This article shows the physical and spiritual causes of stress. It gives remedies one can use to avoid and fight stress, mainly by making the Lord the King of your life.

Source: Faith in Focus, 2005. 5 pages.

Victory over Stress: And You Thought You Had It Bad?

It was 4.30 in the morning, John made his way to the garage, opened the door, started the car and quietly drove off to work. It had become routine that he worked so many hours per day. He thought back on how he started out as a production engineer of a large Corporation some twenty odd years ago. Through work he met Clair, an Accountant, they started dating, became serious and married. They just could scrape enough money together for a deposit to buy a modest house and pay their mortgage.

They attended their church faithfully and both were happy. Over the years they were blessed with three children, the two boys now in High School and the youngest still at Primary.

Under the old management, where personal achievement was appreciated, he got rewarded with a promotion. Along with the new status they decided a larger house and a new car was in order.

That were the days where the General CEO took a personal interest in each individual person and their families. John felt part of the company, where incentives encouraged people to do their utmost to produce quality products. But those days were gone. The old managers retired and a younger generation of managers and accountants took over the reins. A feasibility study was carried out, in an attempt to cut cost and maximize profits. “Downsizing” became the catchphrase. This in­volved re-tooling the entire production line. New production processes were introduced along with a complete new computer system. The same amount of work could now be done with fewer people. So, John’s workload increased as well. He took his laptop home to catch up on some work he needed to concentrate on. He worked some 60-80 hours per week on a fairly regular basis.

Clair’s workload increased as well along with more responsibility, because office staff numbers were also reduced by the introduction of this new computer system.

Management employed a Psychologist to counsel employees, how to deal with the new work methods.

Once more they shifted to a larger house with an office, so they could work from home as needed.

John got his time managed by “Calendar­ized” schedules. He attended Management meetings by not even actually being there. His life was “mastered” by the computer. John didn’t meet his family any more; late at night when he came home from work, Claire had already gone to bed and early every morning he left while everybody was still at sleep. During lunch break John met Claire on most days in a fast food restaurant to catch up on family and the daily goings on.

By then they had employed a married couple to attend to their children and the running of the house.

While John and Claire where in their restaurant one day, they heard about the Columbine High School shootings. Their boys were unharmed, but at a counseling session with the Psychia­trist they bitterly complained that their Mom and Dad were never there for them, they had to cope on their own and tackle life as it was presented to them.

It’s needless to say that John and Claire’s church life had all fallen by the way side. Both were on medication to have a decent night’s sleep.

Stress as a health hazard🔗

Many Health experts say that coping with stress has become the No. 1 Health priority today. An estimated 112 million people in the USA take medication for stress related symptoms.

We delude ourselves when it comes to stress. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that stress is a temporary phase that will pass like the flu. We cling to a false hope that the rat race will slow down one day as soon as we get a another job, or as soon as we are retired, or as soon as... There always will be another “as soon as”. We forget that stress and pressure has become a fact of life, which we can no longer escape or control. So, what is stress, and how can we overcome it? Stress is feeling you are overloaded, you feel trapped as in a treadmill you can’t escape. You find it difficult to make decisions and you can’t concentrate, you want to get away from it all. You start worrying and have difficulties con­trolling your emotions, you become forgetful and feel inadequate at certain tasks.

Let’s look now at some key aspects about stress as we generally know it:

  1. Feeling stressed, originates from within, internally🔗

No one can put you under pressure. You are the one who can do that, it’s an inside job. External stress doesn’t cause internal stress. The Lord Jesus, when He was on trial for His life, had perfect peace. While the others were out of control He was in complete control.

Peter was imprisoned and probably going to be executed, but he was sound at sleep. So vast asleep in fact, that the Angel who came to rescue him, had to strike him to wake him up.

Husbands and Wives should stop blaming each other when they feel under pressure. Parents should stop blaming their children. Employees should stop blaming the boss. You want to blame some body when you feel stressed? Look in the mirror, it’s the person looking at you, it’s a personal choice when you feel stressed. It’s an inappropriate response to external circumstances.

  1. Someone may say that he/she is stressed because they have too much to do🔗

This is a misconception, however. Feeling stressed doesn’t come from too much to do, but from our response toward our obligations. Being free from stress comes from knowing our capabilities and our limits. Feeling stressed is a result of being overloaded. Each one of us needs to know our capacity, how much we can handle and adjust the workload accordingly. We stress ourselves out when we take on too much and our performance will suffer as a consequence.

  1. Economic changes can cause stress🔗

It would be nice if we could work 40 hours a week; often we need to work more hours, particular those in management positions. Corporate downsizing to increase profits has resulted in asking a smaller workforce to do more. In New Zealand downsizing is done in a more subtly way. Usually the management waits till there is a “flat” spot in the economy and some people are made redundant. When the economy picks up again they carry on with fewer staff.

  1. Complexity and multiple choices can cause stress🔗

Going shopping can be stressful, a simple question, “What shall we eat tonight?” can cause stress. There are so many multiple choices, our minds have difficulties handling all these choices.

Look around you everyone has a cellphone, you can even make photos and send it by e-mail to the office. We have laptops, e-mail, voice mail, microwaves etc. It is rare for a person to go home and really be home. We take our cellphones and laptops with us when we go on holidays. We have invented a new term – multitasking. We can do two things at the same time, we talk on the phone and type on the computer. And we don’t even talk about what some people do in the car while driving on the motorway early in the morning.

  1. Our sinful nature often contributes to our stress levels, such as pride🔗

Too many believers have re-translated Phil 4 vs 13 from “I can do everything through Christ....” to “I can do everything...” It takes humility to admit that you can’t do everything and ask for help. That’s what the church family is about. There are Women’s fellowships, Youth clubs or someone willing to help. Yet, while most of us love to help others, we would rather have our arm chopped off than admit that we need help. It’s pride. Think about it. Our self worth gets intertwined with our own work, or we believe we are indispensable. Pride causes us to feel stressed when we don’t get the attention or service that we feel we deserve.

  1. Discontentment can produce stress🔗

Hebrews 13 vs 5 commands us to keep your lives free from the love of money and be con­tent with what you have, because God said: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”. We live in a continual state of stress because no one or nothing does measure up to our expectations. Somehow we expect our children always to do better, seldom praising them for what they have achieved. Our marriages turn into a battleground, weaknesses are magni­fied and strengths forgotten. We expect more and more of our husbands or wives. There is always a larger and better house, a better job, a different church perhaps. And so, we are caught up in the whirlpool of wanting more ... and more ... and more....

What motivates us to make overtime? Is it out of necessity to make ends meet or is it a byproduct of greed and materialism. We have convinced ourselves that we won’t be happy unless we live at a certain level. We are under stress, only to find out that things never sat­isfy, it never brings joy, and greed cost us our intimate relationship with God and our families. Paul warns us in 1 Tim 6 vs 9 “People who want to get rich fall in to temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men in to ruin and destruction”. Plato said: “Poverty consists not in the decrease of one’s possessions but in the increase of one’s greed”. There is always another “thing” we want to have. At some stage we were looking forward to owing a car, but then we needed two. We were over the moon when we were able to buy an apartment of our own; “Independence” was the catchphrase. But soon the thrill of it all wore off and we hankered for a little house of our own. Eventually the little house was too little; it would take a larger house to do the trick. Yesterday’s luxury had become today’s necessity. Greed produces stress.

Stress is often the heat the Lord is using to purify and refine our lives. We need to be pruned back in order to be fruitful. If we were always comfortable, we would settle down to spiritual mediocrity. Our Heavenly Father often uses stress for our own good and to His glory. When God is in total control, stress will not be stressful at all. Nothing comes in to our lives without God allowing it. Perspective makes a tremendous difference when it comes to stress, but we must see it from God’s point of view.

God’s point of view?🔗

It’s depending on His grace to overcome the difficulties we encounter in this world and grant us His peace, which transcends all understanding.

Acts 27 has a wonderful account of Paul having peace in a stressful storm at sea. Paul was on his way to Rome when a savage North-Eastern wind threatened to sink the ship. During this storm they lost control of their circumstances, and yet survived. In this story we find four skills we need to overcome and survive the storms of stress:

  1. Get rid of needless baggage🔗

Luke explains the first survival skill in Acts 27 this way: “We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard with our own hands”. If someone had suggested to the captain of the ship upon departure, that the cargo, the ship’s tackle and maybe his favorite chair, would be thrown over board, he probably would have told them where to go. But, when the storm hit, they decided they could do without all that stuff, whilst before they were so sure it was all needed. If we are to overcome our personal storms, we need to get rid of some “cargo”. But we need to learn to let go, that extra cargo may be a bad thing like barnacles attached to the hull of our “ship”; too deep in debt, love of money, sinful habits, critical attitudes and so the list goes on. All those things we hang on to, but in our storm of stress our ship will sink. We need to evaluate what needs to be discarded, if we are going to survive.

  1. Focus on important things that matter🔗

Luke tells us that this storm lasted for two weeks. Then an Angel appeared to Paul in the night. The message of the Angel introduced a second survival skill. Paul relates this message to the crew: “Not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an Angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said: ‘God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’” Paul was reminded by the Angel, “The ship doesn’t matter. Only the people do”. To survive our “storm” we need to concentrate on the things that really matter, and that are usually people around us! In our pursuit of achieving our goals or what we try to accomplish, the people we love can slowly get pushed aside, out of our lives. This neglect is not intentional. Weeds grow in the garden not because we planted them, but because we forget them. If we put our career as the number one obsessive goal in our lives, we leave our husbands or wives and our children behind, missing out on very precious moments. Colleagues or employees become functions instead of people with needs. Usually it takes a “storm”, to land us back on earth, to restore our values.

In the pursuit of peace, the “ship” – the goals, the project, the deadlines, the organiza­tion, or whatever - may be lost on the rocks. That’s costly, but that’s all right. It’s our people we can’t afford to loose.

  1. Get serious with God🔗

Our faith tends to be cool, calm and collected until a serious crisis hit us. Then we go on our knees, and God becomes more than only “our Help”. He becomes our only hope. Luke speaks for him self and Paul too, when he said: “We finally gave up all hope of being saved”. That’s probably why the Angel said to Paul: “Do not be afraid, Paul”. We may think of Paul as some super saint but he seems to be as terrified and as desperate as all the others on board. The sailors sensed that they were heading for the rocks. So: “In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down in to the sea ... Then Paul said: ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’”

So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the life boat and let it fall away.

In our panic we often reach out for a “life boat” instead of the Lord. But we don’t realize that our “life boats” make a bigger mess. We spend unwisely, we push people we love too hard. “Storms” make us panic or make us pray. It is when our points of reference disappear, like the sailor’s stars, that we learn what prayer really means. If self-rescue becomes totally impossible, we throw our selves on the Lord’s mercy, because He is our only hope. A Saint of old once said: “You never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you’ve got.”

  1. Get back in to a healthy routine🔗

When the ship is heading for the rocks, in the middle of the storm, in this panic situation lunch can wait … But when the ship is about to go aground. Paul urges the people to eat. “For the last fourteen days” he said “You have been in constant suspense and have gone without food … Now I urge you to take some food. You need to survive”. Paul tells them to get back in to a healthy routine when a raging storm batters the ship. Our daily routines are the first things we throw overboard. In fact, the heavier the pressure the more important it is to watch our sources of strength. We are losing it big time, when we miss out on sleep, skip meals in an effort to cut corners.

We need to fight for that quality time with the Lord, our family, our husband or wives and our children.

Those healthy routines are what keeps us strong in good times and in bad.

This horrible storm ends with Luke’s record that the tempest finally blew them aground on the island of Malta. Look it up on the map and you will find it that Malta sits right off the southern coast of Italy. Paul was on his way to Rome, remember? This was the ship’s destination all along! All this time they thought they were out of control, but they were right on course! The Old Testament prophet Nahum said it in a little sentence: “His way is in the whirlwind and in the storm.”

Our plans maybe interrupted, but God’s plan never fails. In fact, our “life storms” are part of His plan for us. If we don’t abandon ship, the winds of Gods will keep us right on course, no matter how bad we feel off course. We live in a world filled with pressure and stress. We need to survive stress or coping with stress. Paul writes to us from Rome as well: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves me”. If we can be “more than conquerors” in the stresses of life, why would we settle for coping? The difference between coping and conquering is in those two words “through Him”. It’s depending on His grace to meet our needs so that we can have His peace within our souls.

Let the Lord be your Boss, your CEO in your life and belief that He has a better plan for you and me.

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