and your spouse both work full time while you are raising your family. At the same time, your parents are retired, in ill health, and are dependent on your help with shopping and running errands.
(2) You are a single person living alone, and your salary isn’t rising as fast as the rate of inflation. It’s getting harder each month to pay the bills.
(3) You are a divorced parent and share the custody of your children with your former spouse. But the friction between the two of you on matters concerning the children is becoming more bitter and more frequent.
(4) The expectations and competition at your workplace is becoming fierce. You find yourself coming in early, staying late, and taking on more work than you can handle.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are for stress-related symptoms. It was further noted that almost everyone experiences events that they find difficult to cope with, and in a recent poll, 89 percent of people said they had experienced serious stress in their lives in one way or another. How can we handle the circumstances that are beyond our control? How can we deal with personal, marital, family, work and public stress that we encounter daily?
The Storms of Stress
My beloved, our answers to the problems relating from stress is found in God’s Eternal Word. Jesus Himself said, “Do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry about itself” and Matthew 6:34 says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own”. The Bible tells us that the beginning of stress began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and is rooted in the fall of man when Adam and Eve sinned. In the book of Acts, you can find answers in the account of the most violent storm experienced in the New Testament, which threatened the ship transporting the apostle Paul to Rome. Inside this very moving story are the necessary skills we need to survive the storms of stress in today’s restless and uncertain world!
(1) Talk it over with God – (Philippians 4:6).
Take your anxiety to God? Talk it over with God and tell Him your doubts, fears or apprehensions, and He will respond and bring new courage, reassurance, peace and also an answer. If you are feeling hurt or disappointed in some area of your life or in a relationship, talk it over with God. Pour out your frustrations or feelings of anger, grief, resentment, or unhappiness. Tell Him exactly how you feel and why, everything you hold within your heart. Give God all of your pent-up emotions without hesitation, and God will, in turn, open His great heart of love for you. God will reveal to you the healing solution for every difficulty in your life! When you pray, give His Spirit an opportunity to bring peace to your heart and to straighten out your thinking.
Some stress can be avoided through obedience to God’s Word found in Proverbs 3:1-2, “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee”, and please consider David’s approach in Psalm 6. He was saying to God, “Help me!” “Listen to me!” “Don’t be mad at me!” “Where are You?” David boldly went to God and told Him what was on his mind. Yes, God expects us to come to Him with a clean heart, and we need to approach Him with reverence, but we don’t have to be afraid to tell God what we’re thinking and feeling.
(2) Get rid of excess cargo – (Acts 27:18-19).
Just as household clutter occupies space, saps energy, creates frustration and so it is with our spiritual clutter also. Unresolved conflicts pile up in our hearts such as a compromising relationship, an obsession with money, a sinful habit – things we hang on to, un-confessed sin gathers a thick layer of guilt, and unspoken prayers litter our minds, until a storm exposes how they’re sinking us. There is also good cargo that may have to be jettisoned. We tend to accumulate activities that can be helpful if taken separately. Nevertheless, taken together, they’re just too much.
If we cherish this world’s good so much that the prospect of heaven loses its attraction, we can be sure that the earthly has become more valuable to us than the heavenly. The “treasure” we possess is misplaced. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). May the enjoyment of our temporal possessions never diminish the appeal of the eternal? Earth’s affluence is poverty when compared to the glories of eternal life with God.
(3) Get busy with things that matter – (Acts 27:22-24).
Those “things” that really matter are usually people. With all the pressures to achieve, the people we love can slowly get pushed to the corners of our lives. Our “ship”, the project, the schedule, and the budget, may be lost on the rocks. That is costly, but okay. It’s our people we cannot afford to lose. In Luke 12, Jesus challenged His followers to sell their possessions and give to the poor, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). In other words, the way we spend our time and resources says a lot about our eternal perspective. As the old hymn goes, “Only one life, ‘twill soon by past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
(4) Get serious with God – (Acts 27:29-32).
Often our panic makes us reach for a lifeboat instead of the Lord. But at a certain point in your life, God will strip you of all other resources, leaving you only Himself. Our Lord looks for an “I love You” from His children that is backed up by action. When He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15), He was not satisfied with a casual, “Sure, Lord, You know I do!” He responded to His disciple’s reply by saying, in effect, “Peter, if you love Me, care for those I care for. Peter, if you love Me, follow Me.” So, my beloved, what would you say if the Lord were to ask you that same question? Would you answer, “Yes, Lord, I love You”? Those words will delight the Father’s heart if you are an obedient child and serious concerning the things of the Lord.
(5) Get back to a healthy routine – (Acts 27:33-36).
As Paul’s ship was about to go aground, he urged the crew to eat. When a strong disturbance batters our ship, our daily routines are usually the first things thrown overboard. However, when we start to miss sleep, meals, and time alone with God, we start sinking. Those healthy routines are what keep us strong on both sunny and stormy days. When God orders up storms in our lives, it is because a change is needed. Usually, the storm is not the real issue from God’s viewpoint. It is an imbalance that has developed in our priorities, sometimes so subtle that we can’t see it until turbulence gets our attention.
A godly Bible teacher was asked to share his key ingredient of his own life for stress. He said to get 8 hours of sleep each night. This reply is less surprising in light of God’s initial remedy for Elijah’s stress and depression (1 Kings 19:1-18). Twice God gave him food and undisturbed sleep before gently confronting him with his mistake. Psalm 4:8 says, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Sleep is not the full remedy for stress, but other solutions can become clearer to people who get adequate rest.
(6) Other areas to consider
Some stress can be minimized through making wise choices (Proverbs 6:6-11) and by setting priorities for yourself and being honest about what should come first. Take charge of your life by not letting demands, deadlines, friends and circumstances pull you along and to identify your goals and eliminate things that have no value to you. Relax and spend time alone with God or time doing just nothing but relaxing. Even Jesus took time to be alone with His Heavenly Father and to rest. Lastly, it would be prudent to get help from counselors and trusted friends who can help you see what you might not be able to see about the way you’re living. Above all, be honest and willing to listen to their advice.
If Jesus hadn’t focused on doing His Father’s will, He too could have been overwhelmed by all the needy people and demanding task He faced each and every day. Instead of frenzied activity, Christ personified the focused life in everything He did. Each day, Jesus sought to know His Father’s will as He moved purposefully to the cross. There, He finished all that God had given Him to do. My beloved, our heavenly Father also wants us to focus on Him for the wisdom and strength only He can give, so we can manage a busy, demanding, and full life.
My beloved, for that to happen, a person must acknowledge and accept God’s free gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ and the blood that He shed on Calvary’s Cross, for the remission of sin, which began in the Garden of Eden, at the dawn of creation. Our plans may be interrupted by storms in the form of stress, but God’s plans never are. If we don’t abandon ship, the winds of God will blow us to where we belong, no matter how off-course we feel or how stressed out we become. To get our life in order, we all need to put God first in our life, keep our focus on Him, by being an obedient servant, and by handing our stress in whatever form to our God who truly care about us, His children.
Thus, our frightening circumstances are less troublesome if we trust the hands that control them (Isaiah 12:2). If our world and our lives were governed by a thoughtless and indifferent force, we would have good reason to fear. However, the hands that control the universe, God’s hands, are wise and compassionate, and we can trust them in spite of our stressful circumstances and not be fearful of the unknown.
With God behind you and His arms beneath you, you can face whatever is before you.