All Stressed Out

As a Christian, you have an edge in coping with stress!

You’re stuck in traffic. Horns honking, motorists screaming. It’s Monday. You worked all weekend, but you’re still behind deadline.

You have to run errands. Then the meeting at church. Then the football game–and friends are stopping by.

Your cell phone rings. It’s your mother. You promised you’d stop by.

Why didn’t God put more hours in a day?

Acknowledging Stress

Everybody experiences stress. It’s a fact–because you live in a sinful world, you will have stress. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you are exempt.

Because stress affects your body, mind, and even your soul, you need to see the warning signs.

Do you have aches and pains, headaches, blurred vision, or an upset stomach? Under stress, your heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline increase. Finally, you get sick — your body breaks when carrying the burden becomes too much.

Can you focus your thoughts? Stress causes your thinking to wander.

Are you looking for fights or arguments? Stress uses up your adrenaline, so you pick fights, squeezing out a little more adrenaline, trying to keep going. Or do you hide out? If you isolate yourself, you cope by running away.

Are you angry at God? Although you may not acknowledge it, the signs point to it. You drop out of church, stop praying, and stop studying the Bible.

But beware. The things you need to turn to, you turn from. The day you want to kick your Bible under the bed is your warning sign.

Coping With Stress

How you deal with stress — positively or negatively — is a personal stewardship issue. As a sanctified Christian, you care for the body God gave you.

When you’re stuck in traffic, do you pull out a cigarette, waiting for the nicotine to soothe your frayed nerves? Do you stop by the corner bar after work, drinking until the day’s edge wears off? Or do you grab a quart of ice cream and a box of cookies and plop down on the couch, eating your troubles away?

Most of the negative ways you can deal with stress are sins. Galatians 5:19-21 gives a laundry list of poor coping examples: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”

The problem is: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and food work. All have short-term positive results. Because they are a quick fix, it is hard to give them up to work on long-term solutions

Managing Stress

Although you sometimes fail when you face temptation, as a Christian you have an edge in coping with and effectively managing stress. You know you have a Savior who loves you, forgives you, and promises to be there for you. When you are stressed out, you can follow these six steps to manage stress in a God-pleasing way.

First, and most importantly, stay centered in Jesus Christ. He helps us manage all aspects of life. Staying centered means having a close relationship with him.

Ask Jesus to help you with problems. It almost sounds too simple, but Jesus is your friend. You can talk to him at any time.

Focus on His promises. He promises to be with you, to forgive you, and to work all things for your good. Trust that he will do it.

Hear and listen to his Word. Go to church, attend Bible study, read your Bible.

Unload your problems on Jesus and rely on him to help you. Being a “control freak” creates a lot of stress. Let God work the evening shift, and you can get some sleep.

Confess your sins to him. Often we don’t confess our sins, even to Jesus. Get your sins out in the open and be assured of his forgiveness.

Second, keep your social support. Talk to your pastor, your friends. Your biggest social support is your family. Keeping your family strong will help you manage stress better.

Third, eliminate aversive cognitive variables- a psychologist’s term for crummy thinking. The Bible is full of truth. Your head is full of garbage. By using your own faulty thinking you make things far worse than they actually are.

Fourth, develop active behavioral strategies- a psychologist’s term for planned physical activities. Go for walks, exercise. Try relaxation and breathing exercises.

Fifth, pursue a healthy lifestyle. Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, don’t drink. Keep your body as resilient as possible to help you cope with the world’s challenges.

Sixth, grow in “fruit of the Spirit.” Read Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Those characteristics help you manage and tolerate stress in life, and are attainable through Word and sacrament.

As a Christian, you will be stressed. But you can cope effectively with it. You will have to study God’s Word–it is the only way to get an objective measure of what reality is. If you operate on scriptural principles, you are far more likely to manage stress better.

Remember, life is not a sprint. It’s an endurance race — and God will help you to the finish line.

Information was developed and presented by psychologist Dr. John Johnson, former professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, and reported by Linda Baacke, former communications assistant for Northwestern Lutheran and Communication Services.


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