How’s your stress level? I know, it’s mean for me to ask this right after the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year Season. Trends tell us stress has been a growing problem for some time and shows no signs of reversal. Anxiety meds are being prescribed at all time high rates. Burnout is a constant topic and issue in the workplace. Increasingly, even elementary age students are being diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
In some ways it is not surprising. Life is hard. Genesis tells us that when the “Eden” experience came to an end, God laid out consequences that would affect life going forward…
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:16-19 (NIV)
In these few verses marital conflict, pain in parenting, economic hardship, physical labor, frustrating results, decay and death are all predicted. While we believe in a time when these effects will be reversed, we live in a time when they are producing stressful circumstances.
How do we cope with them? In the brief space of this memo I will offer just 3 suggestions, though there are certainly many places in Scripture that can help. The first addresses the chronological aspect of suffering. While even brief moments of pain can seem too long, we are encouraged by Paul to consider suffering in comparison to the eternal blessings that await us in eternity.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)
Another aid to coping with stress is living in community. We were meant to bring encouragement, comfort and aid to one another. Some of our stress comes from thinking we alone have to address all of our problems. The church Jesus founded and said he would build is meant to be a network of friendship and mutual help; living life together in the challenges. We not only gain the benefit of others help, but as we help others it puts our trials in perspective and dilutes the poison of obsessing on our own problems.
Finally, stress builds the most when we crowd God out of our life. When God commanded Israel to have a “Sabbath” every 7 days, it was a command of love. While the Mosaic Law is no longer the measure or means to righteousness; the wisdom of God behind the principles remain. God knows we need time to rest from whatever constitutes “work” for us. We function best with appropriate rest, time to focus on our relationship with God, time with inspiring people and spending time doing something that brings a smile to your face. Putting margin into life requires us to release control and trust God to carry us through.
Scripture gives us many other guidelines for coping with life’s challenges. As we begin 2018 I hope you will develop your own biblical strategy for managing the stress life inevitably brings. In fact, some will be included in our new series from James, entitled “Faith that Works”.
Looking forward to seeing this Sunday!