Rising Above Stress
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“Historians will probably call our era ‘the age of anxiety.’ Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.” When Billy Graham wrote those words in 1965, no one knew how true they would be 50 years later.
At its best, anxiety distracts us from our relationship with God and the truth that He is “Lord of heaven and earth.”1 At its worst, anxiety is a crippling disease, taking over our minds and plunging our thoughts into darkness.
But God wants so much more for us than to walk through life full of fear, worry, and anxiety.
“Do not be anxious about anything,” the Bible tells us in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Our instructions don’t stop there. The chapter goes on to tell believers exactly what we should focus on. And it’s not fear, terrorism, illness, death, or evil.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”2
The first step to an anxiety-free mind is to give your life to Jesus Christ. Once you’ve taken that step, it’s important to fix your thoughts on Jesus and the promise that He is preparing a place for His followers in heaven.3—Billy Graham Evangelistic Association4
The antidote to stress
Stress is one of the big “joy killers” that the Lord wants to free us from. Stress can destroy your health and strength if you let it continue unchecked. Stress is a cause of terrible unhappiness, illness, and death. A recent news article said that 75 to 90% of doctor visits in developed countries could be traced back to being a direct or indirect result of stress.
Faith is the antidote for stress when it really comes down to it. Faith and trust in God, that He has everything in His hands, that He is in control, that He will work everything out for good, automatically eliminates a lot of stress from our lives.
A common misconception is to equate stress with hard work, or to feel that some amount of stress is inevitable in a busy life. But that doesn’t have to be true. You can be a hard worker and not be stressed if:
* You maintain a balanced life. Work when it’s time to work, relax when it’s time to relax, and above all, keep your time with the Lord sacred. If you go through a period that’s extra busy and you have to cut corners on your relaxation, make sure that things slow down again when that project or time period is over. Don’t let it continue indefinitely or keep stretching it out for “just a little longer.” That can become an unhealthy addiction to the fast pace.
* Let the Lord carry the burdens. Take action to do the job that the Lord asks of you and play your role, but keep your role in perspective. Your role is not to solve all the problems and do everything. Let the Lord do the heavy lifting, as you commit everything to Him.
Any burden that you carry for too long will eventually cause stress. But stressful circumstances don’t mean that you have to be stressed. You can still choose how you react to the circumstances. Learn to lay your burdens down in spirit!
The balance that will help to keep you from succumbing to stress is strong faith and trust in the Lord, remembering that He is in control and that His timing is the best timing, and determining how you can most effectively cast your burdens on to His strong shoulders and not carry the load yourself. You weren’t meant to carry the burdens yourself.
We’ll never attain a once-and-for-all victory over stress, because we’re human, and it’s very natural to stress about things. But we can learn to overcome stress any time it comes around by replacing it with trust in the Lord, which brings faith and peace. The Lord has promised, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”5—Maria Fontaine
A game plan for stress
Why do we get stressed? We experience stress for countless reasons. Top causes of stress are work, finances, relationships, health, and media overload. So how do we deal with stress in a biblical manner? Christians are not immune to the pitfalls of life. It tends to hit us when we’re sick, overtired, overwhelmed, when we have taken on too many responsibilities, during moments of grief, when our circumstances spin out of control, or when our safety net or personal life falls apart and when relationships crumble—when our basic needs are not met.
We as followers of Christ believe God is sovereign and in control of our lives and he has given us all we need in order to live life abundantly. However, we also need to understand that when stress dominates our lives, it’s not because we’ve lost the ability to trust God. It’s because we aren’t armed with a game plan to counter stress. Just like the Bible instructs us with multiple ways to combat sin, we need to have a game plan for stress as well. …
Just as with those who are familiar with the steps of AA, the first step to combating stress is admitting there is a problem. Sometimes it’s not easy to admit it and you’re barely hanging on by a thread, but admitting we feel stress frees us from feeling trapped. However, it requires that we get honest with ourselves. Ignoring stress or pushing through it will have major negative consequences that will manifest in ways we won’t expect or aren’t equipped to handle. It requires humility and going to God. …
You must also make a habit of being in the Word on a daily basis. This includes talking to God on a daily basis. Both are vital to combating stress. It gives you the ability to not only know God’s Word but to utilize it in order to combat stress. The Bible is filled with Scripture that can dispel our stress, worry, and fear.
If you aren’t quite sure what is causing you stress, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the primary sources of my stress?
- How often do I pray about the issues in my life causing me stress?
- How am I trusting God with my work, finances, health, relationships, and future?
These practices will help recalibrate our spiritual, mental, and emotional responses to stressors that disrupt the equilibrium in our lives.
Yet, we can let stress have a positive impact in our lives too. The first indication of stress can serve as a warning that we are not leaning on God like we should. Remember we serve a mighty God and he truly cares about the little things and big things in our daily lives.—Heather Riggleman6
Change your thinking to reduce stress
You can’t reduce stress in your life unless you change how you think. Our stress doesn’t come from the outside but from the inside.
Your mind is a special gift from God. It’s capable of storing more than 100 trillion thoughts. It can handle enormous amounts of information. God has given you the freedom to choose what you think about, from among all of that information.
The Bible says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”7
Paul reminds us that we can choose what we think about, and he encourages us to think about the right things. What we put into our minds impacts how we live.
It’s really no wonder we’re stressed when we consider what most of us think about on a regular basis. Many people, even Christians, allow anything and everything into their minds. … What you think affects the way you feel; the way you feel affects the way you act. Guard your mind. Keep your mind on the right things.
Philippians 4:8 tells us to fix our minds on these good things. Paul means that we need to make a deliberate choice. Change the channel on our minds. Only allow in things that fit into the characteristics described in that verse.
What happens when you do that? You get what God promises in the prior verse: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”8
Doesn’t that sound like it’s worth it?—Rick Warren9
Published on Anchor September 2021. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Matthew 11:25.
2 Philippians 4:8–9 ESV, emphasis added.
3 John 14:2–3.
5 Matthew 11:28–30 NKJV.
7 Philippians 4:8 NIV.
8 Philippians 4:7 NIV.