Are you feeling stress in life? Who isn’t? We most certainly live in a world where stress is so widespread and in many instances out of control. I’m quite certain at one time or another; you have felt stress of work, family, finances, or maybe illness. It might be short-term stress which comes from being stuck in a traffic jam or your boss confronting you at work. It could also be acute, long-term stress, the kind that comes from being in an unhappy marriage or taking care of a sick family member.
Other words associated with stress could be pressure, anxiety, worry and tension. You’re more than likely to hear the word stress spoken of today in the areas of employment, finances and marriage. So, where did stress come from and where was its beginning? God’s Word tells the beginning of stress is rooted in the fall of man when Satan (the Serpent) tempted Adam and Eve to sin, thus Genesis 3:1-19 teach the certain reality that stress is part of our daily life. As Adam and Eve faced temptation for the first time, many things were true of them that aren’t true for us.
(1) They lived in a perfect environment and in an uncorrupted world.
(2) No family influence could be blamed for their choice to do what was wrong.
(3) They had no sinful heritage.
(4) No ravaged surroundings could be blamed for their downfall.
(5) There were many sins they couldn’t commit such as:
(c) Dishonoring their parents;
(d) Bear false witness against their neighbor or even coveting their property.
It’s often difficult to understand why people give into certain temptations. From our vantage point, their problem should be easy to handle. We may even wonder how Adam and Eve could have been so foolish as to have thrown aside all that God had given them in the morning of their existence. We wouldn’t have fallen so easily or would we? My beloved, the problem is that the tempter wears a disguise when he slithers into our lives. He is the master of deception and is very cunning at it (Genesis 3:1).
In Genesis 1:31 God’s evaluation of the world He had made was very good. After the sin of Adam and Eve some drastic changes occurred in their life. Their innocence was replaced with guilt. Honesty was warped by deception. Trust was shattered and replaced with distrust. Communion gave way to estrangement/separation. Love was modified by fear. Serenity was replaced with tension. The perfect became imperfect. What was known and pleasant to them became unfamiliar and unpleasant.
Instead of a pleasant and rewarding labor of love tending the Garden of Eden; Adam would labor hard just to get by. This labor would be complicated by thorns and thistles, making life that much harder. Instead of the bounty of the Garden of Eden, Adam would from then on gain little from much effort. The loving, caring relationship that he had enjoyed at one time with Eve was replaced with strife and the constant necessity to address the needs and concerns of a fallen wife (as the wife must also address the concerns of her fallen husband).
Instead of a natural eternal life, Adam had to prepare for his own death. Thus, stress came into the world and is now a part of our daily life. The disobedience of Adam and Eve brought God’s judgment. What had been perfect and stress free is now stress filled, stress laden, and stress generating. Stress manifests itself in every phase and activity of life. I must emphasize these changes occurred at the fall. Thus, please note the following words guilt, estrangement, separation, deception, distrust, fear, tension and imperfect. Thus, my beloved, sin lies at the root of our stress.
Attempts to rid stress from our lives are met with varying levels of success and that any success often lacks long-term stability. Many times, we have a vain hope that we can do something that will make our lives totally stress free, however, this hope is a myth. We have to face the fact, stress is a reality of daily life, and as such, it cannot be eliminated and must be accepted and handled as God intended. The Bible teaches that stress is a reality of daily life. However, knowing and accepting this truth can greatly help believers in Christ to increase their ability to thrive in stressful times and situations. Research tells us that many people are literally killed by stress every day. So, how can we attack the roots of stress? How can we handle the circumstances that are beyond our control? We can find answers to those questions in the account of the most violent storm experienced in the New Testament. It is described in Acts 27 and it threatened the ship transporting the apostle Paul to Rome. Inside this story are the skills you need to survive the storms of stress in your life.
(1) Talk it over with God (Philippians 4:6). Take your anxiety to Him. 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 (Proverbs 3:1-2).
(2) Get Rid of Cargo You Don’t Need (Acts 27:18-19). Some of our “extra cargo” may be bad things we have accumulated: a compromising relationship, an obsession with money, a sinful habit—things we hang on to 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.
(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.
(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.
(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—not 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.
People today have more leisure time than ever and they still report feeling “stressed, rushed, and crunched for time.” Our problem is “over-choice.” It’s caused by the sheer number of options available to fill our time and the wearying realization that no matter what we choose to do, we are leaving something undone. My friend, if our identity is defined by activity, we operate on the principle, “The more we do, the more we are.” We are exhausted, and we are the reason. 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. Our heavenly Father 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. However, it starts with acknowledging God and includes making wise choices and maintaining a correct perspective. Our plans may be interrupted by storms, but God’s plans never are. If we don’t abandon ship, the winds of God will blow us right where we belong, no matter how off-course we feel. To get your life in order, put God first and keep focused on Him. So, my friend and brethren are you:
(1) Showing signs of stress from work, family, finances, or illness?
(2) Losing sleep?
(3) Feeling anxious or afraid?
(4) Trying to handle your stress in your own strength?
If your answer is “yes”, to one or more of the questions, I would suggest you try to incorporate the skills listed above.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you.” My poor computer had gotten overloaded. I had been adding programs to it, storing tons of information, and working on several huge projects. Finally one night it sent me a very clear message, informing me that it was incapable of taking in any more information. If I didn’t relieve it immediately, it was going to crash.
So I got some extra disks and did some quick off-loading, by putting each project on a disk of its own and deleted a lot of stuff I no longer needed. You know what? My grateful computer breathed a sigh of relief and began functioning normally again. Sometimes our life gets to be like that computer. We pack in so much responsibility and activity and commitment, and we carry so much unresolved emotion that we feel we can’t take it anymore. The burdens and cares seem enormous, and if we’re honest, we would admit that were about to “crash”.
My beloved, when we get signals of overload, sleeplessness, irritability, worry, anxiety, it’s time to so some off-loading. It’s time to drop some activities and responsibilities. We may need to say no to some requests. Above all, as the psalmist suggested, we must off-load our cares on the Lord. He has promised to help us carry our burdens.
God invites us to burden Him with whatever burdens us.