by Jon Jenkins
We live in very stressful times. Our hectic schedules are often full of difficulties, deadlines, and demands that can leave us all full of frustration. For far too many of us, stress has become commonplace. All the medical data seems to support the conclusion that when we are constantly running in emergency mode, our mind, our emotions and our bodies pay the price. In addition to our already stressful and hectic lives, the holiday season can compound stress levels.
The medical world defines stress as a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or that upset your balance. This stress response is the body’s way of protecting us. When our stress response is properly working, we are able to stay more focused, energetic and mentally and physically alert. This is one of the very few ways that stress has a positive purpose. When managed improperly, stress has many negative affects upon our lives. In a medical or biological context, stress is defined as a physical, mental or emotional circumstance or influence that causes physical or mental tension.
Let’s be honest – It’s hard to recognize when the level of stress you are under has gotten out of control. Much has been written about the heavy toll stress can have on our homes, our health and even our hearts spiritually. The effects of stress upon our minds, our bodies, our relationships and our behaviors are different for everybody. There seems to be universal agreement that the results of being overwhelmed by stress can lead to serious mental, physical, spiritual and relational problems. Stress can overload us with havoc that takes a toll on our families, our marriages, and our own peace of mind.
Author John Grey says, “Men handle stress by becoming increasingly focused and withdrawn, while women become increasingly overwhelmed and emotionally involved.” I find this observation very enlightening. It does not matter if our stress is caused by being a caregiver to a sick loved one, financial losses or reversals, relationship breakdowns or conflicts or simply having more work to do than daylight to do it in; stress manifests itself with many negative consequences.
I find it amazing how our thoughts can direct both our feelings and actions. When negative and overwhelming thoughts creep into our minds, I fear we are not aware of how truly damaging they can be. The Apostle Paul instructs us in II Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Stress has an amazing way of messing with our minds. Think about how many times you and I imagine something about a particular situation, only to find it is not even true or never comes to pass. We think someone must feel this way or that way about us and then our imaginations begin to run wild blowing everything way out of proportion. The Scriptures commands us to “cast down those imaginations.” We all need to stop jumping to conclusions, and to quote our teenagers, “stop stressing out.” My friend, remember this, our imaginations are in a general sense not truthful and are usually harmful. I believe that the root cause of harmful imaginations is our tendency to store away negative, harmful and untrue thoughts that trouble us, especially when they are mingled with stress.
Fear is a very real, sometimes helpful, but often harmful emotion. When we are faced with any apparent danger or we are in the midst of worrisome or anxious situations, stress only compounds. We often find ourselves in the midst of stressful situations through no fault of our own. It may be sickness, the death of a loved one, trouble in our marriages, problems with our kids, a job loss, financial difficulties or any number of complicated issues that make us feel fearful. Do you know that the wrong kind of fear can make people physically sick? Fear can be both overwhelming and debilitating. How often have we felt fear about such questions as – How will I survive? What if someone finds out? Where will I live? What will people think? I wonder what people are saying? How will I ever pay this debt? Will I even survive this?
Fear is not always brought on by the adrenal rush that comes when we are facing stressful situations. Sometimes fear invades our lives like an early morning fog, playing with our imaginations and thoughts and pulling us in to a mindset of constant dread. It can be very difficult to live under constant emotional and mental pressure. This kind of pressure and stress leads to a sense of being overwhelmed. David said in Psalm 61:2 “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Do you remember the Bible story in the Book of Ruth? There was a famine in the land of Bethlehem. In other words, economically, it was a time of recession. Elimelech and his wife Naomi left their home in Bethlehem and moved to Moab. This proved to be a terrible mistake. While they sojourned in Moab, Elimelech and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion died. Eventually Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth returned to Bethlehem. Listen to Naomi’s honesty after their return in Ruth 1:21, “I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty…” Wait a minute, I thought Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem because times were tough and jobs were more plentiful in Moab. Yet by her own admission, when Naomi and her husband moved their family to Moab they were not bankrupt and in desperation. She said that they “…went out full….” They did not move to Moab because of the Facts but because of Fear. So many Christians today make foolish and often life altering decisions because they are operating in Fear not in Faith.
Is fear stressing you out, my friend? Are you on the verge of burn out? Fear multiplies when we let it. Fear has the incredible ability to squeeze the life-breath right out of our lungs and to cripple our hearts with doubts and questions. If we are not careful, fear can completely overrun our minds and literally take over our lives. Remember this simple fact – we cannot operate in Faith and Fear at the same time. If we are full of Fear, we are at that same moment empty of Faith. Praise God, however, for when we are full of Faith, at the same moment our Fears subside.
Let me encourage you to meditate on these stress-releasing verses:
John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Proverbs 16:3 “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Proverbs 3:5–6 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Psalm 16:8 “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved (The Word “Moved” Means “To Be Shaken”).”
Psalm 46:1–2 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
by Jon Jenkins