by Julia M. Bruce
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience
various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces
endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you
may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” — James 1:2-4 (HCSB)
Stress. Just the reading the word may have made you feel some level of stress. There is really no way to go through life without it. Babies experience it while still in the womb. Children feel it when separated from loving parents or when it is time for a test in school. Teenagers experience it learning to drive and beginning to navigate life with more independence. College students experience learning to do life with roommates, learning to be responsible, and making choices that will affect the rest of their lives. Newlyweds experience it as they learn to live together and do life together. It’s in the corporate world. It’s in the financial world. It’s in the medical world. It’s in politics. It’s in your senior years. It shows up at work, in your family, and even amongst friends. Ministry is no different. Just because you answer the call to serve God, your obedient “yes” does not save you from stress. Jesus even warned the disciples in John 16:33 (HCSB), “You will have suffering in this world.” Sometimes the stress we experience is of our own making when we step out of God’s best for us. Sometimes it comes outside of anything we can control. The short of it is that you, and me, can be assured that we will experience stress. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t end what He was saying to the disciples with just that statement. He went on to say, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” And that is very good news!
However, James also told us that we are to consider the various trails we face in life not just a joy, but a great joy. Why? Because through them we are able to watch how Jesus conquers them and then our faith grows and we are ready for the next thing He would have us do. But as James teaches us, increased faith only happens when endurance does its complete work in us. Endurance begins in understanding stress better, and we’ll start with explaining what stress is.
The best definition of stress comes from combining two online dictionaries to create a solid understanding of stress. Using these two dictionaries, stress is, “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances that disturbs or interferes with one’s normal physiological equilibrium. A physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” (Google) (Dictionary.com) If you think about a rubber band being stretched, then you can see how stress can affect you. Either of two things happen: one can stretch and stretch until the rubber band slips and then it sling shots across the room leaving a stinging mark on whatever – or whomever – it hits. The other results is to stretch and stretch until it reaches its breaking point. Then it snaps and leaves a stinging mark on the person who is stretching it. The more stress we feel the more we can be like the rubber band and leave our stinging marks on those around us or on ourselves. The only problem is that it also hurts our testimony and therefore the very ministry we have been called to. So take a moment and answer the following questions:
- What part of your ministry is stressful?
- What part of your home and personal life is stressful?
- What financial stress are you experiencing?
- Are there any health stressors?
- Add any other stressors in your life.
Consider each of these areas and evaluate if the stressor is leaving its mark on others, yourself, or your ministry. If it is, highlight them. Very likely, you highlighted every single one of them because it is just about impossible to experience stress without it leaving a mark somewhere. The questions then become: Are the marks your stress is leaving negative or positive marks? Are the marks negative or positive on those around you? Are they negative or positive to your ministry? If there are positive stress marks, place a positive sign in the margin. If it is negative, then place a negative symbol in the margin. You may find that there are both positive and negative marks.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” No matter what stress we are experiencing, we can bring it to Him and find rest, comfort, strength, and wisdom. Spend some time and look up a verse in your Bible that would speak to each one of the stressors you identified. Begin working on memorizing these verses so when the moments of stress come in these areas, you can speak the verse over your stress.
This blog is part 5 in a series on Self-Care. Be sure to begin with part 1.
Return on Thursday, October 4th for Part 6 in the blog series on Self-Care.
Part 6: Is there good stress?