Stress Management Tips from O.T. Bible Characters

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Coping with unchangeable stressors

Since we all experience stress, wouldn’t it be great if we had some good stress management tips? It would be great if we could simply change things and circumstances every time we feel stress. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. Some good, Biblical stress management tips would be helpful.

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?

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 and what we can do. Several well-known Bible characters found themselves in stressful situation, and many times they were in situations they could not control. We can learn how from these Bible characters and how they handled the stress they experienced. Let’s look at the tips they have to offer us.

Abraham’s Tips: Have faith in God. He will provide a way.

The first of our tips come from Abraham. Can you imagine the stress that Abraham felt climbing a mountain to sacrifice Isaac, the promised son, in obedience to God? If you recall, first God tells Abraham to back up and go to land that God would show him. No directions were given. All God said was “pack and go.”

Then God promised Abraham that the Redeemer, the Savior of the world, would come from his lineage. God also promised that the Savior would come through Isaac’s lineage. And God had promised Abraham that his descendants 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, yet he knew that God would. Yet it must have been a very stressful and difficult time for Abraham. And we learn in Genesis 22 that it took Abraham, Isaac, and Abraham’s men that went with them three days to go to the place God had instructed. Three, difficult and stressful days.

Abraham’s faith

But when they reach the mountain, we see Abraham faith. He told his men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5) Abraham didn’t tell them, I will come back to you. He said we will come back to you. In fact, He had so much faith in God that either God would bring Isaac back to life or spare him that when Isaac questioned Abraham about not having a lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham replies to his son, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8)

Abraham’s stress management tips would be, “Have faith in God. He will provide a way.”

Moses’ Tips: Stop doing things your way. Turn to God, He will deliver you

Our next tips come from Moses. From the time Moses enters the scene on the pages of the Bible as a baby, stress begins. At the time his was born, Pharaoh had instructed that all the male babies be killed. But God had a plan for Moses’ life and his mother hides him until he is too big to hide. She then makes a basket and places him in it and places it in the Nile river to float. Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby and her heart is stirred. She adopts him as her own and he is returned to his own mother to nurse. Once he is weaned, he goes to live in the palace of Egypt where he will learn all he needs to know to become the person God uses to free the Israelites from slavery.

The time Moses tried to do things his way

But Moses gets ahead of God’s plans and tries to accomplish God’s plans his own way. When he sees an Egyptian task master beating a Hebrew slave, Moses commits murder, then has to flee and go into hiding. He becomes a shepherd where he will learn everything he needs to know to shepherd God’s chosen nation. So the first of his tips to us would be “Stop doing it your way and wait on God.”

Moses encounters God

Then at the right time, Moses has an encounter with God through a burning bush. (I’m not sure if that would fall under eustress or stress…or both!) and God sends him back to Pharaoh to say to him, “Hey, Pharaoh. My God says to let His people go.” No stress there, right? Then we see all the plagues and eventually ten plagues, Pharaoh does send all the people away.

But then Pharaoh regrets his decision and become angry and he rallies his entire army to go after them. So at the edge of the Red Sea, Moses and the people are trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army. But God parts the Red Sea and the people walk through it on dry ground. Pharaoh’s army follows them but God brought the waters back together and the entire army was drowned.

The stress of leading God’s complaining people

But that’s not the end of Moses’ stress. They are now safely on the other side, but there is no water to drink. When they come to some water, it is not drinkable. The people begin to murmur and complain to Moses. So Moses asks God what to do. God shows Moses a piece of wood and he throws it into the water and the water becomes fit to drink.

On another occasion, the people complain that there is no food to eat, and God sends manna. Then they complain there is no meat to eat, and God sends quail.

Moses’ meeting with God

When they finally reach the mountain where God will give Moses the Ten Commandments, God says, “Come up to the top of mountain to me.” Again, I’m not sure if that would count as eustress or stress. Probably some of both. After the business is concluded, God tells Moses to go back down the mountain because the people had built an idol and was worshiping it.

Basically, Moses’ life is one stressor after another but he always turned to God (except for that time he attempted to things his way and murdered a guy – maybe it taught him to turn to God) and he saw God deliver him over and over again. But if he could give us some stress management tips, he would say, “Stop doing things your way. Turn to God. Wait for Him and He will deliver you.”

Job’s Tips: It’s okay to question God. But don’t stay there. Humble yourself before God and give Him the praise

Job has our next tips. Of all the people in the Bible it is likely that no other Old Testament Bible character suffered more than Job. So, from his experiences, he has some valuable tips for us when we find ourselves in the midst of tragedy and distress.

Job was a guy who had it all. A great family, a respected, well-known name, and he was rich. But then Satan comes before God and seeks God’s permission to bring disaster and misfortune to Job and told God that if Satan could take away all the blessings God had given him, Job would curse God. As a result, Job loses it all. His children died, his wealth taken away, his livestock died, his crops all died, and his health was gone. His wife just wanted Job to curse God and die. Job’s friends told him all that had happened to Job was his own fault and that if he would just confess his sin to God, God might restore blessings upon job.

However, no matter what trouble Satan heaped upon Job, Job did not curse God. He did the complete opposite. He praised God. In Job 1:20-21, we find: “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I come from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'”

Job had questions, too!

Certainly, Job had questions about why everything happened to him. Just as we would, Job struggled with all the suffering that came in his life. In Job 10:1-4, Job says, “I am disgusted with my life. I will express my complaint and speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God: “Do not declare me guilty! Let me know why You prosecute me. It is good for You to oppress, to reject the work of Your hands, and favor the plans of the wicked? Do You have eyes of flesh, or do You see as a human sees?”

When tragedy and difficult times come in our life, it is only natural to question God and wonder why such things happen. But if Job could give us some tips on managing stress, he would say, “It’s okay to question God for why you are experiencing this. But don’t stay there. Humble yourself before God, repent, and worship Him with praise and thanksgiving.

David’s Tips: Cry aloud to the Lord. He will hear you and He will help you.

David gives our next tips. David was no stranger to stress. Even as a shepherd boy, the Bible tells us that whenever a lion or bear came after the sheep, David would go after it, kill it, and result the sheep from the animal’s mouth. (1 Samuel 17:34-35) But then here comes Samuel, the prophet who anoints David as king over Israel while Saul was still on the throne.

David then spends a good number of years running from Saul because Saul becomes jealous and seeks to kill David over and over again. As a result, we find David living in caves and hiding out. He and the men who followed him lived on whatever food they could find or what was donated to them by loyal followers. Yet, David never took Saul’s life. He waited for God to remove Saul from the throne. Eventually, in the heat of battle Saul is injured and to avoid being captured, he falls on his own sword.

David cried aloud to the Lord

There are many psalms that show us that David always took his struggles, fears, and questions to God. And his tips to us is to do the same. In Psalm 142:1-2, David says, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my compliant; before him I tell my trouble.” And in Psalm 18:6, David says, “I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.”

If David could give us some stress management tips, he would say, “Cry aloud to the Lord. He will hear you. Pour out your heart to him and tell him all your troubles. He will help you.”

Esther’s Tips: You were placed in this situation for such a time as this. Seek God’s purpose and follow his plan.

Our last tips come from Esther. 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. So, for Esther she faced one of three possible outcomes: 1) death because of a decree against the Jews, 2) death if the king did not extend his staff, or 3) life if the king allowed her to approach him with her request.

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?” As the story unfolds, we find that indeed God placed her in the exact place and time to save the Jews from annihilation. So she, too, has some tips for us.

If Esther could give us some stress management tips, she would say, “You were placed in this moment of time and in this situation for such a time as this. Seek God’s purpose and follow His plan.”

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We know that ministry is hard! When you serve in ministry as staff or volunteer, you are on a spiritual battlefield 24/7. As you serve God, you fight for the Kingdom of God and our adversary is constantly attacking. He wants you to either lose your effectiveness in your ministry role or get you to quit. We must be sure we are reconnecting to the Vine (Jesus) so that we can refill, renew, and recharge. Then we can keep on pouring into others.

If you are feeling like you are losing the fight or struggling to stay in the fight, Jesus says to you, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31) Self-care is both Biblical and necessary, if you are going to stay in the fight and be effective in the Kingdom of God. Stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue are real weapons that the adversary uses against us.

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