by Julia Bruce
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything,
through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.”
— Philippians 4:6 (HCSB)
Stress management begins with identifying what your stressors are, which you have done in an earlier post. Once we have identified what the stressors are then we can either choose to gripe, complain, and struggle beneath the weight of stress or we can take a Biblical perspective and allow our stress to become something God can use to grow us and draw us closer to Him. If we want the result of our stress to be something that honors God, our first step to stress management is to remember that no matter what we are going through we can take it to God. He does not want us to live a life full of worry, stress, and anxiety. Philippians 4:6 tells us to make our requests known to God. Certainly we want to pray about the things that bring stress and seek God’s best answer to how to deal with the stressor. However, we can also pray that God would give us the wisdom we need to understand ourselves. We can ask Him to help us take responsibility for any role that we might have played in contributing to the stress. We can ask Him to help us know where our limitations are and where we need to bring about a healthy balance in our lives in the areas where we have overextended ourselves. We can ask Him to help us learn habits that will increase resilience. We can ask Him to give us courage to say no when we are asked to take on yet another ministry when that ministry is not God’s plan for us.
Colossians 1:16 says, “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible, and invisible,…everything got started in him and finds it purpose in him” (MSG). Stress can have a purpose. God can work through all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Therefore, stress can have a purpose. When we look at the world, it’s like looking from the sidelines of life. But God is all knowing. There are no surprises for Him. He sees yesterday. He sees today. He sees tomorrow. He sees the circumstances. He sees what Satan is up to the spiritual realm. Therefore, we can know that when we allow God to work through our stress, He can use it as a means to effectively shape us, grow us, and bring Him glory in the process.
At times, we hear God, but we don’t listen and God needs to get our attention. We can sense that maybe this isn’t the direction we need to go, but we think it’s what we want, so we go. God can use the stress we experience when we step out of His plan to get us back on track. The path may not have been a bad path, but it wasn’t His absolute best for us. He can use stress to draw us back to His best plan for us. Therefore, when we are feeling stress we need to stop and ask God if He is trying to get our attention.
Some stress in our lives is the result of misplaced priorities and God can use the stress to help us rediscover and align our priorities in a way that honors Him. God is clear in His Word that He should always be our top priority (Deuteronomy 6:5). If you are married, you second priority should be to your spouse and the third to your children. We definitely need to spend some time with God asking Him if we have our priorities in the right order and if they are in line with what He wants for us. God warned the Israelites in Haggai 1:5-11 to “give careful thought to your ways.” How might God want you to move things around so that your priorities are in line with His?
Another way that God uses stress is to draw us closer to Him. When life is great and we are coasting along without any problems, we have a tendency to become independent. Stress causes us to call on God, to seek Him, and find Him. Psalms 18:6 says, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.” Over and over in the Old Testament we see where the Israelites would stray away from God and then “when they turned to the Lord God of Israel in their distress and sought Him, He was found by them” (2 Chronicles 15:4, HCSB). Stress causes us to seek God and therefore we draw closer to Him.
Stress can also be a way that God disciplines us. Hebrews 12:5-7 says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?” (HCSB) So we need to examine if the stress we are experiencing is due to stepping out of God’s will and could He be disciplining us as a result.
Lastly, God can work through the stress in our life as a way to strengthen our faith and prepare us for what He has planned for us in the near future. In 1 Peter 1:7, we learn that trials are brought into our lives “so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (HCSB) Our faith is like a muscle. The only way a muscle grows is through exercise. As exercises put stress on the muscle, it will grow. Stress is the exercise that helps our faith grow. Therefore, we need to take time to pray and ask God how He might be working through the stress to help our faith grow and how He is preparing us for his perfect plan.
This blog is part 10 in a series. Be sure to begin with part 1.
Return on Monday, October 22 for Part 11 in the blog series on Self-Care.
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