Choose to Cope with Stress

Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Stress used to be an engineering term. Years ago people were anxious, nervous, worried, or fretful but not stressed. In the 1950s, stress became a psychological term referring to conditions brought on by major catastrophes in a person’s life such as death, divorce, or life-threatening disease. Today, just getting out of bed could be a stress factor.

Here are some things recent research says causes stress: being married, not being married, having children, not having children, having a job, not having a job, working more than 40 hours a week, working less than 40 hours a week, retirement, your spouse’s job, your spouse not having a job, having sex, not having sex, taking a vacation, not taking a vacation, having family outings, not having family outings, playing the stock market, not playing the stock market, and so on and so forth. You might say, “You’re stressed if you do and you’re stressed if you don’t!” It has us coming and going.

Many turn to religion thinking that God in His infinite wisdom will miraculously take away all stress. Unfortunately, the Christian way of life is not promised to be stress-free. Just look at the great leaders in the Bible and ask yourself, “Were they stressed?”

Abraham and Sarah were elderly when they had Isaac. Noah had to build an ark without a cloud in the sky. Rahab put her life on the line for spies. Elijah hid in a cave from Jezebel. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. Daniel was cast into a lion’s den. David fled for his life from Saul. Job lost everything he had.

Joseph was a know-it-all teenager who couldn’t keep his mouth shut, alienated his brothers, was sold into slavery, and cast into prison for many years before he became a prominent advisor to the king of Egypt.

Moses killed a man, fled Egypt for many years, reluctantly agreed to lead the children of Israel to freedom, dealt with mumbling Israelites, struck a rock in frustration, and didn’t even get to see the Promised Land.

Do you think they were stressed?

It’s estimated today that 75% of all illnesses are stress-related. Dr. Archibald Hart’s book Adrenaline and Stress states, “Stress disease is different from most forms of illness, we bring it on ourselves!”  We live in a 24/7 world. Society demands more and more of us, but many times we give in to demands when we don’t need to. Only we can decide what our personal limitations and priorities are. Even with that, we only have so much control.

A relationship with God will not take away stress but it will give us a coping mechanism to pass all understanding by the world’s standards. (Philippians 4:7) How else could Paul say that he could be troubled but not distressed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed? (2 Corinthians 4) Paul knew his existence and ours was for God’s glory, not our own.

Consider this… God doesn’t take the trouble away all the time, but He does help us walk through it.

One final thought… Sometimes God calms the storm, sometimes he calms the child. Either way, He helps us cope with the stress in our lives.