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Stress can best be described as a state of mind that causes tension and feelings of anxiety and worry that works itself out in our physical bodies and exhibit signs like hypertension, headaches, aches and pains, along with difficulty in sleeping.
Most of the time we view stress as unhealthy as it negatively affects our health, work, finances, family, and the future. There is, however, a positive side to stress, and that is it keeps us safe when dangerous situations occur.
But too much stress produces a myriad of physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension and aches, restlessness, high blood pressure, upset stomach and nausea, tiredness, fatigue, and sleep disorders. Stress leading to anxiety has also been linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide.
Now, besides the physical symptoms, emotional problems also surface such as fear, anger, irritation, along with sadness, depression, being overwhelmed, and panic attacks.
So I think it’s safe to say that stress is nothing to mess around with.
Now, there are three realities about stress that we need to understand.
First, stress doesn’t work, because it accomplishes and solves nothing. It’s like pushing the gas petal in a car while it remains in park. It revs up the engine, makes a lot of noise, but goes nowhere.
Next, stress isn’t reasonable. It exaggerates problems making mountains out of molehills. It expands the problem making it bigger than it really is.
And finally, stress strangles life right out of us. This comes from the Old English word for “worry,” which means to strangle.
So predominate is stress in our culture that a whole new medical field was developed to deal with it, Psychology. But the good news is that God is our Great Physician, and has written out the prescription.
The Bible says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV)
What Solomon is saying is that stress weighs heavily upon the heart causing all kinds of heart related illnesses. It also moves us away from trusting God to where we start trusting in ourselves instead. Stress, therefore, is the sin of not trusting God.
For the next several moments, let’s look at a couple of the top stressors and their cures.
Busyness is one of the big stressors of our day. What’s sad, however, it that its considered one of our society’s biggest virtues. We talk with pride about our ability to multitask and work long hours, but these are actually counterproductive because of all the stress they produce.
But God never created us for this type of life.
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” (Psalm 127:2, NLT)
As I like to say, if we’re burning the candle at both ends, then we’re not as bright as we think.
The prescription to busyness is found in what King David wrote in Psalm 23.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:2 NKJV)
When we give our lives over to God, He gives us rest and refreshment, and helps us live a more balanced life.
I like how David puts it saying that God “makes” us lie down. In other words, if we don’t stop to smell the roses now, God might make us lie down and smell them from a hospital bed.
Nothing destroys a soul faster than guilt.
King David said, “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:4 NKJV)
One of the many ways we feel guilty is by the mistakes, or sins, we commit. But notice what the Bible says concerning these feelings.
“God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins.” (Romans 3:23, LB)
Jesus as already paid for our sins when He died upon the cross and rose from the dead. No psychologist can ever remove our guilt, because only God has the power to forgive our sins, and thus the guilt that goes along with them.
Indecisions are another big stressor. Maybe it’s because we know that while we make our decisions, our decisions make us, and every decision has consequences. That’s why decisions are so stressful, which is why we shy away from making them.
God’s prescription for indecision is to understand that God feeds and leads, provides and guides, and protects and directs.
And while we make our plans, things change, and so we need to learn how to trust the Lord when we don’t understand, and when things just don’t make sense.
When the Jewish people began their march to freedom from their bondage to the Egyptians, God led them to what they considered to be a dead end, that is, the Red Sea. But, God had already made a way for them to cross; it was just a path they couldn’t see at the time.
“Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!” (Psalm 77:19, NLT)
God’s path for us leads us through Calvary and Jesus’s death upon the cross, but the end is an eternity in heaven in His presence.
People are so concerned about the future that they never enjoy or live in the present.
But Jesus tells us not to allow the future to stress us out.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34, NLT)
So, instead of stressing out about what lies ahead, let’s invest in what matters now, and that is the Kingdom of God and our relationship with Christ.
To end our time, I’d like to give some basic advice from the Bible to help reduce our stress.
While many know that God cares, they just don’t believe that He cares for them.
David begins Psalm 23 by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1 NKJV)
Like a shepherd the Lord is going to take care of us. He will provide, protect, guide, and correct those who place their trust in Him.
We see this very thing in what the prophet Isaiah says.
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NKJV)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)
Peace of mind then is the greatest evidence we’re being healed, which is what happens when we turn our stress over to God.
The Apostle Peter said, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT)
Therefore we need to pray about what has us so stressed out, and then we’ll have a lot less to stress about.
Jesus gives us the reason why we need to focus on God through these times.
“Therefore I say to you, 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?” (Matthew 6:25 NKJV)
And then He gives us the prescription
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
And so, let me end our time together with this Scripture, which when believed will greatly reduce our stress.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study