by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

God will provide a way for what causes you stress

The most important perception to any stress is on a spiritual level. When we look at 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”

Stress management begins with identifying what your stressors are, which you have done in the previous posts and you may have been editing them as you learned more about eustress and distress. Take a moment to review your list and add any new stressors that have come up since then or cross through ones that are no longer in the picture. For stressors that have been solved, write out how God provided for that situation and take times to give Him praise. If you are new to our self-care series, make a list of the things that cause stress in your life.

What will you do with your stressors?

Now that you have a good picture of what your current stressors are, you must choose what you will do with them. You can either choose to gripe, complain, and struggle beneath their weight 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, the stressor we are dealing with, and how to resolve it.

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.

Also, 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.

And we can look for the ways that God is using the stress in our lives as an opportunity for growth that will prepare us for the next mission He has for us.

Seek God’s Wisdom

Because God loves us and He is faithful, God will give us the grace we need to overcome any situation. We need to first seek God and His wisdom. We need to ask for His grace for the situation. Remember that God has already equipped us for the ministry He has called us to, so, we can ask Him to show us the skills and abilities He has given us to handle the situation. We need to ask Him about what He is trying to teach us in the situation. How might He be trying to grow us through it or teach us something new about Himself? We need to ask ourselves how much we trust God to help us overcome, work through, and give us the grace to endure.

As people in ministry, this begins with prayer and seeking God’s will. If something is not His will or part of His plan for our life or the ministry He has called us to, then there needs to be some pruning that takes place and cut out the obligations you’ve committed to that are outside His will and plan. Learn to become comfortable with saying “no” to any activity that does not align with God’s plan. Then you will have more time and energy to focus on His perfect plan for you and the ministry He has called you to.

Stress can have a purpose

Colossians 1:16 says, “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible, and invisible,…everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him” (MSG). Stress can have a purpose. That thing or person causing you stress has a purpose. That crowd of church members opposing you has a purpose. That financial debt has a purpose. The difficult child has a purpose. That troubled marriage has a purpose. That health crisis has a purpose. What’s the purpose? To bring honor and glory to God. That honor and glory can manifest itself in multiple ways, such as bringing the lost to God, or growing our faith, deepening our relationship with God, teaching us to humbly wait and depend on Him. God can work through all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

When we look at the world, it’s like looking from the sidelines of life. But God is all knowing, all sovereign. There are no surprises for Him. He sees yesterday. He sees today. And He sees tomorrow. God sees the circumstances. He sees what Satan is up to the spiritual realm. He sees and knows what we do not. Therefore, we can know that when we allow God to work through our stress, He can use it to effectively shape us, grow us, and bring Him glory in the process.

Is God trying to get your attention?

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.

Stress caused by misplaced priorities

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, your 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?

God can use our stress to draw us closer to Him

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 tend to become independent and self-reliant. 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 be the result of God’s discipline

No one likes to be disciplined, but stress can also be one of the ways 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.

God can use our stress to grow our faith and prepare us for His plans

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.

Commissioned and Sent – but not on your own power

Let’s look back at Mark 6 once again where in verse 7 Jesus commissioned the twelve and sent them out. The Bible tells us that Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority and then He sent the out. He didn’t send them out under their own power. He gave them His power. Whatever ministry God has called you to, He has given you His power to successfully complete the mission to which you have been called. But you must choose to tap into the power source and use it.

If the disciples went out afraid that God’s power was only meant for Jesus or were too scared that they would fail, how many lives would have missed out on being changed? What experiences would the disciples have missed out on? What kind of accounting would they have had to give to Jesus when they returned? Just as Jesus did not send the disciples out on an assignment without empowering them for the task, God will not send you out into ministry without giving you the power you need to accomplish His plan.

You’re invited to rest with Jesus

Let’s skip down to verse 30 of Mark 6. The disciples are now returning to Jesus and told Him everything they had done and everything they had taught. Can you imagine the scene? They are so excited, and they are all talking over one another. Thankfully, our sovereign Savior hears every voice as if it was the only one speaking. They are pumped up and have been running on the power that Jesus gave them. In fact, they had been so busy that verse 31 tells us they had not even had time to eat. Can you imagine being that busy? I personally find that there is always time for pizza and Dr. Pepper! Yet, even in their excitement, Jesus knew they were exhausted and hungry. So, Jesus invites them to come away with him for a time of rest.

Did you catch that? Jesus invites them to come away with him for a time of rest. Jesus doesn’t tell them to take a vacation or to go get a nap. He doesn’t send them away and say, “Hey guys, I can tell you’re really tired right now. Why don’t you go home and get some rest then come back when you are refreshed and ready to do more ministry.” No. He tells them to come away with him.

Certainly, there are times when we need to take a vacation and take some time to rest, refresh, and renew ourselves physically and spiritually. But when we do, don’t do it without Jesus. Psalm 62:5-8 says, “Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to him for God is our refuge.”

ISO: True rest

Do you ever lay down at night and try to sleep, but you simply cannot fall asleep? Your mind spins with whatever is causing you stress. Or you are busy planning out all the task that need to be accomplished tomorrow. Perhaps you make mental checklists of the meetings and appointments you have tomorrow. You spend hours – maybe even all night – in search of true rest. Sometimes the elusive physical rest we need escapes us because we need to first find spiritual rest.

Whatever it is that keeps you awake at night, you will never find true rest apart from Jesus. Only when we get alone with Jesus will we find the place where we can renew our strength. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We won’t find it fretting and worrying about what stresses us. We won’t find it in frantically trying to solve the problem on our own power. Rest comes when we get alone with God, be still, and bask in His presence. When we find true rest in His presence and trust Him to work out our problems, cares, and concerns for our good, then our minds will relax and we will be able to sleep and find physical rest.

Just when you think there is time for rest – their is more ministry to do

So, the disciples go away with Jesus, looking forward to some much needed rest. Can you imagine, then, as they get to this place of rest that there is a multitude of people there waiting for them? Can you see them each looking around and asking, “I thought He said we’d get away to rest? Yet – here is another multitude of people.”

Because Jesus is God, he already knew the multitude would be there waiting for them. He was not surprised by it. But Jesus promised the disciples a time of rest, renewal, refreshment. So if Jesus knew the multitude would be there and this is where Jesus took his disciples for rest, what was it about the multitude of people that would meet the need the disciples had?

Because of their hunger and exhaustion, the multitude was a very big stressors through the eyes of the disciples. But through the eyes of Jesus, the multitude would meet a need. The multitude had a physical need of hunger. The disciples were hungry also, but they also had a need of spiritual hunger. As Jesus met the physical need of the multitude, he would also meet the spiritual need of his disciples.  And, in doing so, Jesus will teach the disciples yet another lesson that will equip them and prepare them for spreading the gospel once Jesus is no longer with them.

When rest is elusive, all you see is the stress

As the exhausted, hungry disciples look out over the multitude, probably with also some feelings of disappointment that that elusive rest Jesus promised is not quite yet coming, all they see is a problem – the people are hungry and there is nothing they have that could feed them all. They tell Jesus to send them away. Don’t we do that with our stressors? We pray and ask Jesus to remove the stress from our lives. The disciples just walked right up to Jesus and said, “Send them home, Jesus. They are all hungry.” (They were probably also thinking, “And so are we!”) But Jesus had a plan for them and for the multitude.

Jesus tells the disciples, “You feed them.” Can you imagine their stunned faces? As they survey the crowd to see what food was around, all they found was five loaves of bread and two small fish. They inform Jesus of what was available. Jesus tells them to have the people sit in groups of about fifty people each. So, they get the people to sit down. Jesus blesses the food and begins to break it apart. Every single person there had not just something to eat – they ate until they could eat no more and when they were done, they took up twelve baskets of leftovers.

Stress with a spiritual lesson

What was the spiritual lesson for the disciples, and us, to learn? That our “available little bit” is more than enough when it is placed in the hands of Jesus. Like the disciples you have been supernaturally equipped for Your calling. Like those seated on the grassy plain were empty and hungry, when we are stressed out, we are also empty and hungry, spiritually. Just as Jesus fed the multitude of people with five loaves of bread and two fish, along with 12 baskets of leftovers, Jesus stands ready to fill you today, along with leftovers to carry you through to the next battle you face.

When it comes down to it, every single one of us who profess to be a child of God, is in ministry. You have been equipped and called to serve God and to minister to the lost. Every single one of us have an assignment, a battle mission, and there will come a day for when we must give an account for what He has called us to do. Will Jesus say “well done”? The key to avoiding stress, burnout and compassion fatigue is getting alone with Jesus and placing our “little bit” in the palm of his hand and watch the miracle that Jesus will do with it.

­                 .

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