If you’re like most of us, you’re feeling stress from circumstances in your life. Sometimes the stress feels unbearable. But even daily stress can take a toll. Medical professionals warn us that stress is a killer. It’s a risk factor for heart disease, strokes and many other diseases. With the impact stress can have on our lives, it’s important to have a biblical perspective on how to cope.
The Bible is a guidebook for dealing with life. God has provided us with this manual about how life works. As we’ll see, the Bible contains practical solutions to the issues and challenges we all face, including the challenge of stress. We encourage you to always look to it for needed help. And please contact us if you would like additional information or would like to talk personally with one of our ministers.
Facing a challenging world
How would you describe the world we live in today? Challenging, fast-paced, dangerous, unstable, immoral? The apostle Paul describes the last days as “perilous times” (2 Timothy 3:1). A big result of all this is stress! We may find ourselves feeling anxious and apprehensive about how such conditions can affect us personally, leaving us stressed out.
A number of people were asked to write down some of the things that cause stress in their lives. Here are a few responses:
“The most stressful things for me are dealing with my health issues, paying bills and feeling worthless because I can no longer do what I used to do.”
“I tend to worry over a matter—what if this happens or that, or how can I solve this? I worry over problems, real or not—job status, money, my anger that comes at times.”
“I take on things I feel I can’t handle. I don’t know how to say, ‘No—that’s too much for me right now.’ I stress over everything!”
“It’s very hard for me to not be able to please everyone. This causes stress in my life.”
In the face of all this, where should we turn first for help? Again, the Bible is God’s instruction manual for life. It provides the answers and gives us comfort, peace and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Let’s consider some specific biblical principles that can help us cope with stress.
Does God show us how to reduce stress?
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
When negative experiences and situations are coming at you, and things seem overwhelming, stop, take a deep breath and focus on something lovely and good. Overcoming stress starts with the ability to control our thoughts. We need to focus on the positive, uplifting things of God.
Can God help when our problems seem overwhelming?
“. . . Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible’” (Mark 10:27).
Even if we can’t change something, God can. Do we believe that? Have you ever thought about asking God to help you change a situation that is causing you stress?
How can I find comfort in dealing with the trouble and stress in my life?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us all in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, emphasis added throughout).
God promises to comfort us in our times of stress. How about trying to be a comfort to someone else who may be going through greater difficulties than you are? Giving comfort or helping someone in another way usually brings satisfaction and joy to the giver. “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35, Good News Translation). Part of coping with stress is learning to put it in the right perspective.
Can I expect my life to be more peaceful if I ask God for help?
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
God’s plan is to bring peace to a troubled world at the return of Jesus Christ. We can have that peace now if we follow His plan for peace. It involves a lifestyle change and a change in our hearts. Peace is part of the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Is there hope even if I feel like I’ve reached my limit in a very serious, stressful situation?
“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13, GNT).
Consider biblical examples of people facing severe trials. Whatever the trial, when they asked God for help He provided the strength and help for them to bear it. Jesus Christ Himself was “in agony” and “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” as He prayed before His crucifixion (Luke 22:44). God strengthened Him, and God will strengthen us as well when we ask.
Why do I have to put up with so much stress in my life? Why doesn’t God just take it away when I ask Him?
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
We need to believe there is a reason for our trials and that God is in control. God is not far off and unconcerned. He really is working in our lives to transform us from what we are into what He wants us to become. We need to accept trials and tests and understand what they are doing for us.
What is the ultimate purpose of my stressful trials?
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1-7).
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10; compare Acts 14:22).
We go through stressful trials for a reason: God is working with us! He wants us to become strong and mature in His character. He was working with Joseph when he was at the bottom of a well and when he was in an Egyptian prison. Joseph had a reason to be stressed out. When Daniel was in the lion’s den, he too had a reason to be stressed out. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were facing their fiery trial, they also had a reason to be greatly stressed.
But they kept going and obeying God! They faced their doubts and fears. They didn’t collapse in self-pity and cease to trust in God. When you come to realize that there is a divine purpose for your trials, then the stress of dealing with them should diminish.
Can I have confidence that God understands my stress?
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39).
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Whatever trial you’re going through, it cannot separate you from the love of God. He understands! Jesus Christ knows what it’s like to be human. He loves us.
Ask God to help you learn the lessons He has for you. Ask God to help you build His character through your trials. There’s nothing wrong with expressing to Him that you’re having trouble and that you need His help. He wants you to trust Him and to rely on Him!
Apply These Tips Now
We face many types of stressful situations, but the following list can give you some practical guidelines to apply in your own situation. Some of these are from Helpguide.org.
Look through this list, pick three things you feel could help you this week and try them out. Next week you might want to pick one or two more ideas to try.
• Learn to say “No.”
• Shorten your “to do” list by removing the “shoulds” and keeping the “musts.” Move tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
• Learn what’s really important in your life and set those things as your priority (see Luke 10:38-42).
• Learn to delegate to others when you can. Read the story of the advice Moses received from his father-in-law Jethro in Exodus 18:13-24.
• Do not say or do things that consistently irritate someone. Know when to be tactful and respectful about certain subjects (see Ephesians 4:31-32).
• Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way.
• Be willing to compromise your wishes (not your values) if compromise will help solve the problem.
• Look at the big picture. Put things in perspective. How important will it be in the long run? Will it matter in a year? Is it really worth getting upset about? If not, focus your attention elsewhere.
• Connect with other people, especially positive people. A strong support system will help shield you from the effects of stress.
• Set aside rest and relaxation time in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other things to get in the way. This is your time to recharge your batteries. Meditate on godly things. Listen to peaceful music. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of that kind of relaxation and peacefulness can do for you.
• Make time every day for leisure activities you enjoy. Take a walk; smell the roses; laugh. Laughter helps your body fight stress in a number of ways (see Proverbs 17:22).
• Exercise regularly and incorporate healthy practices into your lifestyle—eating well, getting adequate sleep and reducing caffeine or sugar intake.
• Practice good time management. Setting your priorities right includes “making the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:16, New American Standard Bible)—especially making absolutely sure you make time for family and, above all, for building a personal relationship with God.
• Live by a budget. So many people struggle with financial problems. Develop a budget and keep to it.
Again, pick out some of these items to try this week and in the coming weeks. You may be pleasantly surprised at how your stress level goes down!