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 identified as

    1. Death of a spouse.
    2. Divorce
    3. Marital separation
    4. A jail term
    5. Death of a close family member
    6. Personal injury or illness
    7. Marriage
    8. Being fired from our job
    9. Marital reconciliation
    10. Retirement

     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 battle.

     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 'chemical dropout'".
  • 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

     "Jesus spoke 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 tighter stranglehold.

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 stress.

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:

    1. My personal relationship with God
    2. My family responsibilities
    3. My witness for Christ
    4. My ministry of preaching/teaching
    5. If I had a secular vocation, it would be here
    6. 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:

  1. Criticism - we worry about what people think about us.
  2. Competition – worry about people out to get ahead of us
  3. Conflict - we worry about making somebody mad when we disagree with them or we hate ourselves when we cave in and know we shouldn't.

     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 theologian.

    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 cities."

     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 Others

     "[Jesus]…and 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 stress.

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.) Mark 6:31

     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