How do you handle stress? What is it and where does it come from? Everyone deals with stress in one form or another, so it would be helpful to understand the causes and what the Bible teaches about how to respond.
The dictionary defines stress as pressure or tension caused on a person or an object. When it comes to an object, that pressure is caused by force from another object. When it comes to people, the pressure is caused by either other people or by circumstances. Common causes of stress include, but are not limited to, expectations of you by others, unmet expectations of others by you, unresolved conflict with another person, misunderstanding or miscommunication, and many others. In an over-simplified way, stress is caused by worry: worrying about things you cannot control, and worrying about things you can control but are not doing anything about. So, when Jesus tells us that we should not worry about anything, that means if we cannot control a situation or person, we should leave it in God’s hands and stop worrying about it. Worrying about things we cannot control is telling God that we do not trust Him to handle it. Worrying about things we can control, but are not doing anything about is selfish procrastination or laziness. That kind of stress must be dealt with by pushing yourself into action and doing what you know you should.
Most people know what stress looks like, but it is good to list some of the common symptoms of stress. Things like depression, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness or anger are symptoms of stress. Note that all of these have to do with emotions and the state of mind. If you are a Christian (a genuine follower of Jesus Christ in all aspects of your life), then you have given Him control over every part of your life, including your emotions. He then helps you live with control over your emotions and feelings, not letting them dictate your attitude. Of course, this is easier said than done.
1. Problem: You cannot trust your ‘heart’ or ‘feelings.’ Jeremiah (17:9) tells us that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick. Jesus also taught (Matthew 15:19) that your heart and emotions have been corrupted by evil, and cannot be trusted. Even Proverbs (28:26) tells us that if you trust in your heart, then you are a fool! We need to train our hearts to think God’s way (Psalm 119:11; Psalm 51:10; Romans 12:2)
1. Solution: Do trust in God and His Word. If your first thought on this one is that it is easier said than done, then you need to get to know God better (Don’t we all?). You cannot trust someone unless you know them and have experienced them keeping their word. Proverbs (3:5-6) reminds us that the only one you can trust is God. If you trust Him completely, then He will direct your ‘paths,’ which includes decision making and responses to situations.
2. Problem: You must not let circumstances or people you cannot control allow you to become agitated. God tells us that anxiety and agitation are not meant to be our burdens to bear. We are to cast it at His feet (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 94:19) and let Him lift us up.
2. Solution: Do trust God to take care of things, even if you do not understand. We have to remember that our plans may or may not come to fruition, but the Lord’s plans always come to pass (Proverbs 19:21). Paul reminds the Philippians believers (4:6-7) that instead of worry, we should spend time in prayer, with thanksgiving. It is then that God gives you peace no matter what the circumstances.
3. Problem: Don’t let procrastination or laziness make your life harder than it needs to be. Proverbs (10:4) tells us that laziness and procrastination leads to poverty, or worse. Way too often we become overwhelmed or stressed out because we procrastinated.
3. Solution: Do what you know you should do, and accomplish it efficiently, making good use of your time. Jesus gave specific instruction regarding worry and decision making in Matthew (6:25-34). We are to trust God to provide and to do what He has called us to do, or what He has enabled us to do. Colossians (3:23) reminds us to do all things with the right attitude and effort, with God’s glory in mind.