By Rick Lawrence
I was talking with a friend about those seasons in everyday life when we feel the pressure-cooker of stress inside building up steam, and how we both typically respond to it. How do we handle the kind of stress that makes our “cup runneth over,” but not in a good way?
You know what I’m talking about…
You’ve been working hard and you’re exhausted—you drag yourself home just in time to join your family for dinner, except they’re already finished by the time you arrive. They couldn’t wait any longer, and didn’t you see the texts asking when you’d be home? They’re grateful you’re home, but you can feel their frustration. And then you get a text marked “Urgent!”—it’s from a parent whose son (who sometimes shows up for youth ministry events) was injured in an auto accident and she’s panicked and desperate for you to come to the hospital. And you look into the faces of your family and tell them, well, that you have to go out again…
We hate stress. And if you’re like me, you sometimes hate how you deal with stress. Maybe it’s overeating or over-watching TV or over-sensitivity to others or over-spending or over-controlling every detail of your life. Stress tempts us to over-everything. At its heart, our poor responses to the stress in our life are rooted in the fear we have that we’re losing control. That’s why I told my friend that stress has actually been a good friend to me—the kind of friend who exposes my hidden commitment to make it through life without having to trust Jesus too much.
My poor attempts to capture and subdue my stress have reminded me that willpower alone is never enough. And numbing my stress merely kicks the can down the road. Instead, stress (and my response to it) can help redirect my focus and remind me to re-attach myself to Jesus…
- Look for the underlying personal reasons why you’re stressed. Don’t focus on the stressor; pay attention to the stressee—that would be you. Ask yourself: Why am I allowing myself to feel so much stress about this? What am I trying to control right now? What am I afraid of? Why have I, essentially, told Jesus to “go to His room” while I try to deal with this alone?
- Admit to Jesus that you feel overwhelmed, and ask Him to give you perspective. Head to the bathroom or the basement or to an open space near your home for a few moments of undistracted quiet. Ask Jesus “What is going on in me right now?, and then wait for his “still, small voice” to respond. Open your arms and hands as you pray, as a physical invitation. Receive what He gives, and ask Him for help to repent and change how you’re handling your stressor.
- Pursue an alternate way to respond to your stress. After you hear Jesus’ input on this, ask Him for at least one out-of-the-box way you can respond to your stressful situation in a more dependent way than you’ve done before. If you sense, for example, “Go lay in the grass and look at the sky, then breathe deeply for five minutes,” then do it.
- Ask Jesus what your stress reaction is revealing about your relationship with Him. Then ask him to help you reconnect with greater intimacy and vulnerability.