by Barb Mazarakos
Stress. It is something we talk about regularly, an always-present part of the daily lives of so many people. Trying to balance work, family, and volunteer commitments along with paying the bills, keeping up the home, and caring for young children or aging parents- sometimes both at the same time- starts to take its toll. You may first notice it in your attitude- perhaps you become grumpy or snap more readily when someone makes you upset. Then you notice the physical toll. You don’t sleep as well, your jaw hurts, your shoulders are so tense you feel like that are up to your ears because you just can’t seem to let go of the stress and relax your body. Stress can be controlled and sometimes even a positive force in our life; it can help motivate us to get things done and push us to do better. Good stress is usually short term with a goal in sight. But then there is bad stress. Bad stress lasts longer and causes us anxiety and worry. It’s the bad stress that we need to be concerned with and work on eliminating from our days.
The Bible gives us some great direction when it comes to dealing with stress. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How often do you turn to prayer when you feel anxious? I can say that for me, it’s not often enough. I know in my head that I should. I know that’s what the Bible tells me to do. Yet sometimes I guess I feel that I still know “better” or can handle the stress “better” on my own. Better. That’s the word I keep coming back to. But is there anything “better” than the Word of God to help guide us through the peaks and valleys of our days? Will we ever know “better” than the One who created us and all that is around us? We all know the answer to those questions. No. No, we do not know “better”, we cannot do “better” than God Himself.
Some days, when stress gets to be too much, I find myself saying “I just need a break!” The truth is, if I just stop to think back on what I know and stop trying to control every last thing myself (a classic trait among those enduring stress, by the way) I already have the answer to my “break.” The Lord tells us in His Book, and in many ways: Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Luke 12:22, “Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” Proverbs 3: 5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” God has already given us the remedy for our stress, but it is up to us to use it. When you feel most busy, most anxious, most stressed- spend time with God. Read His word, speak to Him in prayer, slow down and make time for worship. Who better to help you work out your stress than the One who created you to begin with?