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What Is Stress?

Stress. It’s a word I hear a lot these days. Whether from youth, young adults, friends or family, both in the church and outside, it seems like everyone I know is stressed, anxious or worried about something.

My question is why. Why are we stressed if we’re Christians? And why are we comfortable with admitting it when many of us strive to hide so many of our other sins? Is it perhaps because many people don’t think stress is sinful? Wait — is being stressed sinful? So many questions … so stressful!

So what is stress?

According to Google (who gets it from Merriam-Webster), stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. This is what happens when we’re working hard, engaging in any activity that requires mental or emotional output. However, I’m not sure that’s what people mean these days when they say “I’m stressed.”

To be stressed in today’s culture is to be worried. Worried about the many errands we have yet to run, anxious about that ever-increasing pile of bills, assignments or deadlines that pile up at the back of our minds. It’s this kind of stress that I believe is sinful, because it stems from a lack of trust in God. It’s a heart disposition that questions either God’s goodness to us or His sovereignty (or both).

Yes, we all have responsibilities, and for many of us these things can pile up suddenly and without much warning. Yes, we need to work through them, and that can take a lot of effort, and we might possibly fail at something important. Yet if we can trust that God is sovereign and that He is actively working for our good, then there is no need for us to get stressed. God’s got it covered.

I think there’s no clearer way that I can say it than what’s already in Scripture. In Luke 12:22 Jesus is talking to His disciples and says,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.… And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?… Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:22, 26, 31).

See there’s no point in worrying about things because it doesn’t help. However, God knows we all have stuff to do, which can bring about momentary anxiety, so He gives us this solution in Philippians 4:6.

[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Instead of worrying (and the complaining that inevitably follows) do something about it. Pray, plan and persevere. Make a to-do list, work through it according to priority, and stop worrying about the things that you haven’t had time to do yet.

I’m well aware that simply telling someone not to stress doesn’t always work. If you have trouble controlling the feelings of panic often caused by a stacking list of deadlines even after you’ve planned out your next steps, take a moment and pray. Let our Father who is sovereign supernaturally give you peace. He knows the needs that we have; He’s overjoyed to give us blessings as we ask. Live your life like God is in control, and let that peace slowly wash away that stress.

Next week I’ll talk about the biggest stressor of them all: procrastination.

What about you? What gets you stressed, and why do you think that is?

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