Because of the Lord’s great love we re not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Medical scientists have discovered that stress is harmful to our health along many lines. Dementia and even perhaps Alzheimer’s can onset due to the hormonal changes to people living under constant stress. I know many people to whom doctors have said they should reduce their stress, but how? How can we reduce our stress? The doctor who gives the advice is also under personal stress, and often he is the most stressed person around.
Stress is basically the pressure we experience when we feel that we do not have the resources to do what we need or badly want to do. Some of the more common sources of stress are financial uncertainties, personal conflicts at the work place or in the family, not having the resources to deal with changes in life, significant losses in life, unrelenting pressure to perform at a high level in school or in the work place. Stress comes both from within us and from outside of us, but it is normally the inner stress that is most difficult to deal with. The desire to achieve, for example, to be respected and admired, can make us stressed-out driven people if it is not tempered with morality, integrity, family, and faith.
Some elements of stress come from threats and false accusations and the fears that they cause. I am in a profession (I prefer to call it a calling) where more than half of my colleagues will be pressured out of a ministry position or outright but unjustly fired. (There are, of course, valid firings.) Churches are becoming harder and harder to lead and pastor, and the average minister is under considerable stress in that he cannot know or anticipate the next attack he will experience. Gossip and false accusations are rampant in life and in the church, and these produce stress. James wrote, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). Gossiping Christians are prayer-less Christians, and their attacks on others come because they have not learned to lean upon God in their hearts.
(Some, in fact, will attack you in their “prayers” – if you get a chance to “pray” with them, they will use the opportunity to tear you down. They are not truly praying to God but talking to others with their eyes closed, imagining that that allows them to say whatever they lack the courage to say outright.)
The simple faith to believe that God is active in our lives, that He strengthens us within and supplies us from without with what we need for life and success and fulfillment – these basic points of faith sustain us and help us to reduce our inner sense of stress. During an incredibly stressful moment in the history of Jerusalem, in the midst of siege, defeat, and the enslavement of the nation, Jeremiah wrote that the compassions of God never fail; they are new every morning. The simple disciplines of prayer and meditation on the word of God go a long way toward reducing our stress. When you feel worn out, threatened, fatigued, concerned about money and expectations, have a long conversation with God. Sit down in your study or prayer closet, or go out into a park, and talk to Him about all that troubles you. Let Him also talk to you, through His word and His Spirit, and trust that He will help and strengthen you.
We can also reduce our stress by avoiding those people and circumstances that bring stress. Sometimes we cannot avoid them – due to family, responsibilities, or ministry or even outreach into their lives – but to the degree it is possible, do not hang around with people who tear you down and stress you out. I have found that when I must be around people like this, it is helpful for me to add a prayer and meditation time afterwards, just to allow God to refresh my spirit.
Life in Christ does not need to be lived in unrelenting stress and pressure. Cast all of your cares on Him because he cares deeply for you (1 Peter 5:7). Do the best you can in every situation and do not worry about the rest. Leave advancement and success in His hands, trusting Him to provide and lead – His mercies are new every morning – and you will find peace and joy and fulfillment along the way.