How to Handle Stress

According to David Kupelian, managing editor of World Net Daily and editor of Whistleblower, “the sheer stress of living in today’s America is driving millions to the point of illness, depression and self-destruction. Suicide has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of injury death…and more U.S. soldiers died last year by suicide than in combat. One-third of the nation’s employees suffer chronic debilitating stress…One in five children aged six-12 have been medically diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety depression or bipolar disorder…Stress renders people susceptible to serious illness and chronic stress plays a major role in the progression of cancer and heart disease…Eleven percent of all Americans aged 12 and up are currently taking mood-altering antidepressants…Add to that the tens of millions of users of all other types of psychiatric drugs and throw in the 28 Percent of American adults (60 million) with a drinking problem plus the 22 million using illegal drugs and a picture emerges of a nation of drug-takers with many millions dependent on one toxic substance or another–legal or illegal–to ‘help’ them deal with the stresses of life.”

      We all experience stress to some extent. It is the mental and physical strain caused by the pressures of life. Any event or situation–even a positive one–that causes change in your life patterns can be stressful. Actually, stress is a normal part of human life. It keeps us active and alert, and yet in today’s fast-paced world, stress often becomes distress or stress overload and we see “Americans ‘Snapping’ by the Millions,” as Mr. Kupelian titled his article in the April 2013 issue of Whistleblower.  The truth is, we all need a certain amount of stress to keep us alive, although too much of it becomes harmful to us, as indicated by the quote above. When most of us use the term, “stress,” we usually are referring to this harmful aspect–overstress, distress or stress overload.
      An instructor of a class on “Stress Management” walked into the room with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, “half empty or half full?”  But instead she asked the class, “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 200 grams to 1kg. She responded, “the absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance!  In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes, and that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy to bear, we won’t be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up tomorrow (if they are still there).” 
     That was some excellent advice. I remember the late Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary suggesting that when you drive home from work each day, you need to have a place along the way where you “dump out” all the “garbage” that has collected during the day, all the stress-factors that could ruin your evening with the family. If it is still there, you can pick it up on the way to work the next morning. Also wise counsel.
     At the very core of the stress problem is lifestyle that is too hectic and fast-paced. We are driven by a need to succeed and our lives have little room for relaxation. It’s as if we are trapped on a runaway train, the “engines” of our bodies have jammed at full throttle, and we don’t know where the brakes are. And Christians are not immune from the ravages of stress disease, because being a Christian doesn’t mean we’re exempt from the pressures of society. In fact, it sometimes may mean being under even greater stress, because trying to live a godly life in a godless world can take its toll. For example, read Romans 7:15-24, and you will see that the Apostle Paul was definitely feeling stressed out!  We live in a world that produces stress. The potential for stress is all about us–in our friends, family, work, even in our church–in fact, in every part of life. Stress comes at us from every angle–time constraints, relationships, expectations, assignments, guilt from sin, excitement, lack of exercise, lack of sleep.   
     A great protector from the stresses of the world is a stable, safe, secure home that serves as a refuge. But, in our society today, we see the home in shambles and deteriorating rapidly. With the pressures of a weak economy, unemployment, the controversy over what marriage is, the threat of terrorism, the inroad Islam is making, the succumbing to gay-rights activists, a government that is becoming bigger and bigger and transforming our nation into a socialistic state, it’s no wonder “we the people” are experiencing distress and millions are suffering psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual problems as a result.
     God equipped us with a highly sophisticated defense system designed to help us cope with events in our lives that threaten and challenge us. When the state of alarm or emergency is triggered our various physiological systems are bathed in adrenalin, which produces a heightened state of alert: the heart beats faster, digestion is speeded up, and a host of hormones is released into the blood stream to prepare us for dealing with the emergency in a “fight or flight” response, to either attack what is threatening us or to run away from it. This alarm system is triggered by stress and its purpose is to alert us to a threat so we can be better equipped to deal with it. But, if we live such that we are under constant stress, or in a constant state of emergency, we begin to experience the damaging consequences of stress overload. It’s like keeping an elastic band constantly stretched without letting it move frequently to a relaxed position. Soon it begins to lose its elastic properties and will eventually snap. Similarly, if our bodies are repeatedly alarmed or held in a constant state of stress, they soon begin to show damaging consequences–stress disorders–physical, psychological and spiritual. The immune system is affected, sapping the body’s ability to fight off diseases.
     The solution the world offers: music, sex, drugs, alcohol, counseling, yoga, hot tubs, pets, divorce, religious exercise, hypnosis, massage, cookies and milk!  But only one prescription is fully guaranteed, and it is offered by the One who made us. He offers a three-part prescription:   
    1)  “Cast all your care (anxiety) upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7 cf Phil. 4:6,7; Ps. 55:22; 18:6; 61:1,2).
     2)  Fill your mind with good things: “Whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…of good repute…excellent or praise-worthy, think (let your mind dwell) on these things” (Phil. 4:8 cf Pr. 4:20-27).
     3)  Rest in God’s Mighty Arms: “When I am afraid (or stressed), I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psa. 56:3,4 cf 27:1-3)
     Here are some additional practical stress reducers:
    1)  Sing a favorite hymn or chorus (Eph. 5:19)
    2) Slow Down!  “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Psa. 37:7)
    3) “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold” (Ro. 12:2 LB).
    4) Have a Daily  Quiet Time
    5) Laugh a Lot (cf Pr. 17:22)
    6) Simplify your life (Mt. 6:33)
And remember, what is the word “stressed” in reversed order?…   “Desserts!”
                                                                                                     Forever His,
                                                                                                                   Pastor Dave

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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