Stress Free Living
What Is Stress?
Webster tells us that stress, in the sense we are
using it, means "to subject to force or stress; to put pressure or
strain upon." Experts who deal with the stress people feel in modern
society would tell us that "stress is anything that makes you feel
uncomfortable." (Don Osgood)
There are various levels of stress. Too little
puts us in the boredom zone. When our life is going
the way we like it our stress level has risen to the comfort zone.
When we receive motivation to raise the level of our efficiency or
effectiveness in some area, our stress rises to the challenge
zone. When our stress becomes distress we find ourselves in the
catastrophic zone. The top ten areas of stress have been
- Death of a spouse.
- Marital separation
- A jail term
- Death of a close family member
- Personal injury or illness
- Being fired from our job
- Marital reconciliation
Note that seven out of the top ten involve the
loss of relationships.
The devastating effect of stress can be seen in
the fact that three or more experiences of major stress in a brief
time period will almost guarantee a serious physical illness within
six months. All stress that makes us feel uncomfortable takes it
toll in various degrees.
How Do We Deal With Stress?
When stress surges above the challenge zone into
the catastrophic zone suddenly we are in an emotional/psychological
The great majority of people deal with stress by:
- Denying it: "This really isn't happening."
- Ignoring it: "If I ignore it, then it will go away."
- Desensitizing it: "I'll load up with 'liquid courage' or
- Blame others: "It helps to identify the people (or things)
that are the source of all my pain."
None of these efforts solve the problem of
catastrophic stress. The solutions are best illustrated in the
life of Jesus Christ. He was constantly under tremendous pressure.
In addition to His ministry of teaching, there were demands on His
time by people seeking His help with sickness, grief, and personal
problems. Religious leaders constantly badgered Him as to who He
was and what He was doing. His ministry involved long hours every
day. People misunderstood, criticized, and even plotted against
Him. Yet, Jesus remained at peace under pressure. Let us learn
from Him how we can be masters over stress instead of stress being
master over us.
1. Know Who You Are
to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world; He who follows Me
shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'" John
8:12. (Eighteen times in the gospel Jesus said, "I am…the
bread of life…the door…the good shepherd…the Son of God…the
resurrection and the life…the way, and the truth, and the
life…etc.) Jesus knew Who He was.
"I am One Who bears witness of Myself, and
the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me." John 8:18
Because Jesus knew who He was He could testify as the Who He was.
We also need to know who we are…Insignificant
nobody - slave - doormat --or someone very special. If we don't
know who we are there are plenty of relatives, friends, co-workers
who will try to tell us. If we allow others to manipulate us into
trying to be somebody we're not, we begin a life of deception.
Trying to live up to being the person we're not and setting
unrealistic standards results in stress that gets a tighter and
Do you know who you are? If you have trusted
Jesus Christ as your Savior God says you are a forgiven sinner
(Colossians 2:13; 1ST John 2:12), a child of God,
(Romans 8:16, 17; Galatians 3:26), a saint (Romans 1:7;
Philippians 1:1), a priest (1st Peter 2:5, 9;
Revelation 1:6; 5:10) a spiritually gifted servant of Christ
enabled to serve Him according to His purpose for your life (1st
Peter 4:10). Remind yourself often who God says you are. It will
keep you on course and give you power to remain in control over
2. Know Who You Are Trying To Please
". . . The
Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that
please Him." John 8:29
We can't please everybody. Just about the time we
get A pleased, B gets mad at us. We please B and C gets mad. We get
C pleased and A gets mad again. Not even God can please everybody.
It is surely foolish to attempt to do something that God can't do.
One way to help us stay focused on the main
things is to establish priorities. I suggest as a starting point the
priorities that have guided me:
- My personal relationship with God
- My family responsibilities
- My witness for Christ
- My ministry of preaching/teaching
- If I had a secular vocation, it would be here
- My responsibilities as a citizen
Jesus determined, "The one person I'm
committed to please is God the Father." It is interesting to
note that on two occasions the heavenly Father spoke from heaven and
said, "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased".
Matthew 3:17; 17:5.
Trying to please everybody makes us vulnerable to
three areas of stress:
- Criticism - we worry about what people think about us.
- Competition – worry about people out to get ahead of us
- Conflict - we worry about making somebody mad when we disagree
with them or we hate ourselves when we cave in and know we
When we please God it will be the right thing to
do whether it makes everybody else happy or not.
3. Know And Accomplish God’s Purpose For You
"Jesus answered…’Even if I bear witness of
Myself, My witness is true; for I know where I came from, and where
I am going…" John 8:14
The Scriptures indicate that Jesus knew at an
early age where He came from and where He was going. At age of
twelve He went with His parents to observe the Feast of the Passover
in Jerusalem. He spent His time with the eminent religious teachers
in the temple. His parents found Him there and asked "why?". He
answered, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know
that I must to be about My Father's business?" (literal
translation). Jesus wasn’t talking about Joseph because 1) Joseph
was only His stepfather and 2) Joseph was a carpenter, not a
How can we know God’s purpose for our life…where
we came from…why we are here…what we are to accomplish? By growing
in knowledge and spiritual maturity.
We know that God’s preeminent purpose for every
believer is to be "conformed to the image of His Son" Romans
8:29. Like a potter working with clay, God is shaping each believer
into the likeness of Christ. The greatest contribution we can make
to this purpose is a yielded spirit to what God is doing.
We also learn from scripture that God has a
definite plan as to the function each believer has in a local
community of believers. "Having then gifts differing
according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them..." Romans 12:6. "But
the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit
of all." 1st Corinthians
12:7, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the
measure of Christ’s gift." Ephesians 4:7. "As each one has
received a gift, minister it to one another, as good
stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1st Peter 4:10. Some of the most profitable time a believer
can spend is identifying their spiritual gift(s), their natural
talents, their learned abilities, and their personality makeup. This
provides the key as to what they are to do in ministry and vocation
at any time or place in their lives.
Spending our lives as a square peg in a round
hole is a formula for high stress. Knowing and accomplishing God’s
purpose will eliminate a host of stress from our life.
4. Focus On The Main Things
In Luke 4 we have the story of people in one town
trying to divert Jesus from God’s purpose. "And when it was day He
departed and went to a deserted place; and the crowd sought
Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; But He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of
God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I was sen."
Luke 4:42, 43.
When we read how great crowds would listen to the
teaching of Jesus for hours we can understand why these people
wanted Jesus to be their exclusive teacher. They had a plan B for
Jesus. Jesus said, "I must stay focused on fulfilling God’s plan. I
must keep preaching the gospel of the Kingdom to the people in other
Likewise, we must focus on the main things. You
can't do everything. What is your main focus? Hosts of diversions
compete for our attention. If we allow them to distract us from our
main focus we become ineffective and tension and stress begin to
build. When we stay focused on the main thing we remain effective
and contentment displaces stress.
5. Delegate Responsibility and Authority To
continued alll night in prayer to
God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and
from them He chose
twelve whom He also named as apostles." Luke 6:12b,13.
Jesus enlisted and trained twelve other men. He
taught them and empowered them to do exactly what He was doing.
Before long, there were six pairs of apostles going places He did
not have time to go, and doing exactly what He would do if He had
gone Himself. Jesus returned to the heavenly Father and the apostles
selected others, taught and empowered them to do what Jesus had
taught them to do.
We too, can multiply ourselves when we learn to
delegate responsibility and authority to others. Mothers can train
children. Working husbands and wives can share duties. Sadly, few of
us learn to do so. We carry the whole load of the work on our
shoulders. We feel like everything depends on us, and if we don’t do
everything then everything is going to fall apart. No wonder we live
in the catastrophic zone of stress.
When we delegate, we have others sharing the
load. We can concentrate on what we do best and reduce our level of
6. Make Time for Personal Communion With God
"So He Himself
often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed." Luke 5:16
No matter how busy Jesus was He made time to slip
away and personally commune with the heavenly Father. He would
express His love and make His requests, but He would also spend time
in quiet meditation to let the heavenly Father speak to Him.
Sometimes the Father spoke through scriptures but sometimes the
Father spoke in the thoughts that came into Jesus’ mind. After these
times communion with the Father Jesus was more than ready to face
whatever each day would hold.
We need to make time for personal communion with
God. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may
obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of
need." Hebrews 4:16
In our personal communion with God we receive
forgiveness for our failures, comfort for our hurts, assurance of
God’s love and care and direction for our lives. It’s much like our
own decompression chamber from the stresses of life. Jesus invites
us to do this (See Matthew 11:28-30)
7. Take time For Rest And Refreshment
"And He said to them, ‘Come
aside by yourselves
to a deserted place and rest awhile.’" ( For there were many
people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)
Rest and refreshment are not optional. They are
so important God put them in the ten commandments. Every seventh day
we are to rest from our labors. Jesus said that God decreed a
Sabbath (seventh) day of rest for the benefit of man. Life brings
its daily share of weariness and strife. We need a regular time of
rest and refreshment and sometimes an extended time to get
everything back together. How many do it?
Perhaps you are thinking "But all these things
are for Christians and I am not a Christian." My advice to you is to
receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior today. His peace is the
only way you will be able to continually master stress instead of
stress mastering you.
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scripture quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted