WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED
Your mind is whirring. You can’t sleep. Every emotion is globbed together at the front of your mind, on the tip of your tongue, or buried deep gathering steam.
You, my friend, are stressed.
What Research Reveals About Stress
It seems to me what research reveals most about stress is that you and I aren’t alone in our stressful experiences.
Medical research indicates as much as 90 percent of illnesses are stress-related,
The Global Organization for Stress reports 75 percent of Americans experienced moderate to high levels of stress in the past month (April 2020) and,
Stress is the number one health concern for high school students.
The fact that a Global Organization for Stress even exists is evidence of the pervasive nature of stress. We Christians should be leading the way in de-escalating our stress. We, of all people, should live with less stress.
I’m not saying stressful situations don’t occur in our lives but that in stress-filled situations we can through faith stop the whirring of our minds and rest in truth, strength, and peace.
So how are we to get through our stressful times? We don’t ignore the situations; we simply do what we know to do about the stress we experience. And that is, to follow Jesus’ example.
Do What Jesus Did With His Stress
There may be no more stressful scene in biblical history than the one reflected in the story of an agonized Jesus with his disciples on the Mount of Olives just before he was betrayed and arrested. Look closely at the description of what he did so he could go on and accomplish his purpose.
He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:41-42
1. He walked away. Jesus walked away from his friends to be alone.
We have been inundated with bad news for many months. Along with this constant barrage of negative national and global information, we still have our own personal work and family challenges to get through.
Choosing to walk away for a time does not mean ignoring or abandoning the situation. There are lots of ways to constructively walk away:
Decrease your social media and television intake.
Be intentional to stop the noise in your head that makes your blood pressure rise and your heart break. Turning away from discouraging people and thoughts creates space for peace and calm.
Change focus. Walking away naturally helps change our focus. It’s like putting a child in time out. Time out is designed to de-escalate a situation and allow peace and calm to prevail and offer a time to learn.
When you feel stressed. Walk away to be alone.
2. Jesus knelt down. Jesus knelt down getting in the right position before God.
When you and I live stressed and with anxiety we reveal a divided heart—we expose our disproportionate level of care or thought for something or someone over the wholehearted devotion God desires from us.
Sound harsh? Maybe. But I know the truth of it well because God pegged me on this one. Just this past week as I tossed and turned unable to sleep, thinking and caring deeply about the pain and anger I was witnessing in the news and the heartbreak I was experiencing in my self-examination, and for those who were hurting, for our kids, and for our nation. I began to pray quietly Jesus’ name and I heard clearly in my spirit—“let go.” Immediately I knew I was holding on to feelings and a desire for control I wasn’t meant to hold.
Here’s another common example: a divided heart that doesn’t seem so on the surface.
For many women, stress is a sign that we are great moms. The thought is this; the more we stress, the more we care. Stress can become a badge proudly worn.
In actuality, stress is a sign that maybe just maybe we care too much. We say we believe God is in control but when we stress over things, we are in affect telling God we don’t trust him to take care of the people he created and loves, the situation, or us.
Holding on to what we cannot and were not meant to control is a form of pride and self-righteousness. In other words, it’s sin. It’s the opposite of trusting God. And while it can seem hard to let go, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.
Letting go a desire to control an outcome is a choice we make and keep making—and it begins with bending a knee and heart to the one who can do the good and right thing about everything and for everyone, including you and me.
3. Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
You may feel stressed and overwhelmed by guilt, sorrow, work, kids, your situation, or the unknown future. There are many things in our lives to stress us. But I’m certain, we’ve not yet experienced the unfathomable stress of knowing we are meant to be tortured and nailed to a cross until we die. Jesus did. And what did he do? He left his friends to be alone, he knelt down, and he prayed.
Jesus, with all the humility a man could muster went to God, his Father, the creator, owner, and controller of all things and he prayed. He poured out his heart and his preferences and then in all humility let it be known his desire was that God’s will be done.
Jesus’ heart was aligned with God’s. As we pray, God makes possible the transformation of our stressed out thinking and ways to align with his.
With this understanding, I don’t know why we wait so long to go to God—holding on to our pain. Believe me, I’ve known the stress and even anguish of waiting to walk away from the world’s way of dealing with things, of waiting to kneel before the Lord in total surrender and humility, of waiting to pray even knowing my God hears my heart, my hurt, my anxious thoughts and he sees me and he sees my stress. Why do we wait?
Trusting God Is In Control
The next time we’re stressed let’s not wait: Let’s walk away to be alone, humble ourselves—bend our knees and our hearts trusting God, and pray.
In verse 43 of Luke 22, the very next verse after Jesus says, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine,” we’re told that an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.
You and I know the rest of the story. There was more stress to come for Jesus. But in his walking away, in his humility of bended knee, in his praying he gained strength believing God was in control. He trusted his Father sought a greater good for all of us. I’m so glad he did and I know you are, too.
For me, as a child of God—as someone who says she believes Jesus—it comes down to asking this of myself: Am I more interested in hanging on to my feelings about stressful circumstances and my desire to control the outcome or am I devoted to letting go and offering my stress and my situation in trust to my heavenly Father?
What about you - first and foremost, as a dearly loved child of God, what are you doing with your stress? Are you hanging on to your feelings and a desire to control or are you trusting God?
Additional scripture to help you when you’re stressed.
Worry: Pr. 12:25, Matt. 6:27, Mark 4:18-19, 1 Pet 5:7
Anxiety: Ps. 139:23, Phil. 4:6,
Overwhelmed: Ps. 61:2, Ps. 55, Ps. 142