by Elizabeth Hodges
Stress is a familiar part of life for all of us. We may express stress in different ways, but we are all know the familiar tense reaction to the tough or busy parts of our days and weeks. When you feel that stress pressing in on you, do you deal with the root of your stress or just the symptoms? Do you try to alleviate stress at its cause, or just delay dealing with it?
One of the tools Satan uses to keep us defeated is STRESS. So how do we overcome stress? As believers, we are meant to depend on God—His Word and His strength. We must be able to admit that we are weak, vulnerable, and not self sufficient in order to accept God’s help with our stress.
1. Sit at Jesus’ feet — Study the Word
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll once described an anecdote about his friend, Bob. One day, Chuck went to visit Bob at Bob’s office. As Chuck approached the office, he heard the melody, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” When Chuck looked in the office window, what he saw made an indelible impression on the young Chuck. Bob was on his knees, in his office, with his open Bible. Seeing Bob, Chuck felt as if he was standing on “holy ground.” Bob never knew he was being observed, but what an impact he had on the young Chuck Swindoll—who in turn has had such an impact on the Christian community.
Susanna Wesley, mother of 17, would throw her apron over her head when she needed time with her Lord. I’m sure we have all felt moments like that! Her children knew not to disturb her at those moments she spent with God. Wonder what impact that made on John and Charles? Just read the lyrics of the many hymns penned by these brothers.
In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus contrasts the choices of Mary and Martha. Do you ever find yourself “cumbered about”—juggling way too many balls at one time? A friend once shared with me, “If I must be a Martha, please give me a Mary heart.”
Being busy seems to be my lot in life, like Martha. But I want to know when to be quiet. To kneel in solitude, throw an apron over my head, or simply sit, like Mary, at my Savior’s feet.
2. Trust in the Lord
Have you seen the saying, Sometimes the Lord calms the storm; sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child?
We will have stress in our lives because we live on this earth. There’s no way around it! The good news is, we know the ONE who is in control (John 16:33). How often do we come boldly to the throne of God with our problems and petitions, only to pick them right back up when we walk away? Yet we know God clothes the lilies of the field, feeds the birds, and has our hairs numbered….will He not be concerned about the things that trouble us? Are we not more valuable than the flowers or birds? (Matthew 6:25-34)
Paul challenges us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. How much of our “thinking time” is invested in these categories, and how much is devoted to worry?
REST: Sleep is a gift from God. How often do we thank Him for this everyday, yet priceless, gift? Sleep does for our bodies what nothing else can do. When we are sick or have surgery, we sleep to heal! But when you are in distress, troubled, stressed, do you find yourself spending more hours fretting than sleeping? Do you let stress keep you awake at night? Lying in bed only to roll and tumble with your mind going 90-to-nothing? Amy Carmichael said, “In acceptance lieth peace.” This may be easy to say… but oh so hard to practice in our daily lives!
Jesus drew away from others to spend time with HIS Father as HE ministered here on earth. If even He, being God, needed to be refreshed, how much more do we need rest and refreshment? We must rest knowing God is in control and does all things well. Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us no matter how heavy the load, there is always room UNDERNEATH for the everlasting arms of God.
4. Encourage others
Philemon 7 tells us that Philemon ministered to Paul, and Paul has in turn ministered to us through his pen. Who could say that you refreshed their heart and spirit?
Share what God is teaching you with others. They may be in desperate need of what you have learned or are learning. Do you have an accountability friend who will love you regardless of anything you may bring into discussion? A close friend who can see more clearly than you when you are IN the forest, a friend who will guard your confidences? Thank God for such a friend, then express your gratefulness to that person. Are you such a friend to others?
Romans 16:1-2 tell us briefly of Phoebe. She was a sister, a servant, and a succourer, or a great help. Who can you serve and minister to?
Take a moment to reflect: Do I encourage others in tangible ways in their love language?
5. Strengthen the “inner woman”
REFOCUS: Step back from your normal routine and refocus your priorities. Are you spending time and effort on things that ultimately do not matter? Or are you spending time on things that will strengthen you, build up your family, or encourage others?
RECREATE: What brings you relief, enjoyment, and pleasure? How many hours of your time are devoted to this pursuit? Make some of these activities, including relaxation, a priority.
Balance is key. Work hard when it is time to work and then enjoy your relaxation and recreation time. It’s easy to feel guilty when there is more to be done. But we will never get it all done! So we must do our BEST, then TRUST God with the rest.
6. Serve others
When you are serving others, you cannot be self-centered. Selfishness and service do NOT occupy the same “heart space.” If we model Jesus’ servant heart, we will develop a sensitive spirit. We will listen… not always talk. We will be available when needed. When we are “others-focused,” our own problems do not seem quite so overwhelming. Isaiah 40:31 is God’s promise to us.
Triumph over stress in this fast-paced world where we live and serve is found in a quiet heart. We must pursue and develop a quiet heart that is stayed on/focused on God. This heart must then be housed in a vessel fit for the Master’s use. May God help each of us as we develop such a heart.
Sit at Jesus’ feet — Study the Word
Trust in the Lord
Strengthen the “inner man/woman”