Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Do you feel stressed out sometimes? If so, you’re not alone because many people feel like that. For them stress has become a way of life. And the sad truth is, what has it taught us?
Our experience with stress has taught us that not only does it eat away at the joy of life, it eats away at us as well—because living with stress hurts us in our family relationships. Think of a husband who works 12 hours-a-day and comes home tired and exhausted. His children miss out on his company. This can easily destroy or damage families. That is stressful.
Stress hurts us physically and can cause everything from panic attacks and heart palpitations to high blood pressure and coronary disease. It has even been linked with cancer. And what about our panicked efforts to complete these ‘to do’ lists that never end. It is no secret that today’s society is under a great deal of stress. Whether that be financial, emotional, physical, and, yes, even spiritual stress.
The many causes of stress
Stress—we all face it everyday. It complicates our decisions, causes sleepless nights, and robs us of the joy of living. So what can we do about it, and where can we go for answers? How can we gain control over the threshold of stress in our lives? Does the Bible give any tips about how we can deal with stress?
We are plagued with what has been called the ‘hurry-worry syndrome’. Charles Swindoll wrote something very helpful in his book Stress Fractures:
“Gone are the days of enjoying babbling brooks along winding pathways or taking long strolls near the beach. The relaxed bike ride through the local park has been replaced with the roar of a motorcycle whipping through busy traffic. The easy-come, easy-go lifestyle of the farm has been pre-empted by a hectic urban family going in six different directions, existing on microwave food, shouting matches, strained relationships, too little sleep and too much television.”
You know, stress can be caused by so many things, and really, it’s different for each of us. You may be stressed out by the demands and pressures of work. Maybe that’s a big deal for you right now. Or maybe you get stressed out by something as simple as a call from a telemarketer.
And then there are the three common words that cause stress: should, ought and must. These words have caused more stress than any others, and how often are we guilty of saying them, not just to others but to ourselves as well.
Can I say that the Christian faith offers some help? I have read books by Rabbi Harold Kushner and he said:
“My religious faith…satisfies…the most fundamental human need of all. That is the need to know that somehow we matter, that our lives mean something, count as something more than just a momentary blip in the universe.”
Stress—an engineering term, a word used to determine how much weight or pressure steel can endure before breaking, to the point of collapse. The self-help guru Earl Nightingale has got some statistics about things we get stressed about:
- 40 per cent will never happen
- 30 per cent concern the past which cannot be changed
- 12 per cent deal with criticism and petty problems
- 10 per cent are related to health, which worsens with worry
- only 8 per cent are real, legitimate concerns.
Most of the stuff we stress about isn’t worth it. It’s either never going to happen or we can’t do anything about it anyway.
How do we handle stress?
But we do have that 8 per cent. These are things that legitimately cause us stress. And we can’t completely avoid stress. We can reduce it, we can learn to cope with it, but we can’t eliminate it. So how do we handle it?
Realise that troubles are going to happen—there’s no way around it. Stress is a part of life. We’re going to have things that go wrong. Some things will be our own fault, some things we’ll have no control of at all.
Now, I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by stress because they’re not expecting it. They think that somehow they’re going to sail through life and never experience hardships and stress. But it is going to come. That’s just a fact of life. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today”
Those are the words of Jesus, and you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t say we wouldn’t have trouble. He didn’t say we wouldn’t experience stress. He said we would! But in the face of that trouble, he tells us to relax, not be overwhelmed by it. Don’t get preoccupied with all the potential problems that may or may not happen down the road—Just focus on the realities of today.
Maybe you’ve heard of Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie was a Dutch woman who suffered in one of the concentration camps during the Second World War because she helped Jews escape from the Nazis. You’d think that if anybody had cause to worry day after day it would be someone in a Nazi concentration camp. But she said: “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
So take one day at a time. Realise that you are going to have troubles that can cause stress, and then deal with them on a day-to-day basis. Let God worry about tomorrow. You don’t need to get stressed out about it yourself.
Greg Hanson, Sunrise Wesleyan Church.