Stress. Just the word makes you tense up. Why must we be so stressed? We go to church. We read the Bible. We love God and those around us. We pray. We try our best to live as good and faithful followers of God.
So, the better we live and the more we follow Jesus, the easier our life will get, right? Not necessarily. One thing God never promises is an easy existence. He promises a much better life if you follow Him, but He never says that it will be easier.
Some question why a powerful, loving God would allow such pressure and negative influences to be placed on his followers in the first place. There are many reasons for stress. One is that we sometimes bring it on ourselves. We overschedule. We’re impatient and want things done yesterday. We have a hard time saying “no”.
Or maybe we procrastinated until too many things came due at the same time. Either way, we did it to ourselves. Then, we complain when we get stressed out and have a bad day. We blame anyone but ourselves for allowing this to happen to us.
However, not all stress is our fault. God sometimes uses stress as a way to strengthen us. It’s much like forging steel or battle hardening a soldier. It’s easy to put on a uniform, learn tactics, recite the right words, and believe in patriotism in times of peace.
On the battlefield, though, you really learn what you’re made of. You learn what you can and can’t do. You become confident and strong. You learn how to survive and overcome your enemies in the real world, not just on the pages of a book.
You learn how to use the resources around you and who around you will help. Then, the next time you go to battle, you’re more prepared. Your belief in your country and your ideals are more ingrained, and not just something you learned to recite on command.
Living for God is no different. You are a soldier for God. If your faith is never tested, how will you ever really know your true level of commitment? Is it really “faith” if you never have to rely on God to help you through?
Every time you exercise that faith muscle, you are making your resolve and your relationship with God that much stronger. You learn how to use resources around you like your Bible and your fellow believers. You learn how to rely on God and prayer. You learn just how little you are in control, and how mighty God really is. You gain a much deeper appreciation of His love and protection. You also gain a much deeper appreciation for what He has given you. It’s like the old saying goes: There is no light without the dark.
Learn to Say No
We’ll never get rid of stress, but there are some coping mechanisms for stress management that God provides in order to relieve it. First, learn time management and self-control. Know your limits. It’s tempting to try to do everything for everyone. We put pressure on ourselves to be the perfect spouse, parent, child, friend, employee, and colleague.
By spreading ourselves too thin, though, we are actually being counterproductive. We get stressed out. We forget things. We have to compensate at the last minute. We get frustrated and tired. We neglect ourselves.
We may even begin to resent others because we do so much for them and feel like we aren’t getting enough in return. Then, whether done passive-aggressively or blatantly, we take out these frustrations on those around us. The steam builds up until we have to let off a little pressure – and good luck to whomever is near us at the time. That’s no way to treat innocent bystanders. Learn to say no and stay within your limits. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Get Your Priorities Right
Secondly, make sure you have your priorities straight. Make sure that what you are doing is in line with what God wants. If not, you’re asking for trouble. Plus, it’s not enough to do what’s right. You have to decide sometimes what’s more important and what can be let go.
God clearly spells out in the Bible what things you should focus on first. Spiritual well-being, spiritual education, family, academic education, financial well-being, and the home are all at the top of that list, although not necessarily in that order.
Spending time helping your child do homework is more important than decorating for the school pageant. Taking time to discuss with your husband a question about the Bible is more important than trying to squeeze in an hour more of work done before tomorrow’s deadline. I didn’t make the rules. Just know that if you don’t follow God’s rules, you’re setting yourself up again for failure.
Ask For Help
Third, ask for help. It seems so simple and obvious that it needn’t even be mentioned. The fact is that many of us are just not programmed to let others see our doubts and weaknesses. The thing we fail to realize is that asking for help is not a weakness. It’s simply a smart utilization of time and the resources around us. Every great manager and leader learns to do this.
Lean on God. He says in the Bible that He promises to help you through anything you could possibly encounter. However, He can’t help you if you refuse to believe He has the ability to do so. Read your Bible. It’s full of advice and calming words of encouragement.
Pray. Ask others to pray. For some reason, this powerful tool is often forgotten. Prayer is our direct line to God. He even tells us in the Bible that anything lifted up in his name is a sweet sound in his ear. Pray first thing in the morning, throughout the day and before you go to bed. The more that pray, the sweeter the sound becomes. Of course, you can also ask those around you for help.
Have the Right Attitude
Lastly, attitude can make or break you sometimes. Stress can often be alleviated just by how you start your day. If you have unreasonable expectations, you’ve already placed too much pressure on yourself, creating a stressful environment before you’ve even begun. If you resent your work, anxiety is inevitable. I’m not saying you have to always whistle while you work.
Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. I’m just saying that starting with the right attitude helps lower your stress level. The lower the level when you begin your tasks, the lower your stress level will be when you finish.
A good attitude is often contagious. When others around you are in a better mood, they’re easier to work with, and things run more smoothly. Again, it lowers your anxiety level. Plus, when you try your best to have the right attitude, it pleases God.
He tries to help you keep that attitude by offering you clarity. Sometimes it’s only when we have the right attitude that we’re able to see the forest for the trees, knowing what’s really worth getting worked up about and what won’t even matter miles down the road.
Stress can take many forms for many reasons. Sometimes it serves a great purpose, and sometimes it’s just downright harmful. There are ways to lessen its impact, though. One way to defeat your enemy is to know your enemy. Know where stress can come from. Know why God allows it.
Know what resources you have to help you through it. Learn to say no, set the correct priorities, lean on God, pray, read the Bible, ask for help, and try to have the right attitude. You’ll make it. You’ll be just fine.