How to Deal with Stress

How to Deal with Stress

“Americans are some of the most stressed out people in the world.” That was the conclusion of the Gallup Global Emotions report and it probably does not surprise you. What might surprise you is that the report was published in 2019. As can imagine, the problem is far worse today than it was a few years ago.

Everyone experiences stress to some degree as part of the natural course of life. When events happen, like a major move, a wedding, or a new baby, our body reacts mentally and physically. This is stress. The trouble lies within the fact that major stressors have become more and more common, and the ability to cope with them has become less and less common. In fact, more than 75% of adults in the US say that stress has caused physical symptoms and affected their behavior and family life. This is a major problem.

Christians are not exempt from stress. Like everyone else we experience loss, health problems, challenges of raising children, financial struggle, moving, major life events, and so many other things that test our faith (cf. Jas. 1:1-2) and stress us out. But we also recognize that we have access to world’s greatest Doctor and most powerful prescription for managing and overcoming the stresses of life. Consider what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-9 (ASV).

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

This context tells us three things about dealing with stress.

First, we must pray regularly (Phil. 4:6). How easy it is for us to take a moment to cast our cares upon God (1 Pet. 5:7) and yet how often we forget to do so. The Philippian brethren has obviously crossed the line of care and concern and ventured into the realm of anxiety. Paul’s command was simple, stop worrying and start praying! The passage uses three separate terms for prayer. “Prayer” is a general term, “supplication” has to do with approaching God with our needs, and “requests” is an all-encompassing word which calls for us to be specific in our prayer and acknowledges our total dependance upon God. Together these terms emphasize the importance of consistent faithful prayer in the Christian’s life, but especially as a solution to stress and anxiety.

Second, we must think clearly (Phil. 4:8). The Bible puts great emphasis on protecting our minds. Solomon said “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life” (Pro. 4:23; NKJV). “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”
(Matt. 12:34). “That which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed…” (Mark 7:20-21). As it pertains to stress, we often make things worse for ourselves by dwelling on the negative and imagining all of the terrible things that may happen, most of which never actually do. Philippians 4:8 says to “think” on things that are good and holy. It is an imperative verb which has to do with fixing our minds in a God-ward direction. One writer put it this way,

The command to think requires his readers “to give careful thought to a matter, consider, ponder, and let one’s mind dwell on something.” Paul is calling for followers of Christ to be attentive, reflective, meditative thinkers. Developing a Christian mind and character requires a lifetime of discerning and disciplined thought about all the things that are excellent and praiseworthy.

Finally, we must live faithfully (Phil. 4:9). The word of God will change our lives for the better, but only when we apply it. The Philippians were responsible for applying the things they had been taught, and seen on display in the life of Paul. The Psalmist asked long ago, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his heart? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9). Colossians 1:9-11 teaches us that having a knowledge of God’s word and applying that knowledge to our lives results in spiritual growth and strengthening of our fellowship with God. Thus, Paul said that doing the will of God results in God being with us. It is not enough for us just to “think” (v. 8) we must also “do”(v. 9)! Stressed can be relieved by remembering the blessings that come along with doing God’s will (Ps. 128).

Americans may be among the most stressed people in the world, but Christians should not be. Yes we will experience stress, everyone does. But our God supplies us with the tools we need to manage it successfully.