Anxiety, worry, tension, pressure, cares, stress, we’ve all experience it in some form or another. As a believer, how are we to handle stress? Stress comes in many forms, occupational, deadlines, physical, familial, financial, future, health, death, social. Stress in these areas is not unique to today’s culture in the United States. In fact, there may have been more stress upon the first century believers as they faced persecution in a hostile society. Slander, riots, government authorities, social alienation to name a few. Added to this was a very low life expectancy. The stress of death was constantly surrounding all people in the first century. Today, we have modern medicine and increased longevity due to advancements in the medical field. In the first century infant mortality was around 50%, if you made it to your teens you could expect to live to between 30 and 40 years old. Stress in the first century abounded.
What is stress and what can it do to you? The following is taken from the Cleveland Clinic website:
Stress is a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, resulting in physical, emotional, and intellectual responses. Stress management training can help you deal with changes in a healthier way.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s stress.
Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger. For example, if you have an important test coming up, a stress response might help your body work harder and stay awake longer. But stress becomes a problem when stressors continue without relief or periods of relaxation.
What happens to the body during stress?
The body’s autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, breathing, vision changes and more. Its built-in stress response, the “fight-or-flight response,” helps the body face stressful situations.
When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body. Physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms develop.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
Aches and pains.
Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.
Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
High blood pressure.
Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
Stomach or digestive problems.
Trouble having sex.
Weak immune system.
Stress can lead to emotional and mental symptoms like:
Anxiety or irritability.
Often, people with chronic stress try to manage it with unhealthy behaviors, including:
Drinking alcohol too much or too often.
Overeating or developing an eating disorder.
Participating compulsively in sex, shopping, or internet browsing.
People make beau coup bucks helping other people handle stress, much is written about stress and how it can be harmful or beneficial but, what does the Bible say about stress? After all, it is our handbook for life. What was the advice given to the first century believers who were not only experiencing the same stressors as most first century people but also suffering persecution being believers? We find our answers in 1 Peter 5. Peter is writing to the “elect” who are living as aliens in a foreign land who were scattered throughout several regions. Peter is writing to believers which now include you and me. We are indeed foreigners on earth because our true and eternal home is in heaven. Just before his concluding remarks, Peter gives instructions to the elders, then to the younger in faith then, in verse 7 of chapter 5, Peter states; “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. A short but powerful verse that can get lost in the multitude of the instructions Peter is giving. A verse that we desire to put into practice but seldom do. A verse that we share with others who are overwhelmed yet, we fail to follow when we are overwhelmed. Peter is saying to cast, to throw away, to throw off, all your anxiety on Him. But we far too often tie a string to those cares and reel them back in. Throw away gives the idea of trash, it’s refused, it’s no good, get rid of it because if you keep it around it will stink, it will rot, maggots will begin to cling to it, it will become harmful to you so throw it out, no strings no take backs. This is trust that God can handle it better than we can, this is faith in God that we truly believe in what He said He will do because He cares for you.
“He cares for you,” hard to fathom the Creator of everything would take the time to care about you and your wellbeing. We think in our own minds that we are insignificant or, that He has better things to do or, that we are too sinful or our problems too small. He cares for you as if you had His undivided attention. This is what omniscience coupled with omnipresence is. He is with you and only you and He knows your stressors, He knows why you’re stressed, and He knows the solution to your stress. In His omnipotence He can give you victory over your stress or carry you through it but only if you allow Him to. You have the power to deny the power to either deliver you or to carry you. I remember a particular time in my life when I was overwhelmed with bad things happening to me, years later, I understand why I had to go through them. My perspective was far to anchored in the things of this world. God had removed most of those things, so my focus changed to utter dependence on Him and that treasure in heaven is far greater that anything this world had to offer.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
My heart was on the things of this world, including my children and my health. God taught me through much heartache and stress to lay up treasure in heaven. God revealed to me that, my treasure in heaven would be far greater because of the suffering in this present life and my renewed focus on doing things His way. These stressors were not immediately removed but God carried me through. Realizing He was indeed my Heavenly Father, He stretched out His arms, picked me up, held me firmly against His chest as I buried my head in His chest, crying because of the present pain, He comforted me, He made me realize He had already taken care of it, He had a plan, a plan for my good, that it was ok to let go and let Him.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
If you’re overwhelmed with stress today, crawl up in your Heavenly Father’s lap, let Him hold you, let Him comfort you. “Let go and let God” do what He does best; love us unconditionally.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.