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Home » Self-Care in the Ministry » Self Care Part 14: Stress Management for Stress You Can’t Change

Self Care Part 14: Stress Management for Stress You Can’t Change

by Julia Bruce

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“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 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 4:4-8

It would be great if we could simply change things and circumstances every time we feel stress. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. It is not within human capability to change the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, a diagnosis for cancer, or a job layoff. Coping with unchangeable stressors begins in prayer. We must be able to reach a point of surrendering it to God, understand that He will work all things out for our good, and know that He is at work bringing about His best solution, even if we can’t see it. It comes down to one question: Do we have faith that God will work this circumstance out?

Can you imagine the stress that Abraham felt climbing a mountain to sacrifice Isaac, the promised son, in obedience to God? If you recall, God promised Abraham that the Redeemer, the Savior of the world, would come from his lineage. God also promised Abraham that his descendent would become a great nation and outnumber the stars. Yet Abraham and Sarah were past child-bearing years. It was not until Abraham was 100 years old that Isaac was born. Then when Isaac was a teen, God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son to the Lord. Abraham was able to be obedient because he has faith that God knew what He was doing and that God would keep His promise. He couldn’t see how God would work it out, but yet he knew that God would.

Accepting that you can’t change a situation may be difficult, but knowing that God can do anything and choosing to trust Him allows us to release control of the situation and surrender it to Him. We need to be able to recognize when a situation is outside of our control. You cannot control another person’s behavior. You can control how you react to that person’s behavior. Philippians 4:4-8 provides the answer for finding peace in uncontrollable, stressful situations. In these verses, Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 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.” In every circumstance, we are to rejoice in the Lord always. This keeps our focus on God more than on our circumstance. As we focus on God, we can remember that He is always in control of our uncontrollable circumstance.

Challenges and stressors can be opportunity for growth mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take time to ask God what He’s trying to teach you in the challenge. In the verses above, Paul tells us to let “gentleness be known to all men.” That can be very difficult when someone wrongs us or hurts us. It can be hard to demonstrate gentleness when we are stressed. But Paul also writes that “the Lord is at hand.” He is near to you in every circumstance and He will be there in the stressful ones too.

You can also choose to maintain a positive point of view. Paul wrote: “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.” When faced up against a stressor, look for what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, and praiseworthy.

Another way to reduce stress in uncontrollable situations is to forgive. Anger and bitterness only adds to stress. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” You can free yourself of unnecessary stress by simply choosing to forgive and if God can choose to forgive you, then you can certainly choose to forgive others.

At times, it can be helpful to share what you are going through with a trusted spouse, a ministry partner, or your pastor. They may not be able to do anything to relieve the stressful situation you are in, but they can encourage you, pray for you and be a listening ear. God brings people into our lives for a reason. Because God knew your stressful situation would occur long before it did, He placed people in your life for just this moment, to help you and encourage you. In the Bible, Esther became Queen. When a decree was issued to wipe out the Jews, Mordecai told Esther to talk to the King. The custom of the day was no one could approach the King unless summoned. If one did and the King did not extend his staff to the person, it was automatic death. In Esther 4:13-14, we find Mordecai’s words to Esther: “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” The people in your life right now where placed there by God “for such as time as this.”

This blog is part 14 in a series. Be sure to begin with part 1.

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