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How did Jesus Handle Stress?

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

Stress. Just 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 it learning to do life with roommates, learning to be responsible, and in 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. Stress is in the medical world. It’s in politics. It’s in your senior years. It shows up at work, in your family, and even among friends.

Stress in Ministry

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.” He didn’t say “if.” He said, “You will.” 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!

Jesus experienced stress

Jesus himself experienced stress while he was on earth. The Son of God who took on human flesh and walked on earth, lived among men, and had the hardest task ever given – one that would determine eternity for every person God created. Jesus knows what stress is. He knew exactly what would be lost if for any reason He failed in His mission. We would be lost. If He failed, we would not have a choice to accept Him as our Savior. It would mean that every one of us would have no hope of spending eternity in heaven. It would mean that all of us would be destined for an eternity in hell.

If anyone was ever under pressure to accomplish His mission, it would have been Jesus. On the night He was betrayed in the garden, we can hear the stress and anxiety His human body felt as he prayed for God to take “this cup,” the task of going to the cross, away from Him. He was under so much stress that the Bible says he sweated drops of blood while he was praying.

How Jesus handled Stress

Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us that we are to be imitators of God. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we who are Christians are being transformed into His image. If we are to be “Christ-like,” then we need to see how He handled stress and listen to His instructions for the moments of life that are stressful.

The Bible doesn’t give us much information about Jesus’ growing up years, but we do know from the moment we see Him beginning His ministry at age 30 (Luke 3:23), He was faced with expectations by Jews who believed that if He was the Messiah, he would set up an earthly kingdom and free them from the Romans. Jesus was spied on and questioned by Sadducees and Pharisees who constantly tried to trip Him up and discredit Him to the ones who did believe in Him. He was either greatly loved, or greatly hated.

There was a constant demand to perform miracles, but He never ran away from the people. He didn’t use the disciples as bodyguards who people had to get through to get Him.  Jesus even made Himself available to little children. He had the responsibility for training and preparing His twelve disciples to be the ones who would carry the gospel message to the world after He would return to Heaven. When the disciples failed to understand something Jesus was teaching them, we never see Him yell at them.  Even as He faced the cross, we don’t see Jesus arguing with Pilate when he sentenced Jesus to death just so Pilate could appease the people and avoid an angry mob.  

No matter what stress He faced, we never once see Him crumble. The Bible never tells us of one moment where Jesus felt lost or helpless or hopeless.

How did Jesus do it all?

When the disciples tried to send away little children who they saw as being in Jesus’ way, Jesus stopped them and welcomed them. It makes us want to ask, “How did Jesus do it all?” Of course, He was the Son of God, but He was also human, and therefor, our example.

In Mark 6, we find Jesus and the disciples exhausted. They had been so busy doing ministry that they had not even had time to eat. So Jesus tells them to take some time to go away to a remote place and rest but the crowds of people saw them leaving and ran ahead of them. When Jesus and the disciples stepped on shore he doesn’t send them away. Verse 34 tells us that Jesus had compassion on them and began to teach them. Then he feeds 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  

Even as Jesus neared his death and upcoming crucifixion, He set the example for us. When Peter cut off an ear of a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus, He picked up the ear and miraculously put it back on. On the way to the cross, as He stumbled beneath the load of carrying the cross they would nail Him to, He turns to the women crying for Him and says, “Do not weep for me” (Luke 23:28). Even on the cross we cries out to God saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus: A model for emotional strength in times of stress

Throughout His life, we see Christ model emotional strength, sense of purpose, and motivation. Yes, He was the Son of God…but do not lose the fact that while on earth, He was also human and He experienced stress just as we do. However, we never see Him giving in to the pressures of stress.

Jesus taught us that we should not stress and worry. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus taught, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Then in verses 32-34, He says, “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.”

It sounds really good to just simply “not worry” but it isn’t easy in practice. In Psalm 121:1-2, David asks, “Where will my help come from?” Then he answers his own questions with, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Habakkuk 3:19 says, “Yahweh my Lord is my strength.” And in John 14:26, Jesus told us, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” 

Jesus not only set an example, He also gave us the power of God living in us through the Holy Spirit that can help us meet every stressful situation we face.

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