Handling Stress

by Brent Aucoin on September 2, 2009; last featured December 23, 2017
Featured in Answers Magazine
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Our primary goal in handling life's pressures is to learn how to depend upon God and please Him, not simply get rid of stresses.

The economy, unemployment, terrorism, politics, finances, moral decline, major sickness, a prodigal child, an unhealthy marriage—for most of us, contemplating any one of these pressures will knot our stomach. We become uneasy and tense. Our soul ceases to be quiet like the still waters but instead becomes deafeningly noisy like a wailing infant. In other words, we are “stressed.”

Our culture consistently uses the term stress to describe the mental or emotional tension we experience because of life’s hardships. The more precise biblical terms that capture the essence of society’s concept of stress include anxiety, fear, anger, despair, and guilt.

When we begin to understand stress from this biblical perspective, its resolution becomes apparent. Stress is not identical with the pressures of life. Nor are the pressures of life the cause of stress. Stress is the mental and emotional tension that is generated from our unbiblical responses to pressure.

Stress is the mental and emotional tension that is generated from our unbiblical responses to pressure.

Imagine Paul and Silas, unfairly beaten and tossed into the Philippian jail without a fair hearing, singing praises at midnight (Acts 16:22–25). Had they experienced extreme pressure? Yes! Were they stressed? Apparently not. Their stress-free handling of the pressure led to the salvation of their jailor.

Later, writing to the Philippians from a different jail, Paul would remind them about “rejoicing always” and “the peace that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:4–9). Paul seemingly embodied the mature believer described in Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” The mindsets portrayed in these two passages are the antithesis of stress. Stress-free living begins with trust in God in the midst of pressure.

But why do we face pressure in life? Genesis 3 gives the answer. After Adam fell, God cursed the ground from which Adam had been taken and over which Adam was to have dominion. Adam’s dominion became filled with hardship and pressure. Why? In addition to appropriate consequences of his rebellion, God intended the hardness of life to drive mankind back to dependency upon Himself.

So our primary goal in handling life’s pressures is to learn how to depend upon God and please Him—not simply to get rid of stresses. As we learn to depend on God, our soul will be quietly peaceful like a weaned child resting against his mother (Psalm 131:2). Another benefit is that unbelievers will marvel at God’s peace in the believer’s life, which surpasses their understanding, and they may ask to learn more.

10 Reminders to Help Believers Quiet Their Noisy, Stressed Souls

  1. Trust that the sovereign God is in control of all pressures in your life, using them for His good purposes to transform you into the likeness of Christ (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28–29).
  2. Recognize that guilt is a big “stressor” in life. Certain pressures come as consequences of our own actions (Galatians 6:7–8). Irresponsible debt is an obvious example. Confess any known sin. Begin growing in Christ, putting away the ungodly actions and attitudes that may have led to your stressful circumstances (Proverbs 28:13).
  3. Pray with specific requests and thank God for His good purposes in trials (Philippians 4:6–7).
  4. Repent of any self-willed efforts to change circumstances that are beyond your control. Often believers—caught up in their pride—seek to do things only God can do (such as ensuring that our kids turn out right, avoiding job loss, fixing the economy, and converting an unbelieving spouse). Clearly when we seek to control things that only God can do, we will become stressed (Psalm 131:1).
  5. Seek to return good for evil when pressure arises from the sinfulness of others (Romans 12:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9).
  6. Pray that God will help you to control your thinking so as not to worry, fear, or despair (Matthew 6:25–34). Cultivate the godly thinking that Paul describes in Philippians 4:8–9.
  7. Work hard to solve problems within your control today (Matthew 6:34; Ephesians 4:26–27). God has given each of us enough challenges for today. We need to take proper care and concern for today’s issues while we plan wisely for the future (Proverbs 6:6–8).
  8. Seek wise, biblical counseling in the areas of your greatest stress. Start with the most significant issue first (Proverbs 27:9).
  9. Seek regular accountability to help you respond biblically to the pressures of life (Proverbs 13:20; Hebrews 10:24–25).
  10. Attempt to establish helpful routines of diet, exercise, and adequate rest (1 Timothy 4:8).

Answers Magazine

October – December 2009

When it comes to God’s marvelous creation, nothing compares to the amazing design of the human body. From the protective garment of skin to the engineering of our bones and new discoveries about our brain, this issue is packed with testimony to the Master Designer.

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