Despite so many challenges and stresses around us, we can take comfort in using tools God has given us to find solace and joy even in times of distress.
Millions, if not billions, of human beings are under such stress that they experience anxiety, phobias, and depression. They are miserable and unhappy. They are not experiencing peace of mind. What about you?
The high cost of living challenges our families. Can we pay our unpaid bills? Every day, millions face a frustrating and stressful commute in congested traffic. Machinery noise in our neighborhoods and workplaces can be nerve-wracking. Then we may have conflicts and arguments with family members, or co-workers. Physical ailments and headaches can frustrate us and stress us even more.
Millions of people around the world pay for expensive drugs to help calm their mental anxieties. But, as we will see, God gives us—absolutely free—a variety of strategies to address and overcome life's frustrations!
How many people find it difficult to cope with everyday stress? Do you find it difficult to find peace of mind and tranquility? The American Psychological Association gave this report in February 2015: "Forty-two percent of adults say they are not doing enough or are not sure whether they are doing enough to manage their stress. One in five Americans (20 percent) say they never engage in an activity to help relieve or manage their stress" ("Stress in America: Paying with Our Health," p. 9).
How serious is the problem? The APA report continues: "Many Americans say their stress levels have either stayed the same (53 percent) or increased (29 percent) in the past year. Only 18 percent of Americans say their stress has decreased in the past year. The most commonly reported sources of stress include money (64 percent report that this is a very or somewhat significant source of stress), work (60 percent), the economy (49 percent), family responsibilities (47 percent) and personal health concerns (46 percent)" (ibid.).
How do people cope? The report continues: "The most commonly reported stress management techniques include listening to music (44 percent), exercising/walking (43 percent), watching television for more than two hours per day (40 percent) and surfing the Internet/going online (38 percent)" (ibid.).
The right kinds of music can indeed soothe our stress for some time, and your Bible praises the value of physical exercise. But are there big-picture strategies to consider that will help today's Christians find long-term peace of mind in the midst of so many short-term ongoing stresses? In this article, we will consider seven vital keys for obtaining and maintaining peace of mind.
Your Bible gives a mission to every human being on earth. It should be the number-one goal in your life. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, gives us a major key to tranquility and peace of mind: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
The Kingdom of God is coming soon to this earth! Are you praying daily, as Jesus taught us, "Your Kingdom come"? When we see all the evils imploding upon the world around us, we yearn for the Kingdom to come. Do you have that as your mission? Notice what Jesus said in the next verse. When you seek a cause greater than yourself, you can find peace of mind. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (v. 34).
In this sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus emphasized the need for faith! We need to live each day by the faith of Jesus Christ!
Before Jesus' ascension to heaven, He gave His disciples what is called "The Great Commission," proclaiming: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen" (Matthew 28:18–20).
Jesus also proclaimed the Great Commission in this way: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned [judged]" (Mark 16:14–15).
Yes, Jesus came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. You can read about that in Mark 1:15–16. Do your part to support that great mission. Seek to have a cause greater than yourself!
One challenge common to most people is the stress of managing our finances. The American Psychological Association report mentioned earlier in this article stated this: "Stress about money and finances appears to have a significant impact on Americans' lives. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time and nearly one-quarter say that they experience extreme stress about money…. In some cases, people are even putting their health care needs on hold because of financial concerns."
Sometimes we feel stress because we will not share our burdens with anyone else. Alone with our troubles, we compound the worry. But there is someone with whom you can share your worries about finances, relationships, work or anything else that troubles you! God wants you to share your anxieties with Him! Notice this wonderful promise: "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).
All the money in the world cannot buy you happiness. But God wants to freely give you that very special and priceless gift: peace of mind. What an incredible promise God is giving you. Be plain and open and heartfelt in sharing your problems in prayer. Ancient King David was very open and even forward in his urgent complaints and prayers. He cried out: "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!" (Psalm 30:10). This is just one of many requests for God's mercy found throughout the Bible. Notice that God is called the "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" in 2 Corinthians 1:3.
Share your anxieties with God in prayer. Suggest solutions to your problems. Thank God for the privilege of coming before His throne of grace. Look forward to His promise that He will give you "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding."
The book of Proverbs contains some of the greatest and wisest counsel available to us as Christians—counsel from God Himself. God Almighty tells us: "Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice" (Proverbs 8:14–15).
Your Bible gives wise counsel. I appreciate the practice of reading one of the 31 chapters of Proverbs each day of the month. Proverbs is filled with fresh wisdom that will take on new meaning and relevance as your circumstances change from day to day, month to month and year to year.
How valuable is the book of Proverbs? God inspired the book of Proverbs with this encouraging introduction: "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:1–7).
Are you willing to seek counsel to help face your stresses and challenges? Here is a verse from Proverbs that gives us wisdom: "Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established" (Proverbs 15:22). And consider one more admonition: "Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the Lord's counsel—that will stand" (Proverbs 19:20–21).
When you read the book of Acts, you find that the early New Testament Church was unified as a spiritual family. We need one another, and we need one another's help. Seek counsel from those who have true wisdom; long-time faithful and genuine Christians who have strong biblically based character. "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise" (Proverbs 12:15).
Seek God's counsel by reading your Bible every day, and seek out wise counsellors who have demonstrated stability and biblically based character.
Hundreds, if not thousands of health reports and studies show the benefit of physical exercise as a tool for reducing stress. Years ago, I wrote in my personal book of life-lessons, "When depressed, go out and jog or run."
The Mayo Clinic gives this advice: "Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.… If you're not an athlete or even if you're out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management. Discover the connection between exercise and stress relief—and why exercise should be part of your stress management plan" ("Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress," MayoClinic.org, 2016).
For those of us in our senior years, walking can be one of the best exercises. No, we may not be able to walk at the same pace as when we were 50 years younger, but we should do what we can within our limits. I was personally inspired last year when I learned that a 92-year-old lady who lives near our Charlotte office had set a world record as the oldest woman ever to complete a marathon. Her finishing time of 7:24:36 may not have been so impressive to the runners 70 years her junior, but her example should remind us to prod ourselves to do what we can.
This is even a biblical principle. The Apostle Paul, in making a larger spiritual point, nevertheless praised the value of physical exercise when he wrote: "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). Spiritual exercise will lead to eternal benefit, but we should not neglect the temporal benefit of physical exercise.
We all experience stress in our modern, fast-paced, information-overload world. How can we cope? We must clearly understand that, to an important degree, our mental health is a matter of choice. You can choose to maintain a positive and tranquil mind.
You may have read some of the many "quotable quotes" about exercising a positive attitude. My wife gave me a framed picture of lightning bolts with the title "The Power of Attitude." Listen to this helpful principle as given by its anonymous author: "Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst… a spark that creates extraordinary results."
Have you made a conscious choice to maintain a positive attitude? The Apostle James reinforces that principle. He gives us positive advice to help us face stress, trials and problems. What are we to think when we face trials? We read: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (James 1:2). The trial certainly may be painful, but you view the process with joy. Why? Because "the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (vv. 3–4).
You can have a positive attitude, knowing that your character and patience are being strengthened. How many times have I told myself when facing a stressful situation: "Maintain a positive and tranquil mind"? God then helps me through the trial. It is also helpful to learn to smile and have a sense of humor, and to be ready to pray at an instant's notice. "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).
One way to help maintain a positive frame of mind is to remind yourself of the many blessings God has given you. Is your life perfect? Do you have every success you have hoped for? Probably not. But if you focus instead on the many blessings you do have, you may come to see that the life you have is perfect for you right now, and that you can be grateful for the circumstances God is using to help you develop His very character in your own life.
When you pray (see Key 2), counting your blessings is a vital part of your contact with God. Just as you can overcome worries by sharing your anxieties with your Creator, you can strengthen your positive attitude by thanking Him for your many blessings. We read: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
Some of you may be familiar with the old nineteenth-century hymn, "Count Your Blessings." Here are some of the words: "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done."
Count your blessings and express heartfelt gratitude to God. What are you thankful for? Do you thank God for the awesome revelation of His truth, the Holy Bible? Do you thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sins? Remember how John the Baptist referred to the Messiah: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Thank God that He can take away your sins if you repent and accept Jesus as your Savior.
The Apostle Paul writes, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Your Bible is a gold mine of God's promises to you. You just need to go in prayer to the throne of grace in heaven and claim those promises.
But to claim God's promises, you need the faith to claim them. God has given this promise: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). As you humbly and earnestly read your Bible, the word of God, He will give you more faith. That's just one of His many, many promises to you. "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).
Your Bible records hundreds of promises God wants you to acknowledge, embrace and claim! Yes, He has given us "exceedingly great and precious promises"!
Jesus reminded us to choose the spiritual over the material. He made it plain just how much God loves us; He can easily provide all our physical needs. But to receive this blessing, we must first seek God's Kingdom, and then all our material needs will be provided. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [all our physical and material needs] shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
When you apply these biblical keys in your life, you will be able to meet the challenges that face us all. God has promised that if we practice true Christianity in all that we do, we can have a peace of mind that "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). In this world of turmoil, stress and danger, you need God's peace of mind. Be sure to apply all seven of these keys for peace of mind!