Stress is a fact of life. From time to time, all of us are going to feel its burden and burn. Our concern shouldn’t be with whether or not we will encounter stress. It should be with how we handle it. Countless books and magazines offer advice for handling stress. Popular pundits gladly promote seemingly simple techniques. Avoiding caffeine, getting more sleep, managing time, and practicing deep-breathing exercises are set forth as cures for emotional hardship. Sure there is a place for practicing such things, but it seems that our problems go much deeper. As beings created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We have a spiritual and emotional nature which must be accounted for if we want to handle the angsts of life appropriately. Consider four steps for dealing with stress.
Draw close to God.
Every struggle should be turned into an opportunity to spiritually connect with God. When your thoughts lead you to despair, turn your eyes to Jesus. Use the crucible of affliction as a platform for worship. Scripture teaches us that God sometimes uses suffering to get our attention. The Psalmist professed, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). Many never emerge from the pit, because they don’t look to the Lord for help. They trust in worldly coping techniques, and they find refuge in godless activities.
Get support from others.
The Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time” (Proverbs 17:17). A price tag can’t be placed on trustworthy, godly friends to whom you can be transparent. Having such a person to talk to can sometimes provide all the relief you need. If you don’t have such support, pray and ask God to help you find it. Work hard to secure such relationships. I have often been comforted and encouraged by a friend’s listening ear, or a companion’s wise counsel. The Bible says we are to “Carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
Deal with problems that are frustrating you.
Have you ever thought about the fact that sometimes God might be the author of your stress? He made you, and He has wired you to become perturbed by things that aren’t right. Sometimes He sends stress signals to prompt you to action. I think of an episode from Israel’s history. Joshua, the commander of Israel’s army, was burdened because his people had been defeated in battle, and he went to the Lord in prayer. Surprisingly, the Lord told him to stop praying! There was sin amongst the people, and God wanted his leader to take care of it (Joshua 7:10)! Sometimes your stress is an alarm from the Holy Spirit. He uses it to get your attention concerning something He wants you to do!
Learn what you need to learn.
Lastly, stress is sometimes an indicator of some sort of weakness, whether it be emotional, physical, practical, or spiritual. The demands and difficulties of life can expose hidden chinks in our armor. When they do we must be humble and allow the Lord to shape us into what He wants us to be. We must stay committed to growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).