Is your stress turning into distress? Do you wonder how you can continue to cope with the pressures of daily life and the frantic pace of the world around you? You may want to consider seven powerful biblical strategies for overcoming stress.
In this age of wars, dangers, crises and disasters, can we as individuals find peace?
How are you and your family coping with the pressures, challenges and stresses of daily life? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 28.8 percent of adult Americans will have some form of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias, to name a few.
"Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18 percent) in a given year, causing them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty. Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated. Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse" (Anxiety Disorders, NIH Publication No. 09 3879, p. 1).
In our technological 21st century, it seems that the pace of life and intensity of activities has accelerated. It is no wonder that many experience extreme apprehension and anxieties. Just the stress of everyday life can kill us. We commute in congested traffic, we interact with angry, argumentative people; we face financial, social, personal and job-related problems. And then, add to those stresses the frightening terrors threatening our cities and nations!
Millions—even billions—of people around the world suffer from negative stress, anxiety disorders and psychological pressures of all sorts. Are you frustrated, nervous and anxious? Do you worry about your future?
Thankfully, Jesus Christ proclaimed the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God. He will establish His Kingdom and save planet Earth from total destruction (Matthew 24:22)! He assures us: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). That good news is encouraging, and it gives us hope! Christ also warns us of dangerous events to come. The world right now lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19, KJV). God will judge the nations. But you can have peace even in these difficult times. In this article, we will consider seven strategies to overcome stress.
Christ warned us of great cataclysmic events at the end of this age. Many will die from fear and stress. Notice: "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:25–26).
Will you let fear overwhelm you? We must face the future with faith!Christ Himself gives us this encouragement: "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:27–28).
When end-time prophecies come to pass, should we let stress, anxiety and phobias cripple us or even kill us? No! Christ instructs us to "look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." Yes, the time of His second coming draws near! We can face the future with faith!
Christ exhorts us, "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). Facing the reality of our times will motivate us to pray for—and prepare for—Jesus Christ's coming Kingdom that will bring world peace! Are you alert to prophetic trends? Now is the time to draw close to God, and He will give you the gift of faith to endure the end-times with confidence, not fear!
If you have read any books or articles on health principles, you know that regular physical exercise can relieve one of stress. I personally learned that lesson years ago. I even wrote in my personal journal, "When depressed, go out and jog." I found that through exercise, I could experience genuine relief from tensions and stress!
The Apostle Paul compared physical exercise with spiritual life. "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Paul meant that godliness and its fruits will last beyond our physical lives. But physical or bodily exercise does profit us! The NIV states it this way, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things."
God also tells us to glorify Him in our body and in our spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). Are you glorifying God in your body and in your spirit?
Writer Elizabeth Scott, at About.com, sums up some benefits of physical exertion: "Exercise can decrease 'stress hormones' like cortisol, and increase endorphins, your body's 'feel-good' chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost." ("Exercise and Stress Relief: Using Exercise as a Stress Management Tool, Stress and Exercise: Look Better, Feel Better").
Yes, research has demonstrated the benefits of regular physical exercise. But in our technological age, some become addicted to their technology. Those who work at a desk, a personal computer, or in a sedentary job, need to get up and walk away from their technology; some recommend doing so for ten minutes out of every hour.
We know that technology can be beneficial, but can you have too much of a good thing? Can excess make you unhappy? Notice this report: "Spending hours on the Internet may trigger depression, say researchers from Australia and China... researchers measured symptoms of anxiety and depression in all the participants and found that those who reported having been more addicted to the Internet to start were 2.5 times more likely to be depressed than those who did not feel so tied to their computers. This was true even of students who did not show signs of depression at the beginning of the study" ("Obsessive Internet Use Linked with Depression in Teens," TIME, August 2, 2010).
We need godly balance in our lives that will benefit others, as well as our own health and well-being. Many health agencies recommend walking as an excellent form of exercise, particularly for senior citizens. The Bible commonly uses walking as a metaphor for spiritual living. Notice that the Apostle John writes, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6).
Yes, we need to follow the life and example of Jesus Christ, and to walk and live as He walked and lived! We are physical human beings, and we need to glorify God in our bodies by applying the physical laws of radiant health. Then we can experience more peace of mind and body.
When you face anxieties, remember that your Bible is a treasure house of God's sure and wonderful promises. You need to apply biblical strategies for overcoming anxiety and stress.
The Apostle Peter gives us strong encouragement: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:2–4).
In the Bible, God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises! He has promised to answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7–8); He has promised to fulfill all our needs (Philippians 4:19); He has promised to guide our lives (Proverbs 3:5–6); He has promised us long life if we honor our father and mother (Ephesians 6:2–3); He has promised to give us the desires of our heart if we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4–5); He has promised us peace of mind (Philippians 4:6–7); He has promised us the ability to endure trials (1 Corinthians 10:13); He has promised the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Luke 11:13); He has promised us the gift of His love (Romans 5:5); and He has promised us eternal life (1 John 2:25).
Study these promises in your Bible. With faith, ask God to fulfill these promises in your life, and you will begin to have greater peace of mind! There are many, many more promises in the Bible for you and your family—and for all human beings. As you claim these promises in prayer, you can overcome stress and anxiety.
One major cause of stress often involves our relationships with others. Some people grow up in dysfunctional homes. They may have burdens of guilt, or may hold long-term resentment toward others, even a husband or wife. If this describes you, have you considered "letting go" and letting God take care of the situation? Remember, "Do not say, 'I will recompense evil'; wait for the Lord, and He will save you" (Proverbs 20:22).
Have you considered forgiving those who have oppressed you? Christ taught us to forgive others. Remember the model prayer He taught us, which includes: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). Have you forgiven anyone recently? Forgiveness can even help us to overcome depression, as Paul Meier, M.D. wrote in his book, Don't Let Jerks Get the Best of You: "A patient can be depressed for many years, then forgive the one who caused his repressed anger and totally recover from the depression, because his serotonin has been restored naturally and the brain is able to work correctly" (p. 170).
Forgiving others can produce peace of mind. You can turn your anxious life around, and can begin to experience joy and happiness.
Are you what some call a "worry-wart"? Do you let your fears and worries produce emotional and physical stress in your life? The patriarch Job said, "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me" (Job 3:25). Job expected his fears to materialize. He was practicing what some would call a "self-fulfilling prophecy." He did not pray about his fears.
You need to acknowledge your fears and worries and ask God for His help! Consider this simple yet profound biblical strategy: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). In other words, share your worries, your fears and your concerns with God in prayer!
Do you confront your worries, concerns and fears? Pray about everything that worries you. Share your intimate thoughts with God. He knows them anyway! Notice Paul's command that you should pray "with thanksgiving" (v. 6). Thank God for all your blessings. Thank God for the very privilege of asking for His intervention, and for victory over your anxieties. When you and I follow these instructions, what is the result? "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (v. 7).
We express our faith in God's willingness to help us, by thanking Him, as we share our worries with Him. So, pray about your problems. And pray with an attitude of thanksgiving. Thank God that He is willing to help you overcome your anxieties and fears, and that He is willing to give you peace of mind.
How many times have I told myself in times of stress: "Maintain a positive and tranquil mind"? The Apostle Paul experienced severe difficulties and great stress. He wrote: "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep" (2 Corinthians 11:24–25).
How did Paul cope with those stresses? He focused on maintaining a positive attitude! Even while he was in prison, he wrote encouragement to others. Paul exhorts us to think on these subjects: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8–9).
Think about those things that are true! What is truth? Christ prayed to the Father: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). The Bible, God's word, is truth. Think about those scriptures that are important to you. Read your Bible. Mark, highlight or underline those verses that mean something special or significant to you! We must read the Bible. I encourage you to read your Bible every day! God's word will inspire you. It will help clean up your thoughts and mind. As Jesus said in John 15:3, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3, KJV).
On what else should you meditate? Consider "whatever things are lovely" (Philippians 4:8). Some-times, when I wa-nt to counteract stress, I focus on lovely, picturesque scenes that I have seen in my travels. I think of the sunsets that I have seen, or of lakes and mountains and beautiful rainbows. Meditate on the positive and you will reduce stress!
We have considered six ways to reduce stress. But is all stress bad? Not necessarily. Endocrinologist Hans Selye defines stress as: "the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it" (Stress Without Distress, p. 14). This definition accounts for "good" types of stress—for example, a promotion at work—as well as "bad" stress such as finding that you have bounced a check. Physiologically, both "good" and "bad" stress are the same—they result in increased blood pressure, increased respiratory rates, increased digestive activity, increased sugar and fatty acids in the circulatory system, increased metabolism, increased sodium retention and decreased immune function.
We need motivation to be successful in life. We need healthy, positive stressors in our life to make it enjoyable and interesting. Certain stressors also help us to be more productive. Deadlines, and rewards for completing tasks, can motivate us. Physician Jerrold Greenburg explains, "The goal of stress management is not to eliminate all stress.… Our goal should be to limit the harmful effects of stress while maintaining life's quality and vitality" (Comprehensive Stress Management, p. 12).
Can we achieve that goal? As we have seen, the Bible reveals the way to peace of mind and success. We must choose the greatest goal and priority in life. Christ said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
You can have the power of Jesus Christ to achieve your goals! Remember: "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Remember the Apostle Peter's admonition on the Day of Pentecost: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Millions around the world are afflicted with severe stress and anxiety disorders. But you can overcome stress. Thank God for His exceedingly great and precious promises—and apply these strategies for overcoming stress!