By Steven Clark Goad
Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind.
—William Somerset Maugham
Stress is pressure. It is a subject of physics and psychology. Our world is faced-paced and full of schedules. Whether stress is self imposed, even exaggerated, as W. S. Maugham suggests, or is part of our lives simply because of the expectations of others, it is a real emotional nemesis all of us must deal with one way or another. God’s Word has a lot to say about how to overcome stress.
Following Christ’s Example
Although it may seem so fundamental that we overlook it, we must learn from Jesus’ example to give of ourselves. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27). Stinginess and self-centeredness are primary sources of stress. Seems like the minute we finally catch up with the Joneses, they refinance. Paul expresses it as carrying one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Focusing on the Future
We are to forget past failures by focusing on the future. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18). Maybe we can’t erase the past from our minds, but we surely can think on new and better things. Paul stated this principle powerfully: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press ontoward the goal to win the prize for which God has calledme heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13, 14).
It’s fine to think happy, happy, happy thoughts. What better way to bring a smile to our faces than to rejoice in our salvation? Solomon affirmed that “a happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). None of us is getting out of this alive. So why can’t we take the advice of someone wiser? “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). How is it that Spirit-filled disciples of Christ cannot rejoice knowing that everything that happens, even the bad, will in some way work out for our own good (Romans 8:28)?
Dwelling on the Word
Taking time out for meditation is essential. “But [his] delight is in the law of the Lord, and [he] meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:2). David knew personal reflection was necessary.
Our calendars are often too full of schedules and agendas for us to take time to be holy. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Surely we can follow Jesus in this habit. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7). What better solution for the anxiety of stress than to take it to God in prayer?
We must seek the presence of God continually. “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his” (Job 12:13). No wonder David is called a “man after God’s own heart.” He penned these beautiful words: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7). One of the most practical ways to be in God’s company is stated by Paul. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
A stress free life is one divested of anger. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Living with rage only compounds the normal run-of-the-mill stress of work and family.
Using Time Wisely
Time management is one of the most practical ways to relieve tension and worry from our lives. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16). Time doesn’t accumulate and can’t be put into some capsule in a safe-deposit box. It must be carefully managed.
Choosing Friends Carefully
Friends must be chosen thoughtfully. “Do not be misled: ’Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). This powerful truth rings just as clearly today as when Paul first penned it. Hanging with the wrong people is stressful, period.
Listening to Music
“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23). Music is the universal language. I take great solace in some special classical music as well as contemporary Christian melodies. I may even burst into song during moments of stress.
Counting Our Blessings
Another way to manage stress is to develop the practice of rejoicing as we count our blessings. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:18, 19). I’ve discovered it is far more enjoyable to count my blessings rather than my burdens.
Yielding to the Spirit
We may lean on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome any obstacle Satan places in our pathway. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). It’s easy to get caught up in contemporary trauma and the hassle of life in the fast lane. Knowing that the one who lives in us is greater than the one who lives in the world has got to be one of the greatest blessings of all.
Encouraging One Another
Embrace the friendliness of the redeemed. “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). We are a community of souls who will never see each other for the last time. We have been bought with a price and admitted to the household of the Father. It doesn’t get any better than that. Yet we forget to relish the warmth and joy of Christian companionship. All of my closest friends are Christians. I hang out with the best people in the word. No wonder I live most days stress free. You can, too.
Steven Clark Goad is a minister and freelance writer in Blythe, California.
Wisdom to Win the Stress Battle
Scared Silly: Taking on Your Fears, Worries, and What-ifs
by Marcy Bryan
(Standard Publishing, 2007)
Real Peace: What We Long for and Where to Find It
by Andy Farmer
(Crossway Books & Bibles, 2013)
Success over Stress: 12 Ways to Take Back Your Life
by H. Norman Wright
(Harvest House Publishers, 2013)
by Tracie Miles
(Abilene Christian University Press, 2012)
Stress Less: Breaking the Power of Worry, Anxiety and Other Destructive Habits
by Don Colbert
Charisma Media, 2008)
Living Free in an Anxious World: What Your Doctor and Pastor Want You to Know About Worry
by R. Lanny Hunter and Victor L. Hunter
(ACU Press, 2010)
What to Do When You’re Scared & Worried: A Guide for Kids
by James J. Crist
(Free Spirit Publishing, 2004)