Dealing With Stress Biblically

The egg is an interesting creation of God. As we too well know, it does not take too much effort to crack the shell of an egg and have a mess on our hands. But should you take an egg in the palm of your hand and squeeze it with all your might, you would not be able to break it. How is it that something that is as fragile as an egg can withstand such great pressure? The answer to the question is that when pressure is applied from the outside, it is distributed to that which is on the inside. When the shell bears the pressure alone, it cracks. When the shell is able to cast the pressure onto the white and the yolk, the egg remains intact.

A human being is much like that egg in handling pressure. The external shell of our humanity is weak, and can be easily "cracked". For some, the pressure does not need to be too great before they break down. But if we can distribute that pressure to something, or better, someone on the inside, then we can bear up under great pressure without cracking.

How do we deal with these pressures that we call stress? To begin with, we need to define what we mean by stress. I have defined stress in the following manner:

Stress is the feeling of anxiety produced by the seeming inability to accomplish a specific task due to a supposed limitation of resources.

There is something that I need to do, or want to do, and I find seemingly overwhelming obstacles that keep me from accomplishing the task. Contributing to my seeming inability to accomplish my task is a supposed limitation of resources. These limitations could come in the form of a limited amount of finances. We do not have enough money to buy the things necessary for the completion of our task. In Matthew 6:31, the Lord Jesus spoke of stress when He said, "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" In this verse, Jesus used a verb, translated "thought", which could literally be translated as "Don't be anxious". To use contemporary language, Jesus says that we are not to get bent out of shape about necessities. The reason being is that God already knows of our need and will provide for it.

The second source of stress is time limitations If I had a dollar for every time I lamented that the day should be longer than 24 hours, I would be rich man. It seems as if all too often there are more things to accomplish than there are hours in the day. Despite how things may seem, God has provided enough time for all things in His will. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-33 the Apostle Paul writes,

"But I would have you without carefulness. For he that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife."

Here the word "carefulness" is the same word that is translated "thought in Matthew 6:31. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that when an unmarried person plans their time, they can give undivided time to the Lord. However, a married person must use their time to also meet family needs. Consequently, there may be a stress as to how to divide the time.

The third source of stress is the limitation of abilities. Regis Philbin once wrote a book entitled, I'm Only One Man, which title seems to accurately describe some stressful situations. Sometimes it seems as if we need to be more than one person at the same time, or to be in more than one place at the same time. Why? We don't have enough time to be in two places at different times or enough money to hire someone to do one of the tasks. We often try to accomplish things that God has not gifted us to do. And when we do, we become frustrated that things are not going like they should, and we become stressed out.

Such an instance is illustrated in Luke 10:41. There is a dinner being prepared in the home of Lazurus for Jesus and His disciples. All but one are sitting around the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. Martha is alone in the kitchen trying to whip up lunch and cooking for the group is more than one person can bear. She begins to complain to Jesus asking Him to command Mary to come to her aid. Jesus responds, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things..." Once again, the word "careful" is the same word as translated before meaning anxious.

Now while these three things are sources of stress, they are not causes of stress. Every one of us suffer from these limitations. No matter what your financial status, you only have so much to work with. All of us deal with a 24-hour day. Each of us has certain gifts and abilities but no one has all. While we all face these limitations, some of us are not stressed by them. Why is it that some of these things, or even all of these things can be stressful to one person and not to another?

There are two causes of stress that utilize these limitations to bring pressure into our lives. The first is seeking that which is outside of the will of God for our lives. God makes appropriations for everything found within His will. Should though, we seek those things outside of His will, then we encumbered with limited resources. In eliminating stress from our lives, it is therefore necessary for us to know the will of God in any matter.

The second cause of stress is a failure to appropriate that which is in the provision of God. Not only do we seek those things which are out of the will of God, but even when we seek those things which are in the will of God, we don't get them. For example, back in the Old Testament, as the children of Israel traveled through the wilderness from Egypt, on their way to the promised land, they experienced hunger daily. There were not too many 7-11's in the dessert so getting food was a problem. God was required to do something miraculous to provide for their needs. He did so by providing manna every day (except the sabbath). What is interesting is that the manna did not come down in the middle of the camp. There were no funnels in the tops of the tents of the Jews. In order to get the provision of God, the Jewish people would need to go outside the camp where the manna was, and retrieve it. If they failed to do so, they went hungry. It was not that God did not provide, but they did not appropriate God's provision.

Today, God tells us that God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). There is not one thing that the child of God will lack because God will not provide, He will provide ALL our need. But James tells us there are times that we do lack. He says,

"Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not."

The reason that we do not appropriate what God supplies for our needs is that we sometimes simply forget to ask. Sometimes we think it is an automatic thing with God and we forget to ask. And when we don't ask, we don't get. The cure for stress then is that we eliminate the limitations by simply asking of God and receiving His provision.

To ask of God is simply to pray for His provision. Paul says,

"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."

Once again we see this word "careful", but this time we see how not to be stressed out. The cure to stress is simply praying.

But you say, "Many times I have prayed about a need and God has not provided." "Prayer does not work." To which I would ask you, "Did you really pray?" I do not mean if you went through the motions of prayer, I mean, did you REALLY pray?

What we need to consider is the dynamics of genuine prayer. What kind of prayer will God hear that He will then provide for our limitations and eliminate the stress that besets us? Genuine prayer has at least 5 characteristics. First, prayer believes God. Matthew 21:22 says, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Now this does not mean that we can ask for anything and God must give it to me just as long as I believe He will. The context of the passage reveals that the all things is limited to all those things found within His will for us. God is not obligated to give us anything apart from His will. But of those things that are found within the will of God, we need to pray believing God for them We pray believing that the things we ask for are in His will. We pray believing that the things we ask for are things that God has the ability or resources to provide to us. We pray believing that God not only has the ability to answer our prayer, but that He is going to answer our prayer. I have found that in my own prayer life, as I ask for requests of God, I call to mind a verse or passage of Scripture that would indicate why or how God is able to provide. For example, if a person is going through a difficult time, possibly due to the loss of a loved one or some other heartache, I will ask God to comfort them because He is the God of all comfort and the Father of mercies (2 Cor. 1:3).

Secondly, prayer does not negate personal responsibility. Because I pray about something does not mean that I am absolved of all responsibility to supply for myself. There is a popular saying that says, "Let go and let God". That is an unbiblical command. Surely we must let God, but who said we should let go? Referring back to the manna in the wilderness, we repeat that the people had their responsibility to go out and accumulate the manna. Looking to a New Testament illustration we find that when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He instructed the disciples to, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation..." (Matthew 26:41). If all that was necessary to overcoming temptation was to pray, then why did Jesus command them to watch? You come to the limits of personal ability or resources and then God will provide whatever else is necessary. Another popular saying is that God helps them that help themselves. Well that is not altogether true also. In reality it should be, God helps them who come to the end of themselves. We come to God in prayer saying, "Lord, I have done all that is humanly possible according to your will, and I ask you to finish what I cannot do."

Thirdly, prayer is intense or, if you prefer, hard work. When pressures are light, prayer is easy. But when the pressures of life increase, so does the need to be more intense in our praying. The Bible does not require any specific posture in order to pray effectively. Prayer in Scripture was offered from a standing position, to be flat on one's face, and just about anywhere in between. But it seems reasonable that when the pressures of life weigh heavily on the body, that the body yields in kneeling to the pressure. Before His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus fell to His knees, and Luke tells us that, "...being in agony he prayed more earnestly..."(Luke 22:44). For some reason, it seems that our prayer become more earnest when the body is discomforted. It should be that when we are done praying during stressful times that we are exhausted. The burdens that we have carried we have lifted up to the throne of grace. That takes work!

Fourthly, prayer is specific. As you search through the Scriptures and look at the prayers of God's saints, you will notice that they never pray in vague generalities. We have a tendency to be too vague in our requests. For example we might pray, "Lord, bless the missionaries," or "Lord, be with Bob". The question is, how do we know then that God has answered those prayers? If the request is vague that we cannot know if God has answered it, how will we know when to stop praying about it? At this point it might be helpful to ask why it is that we need to pray at all.

If God is omniscient (and He is), then why do we need to pray when He already knows what we need?

There are two accomplishments of prayer. First, prayer causes us to recognize our limitations. If God provided without prayer, then soon we would think that we were self-sufficient. If we were self-sufficient, or better, all-sufficient, then we would think that we had no need of God. It is a preposterous thing to think that we do not need God. As the hymn goes, I need thee every hour. The second thing that prayer does is that it allows God to demonstrate His glory. When we come to the end of ourselves, God says, "Let me show you how great I am." "Let me show you how much I love you and what I can do for you." We pray then, so that when we ask anything of God, God can manifest His goodness and greatness to us. We pray publicly or corporately so that God can manifest His glory to greater numbers of people.

So when we ask for vague things, how do we know that God has provided and how do we behold His glory? I need to caution you about asking for unspoken requests in a corporate setting. If we are to pray specifically, how can someone pray for something that he does not have even the slightest idea about? If the prayer cannot be spoken (and there are requests that should remain private or personal), then keep them between you and God. James tells us that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). One laying hold of God is just as productive as many.

The final characteristic of prayer is that prayer seeks first God's will, not man's convenience. The Lord Jesus modeled this for us in Gethsemane when He said, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matt. 26:39). How many times have we prayed and then told God how to answer the prayer? Isn't it wonderful how we can tell God what His will is for us? I think not! When looking for God's will to be done, we submit ourselves to His authority and allow Him to do whatever He desires in our life. When we have fervently prayed, believing God, doing what is required of us, laying specific requests before Him to be answered according to His will, then we have REALLY prayed.

What happens when we REALLY pray? What happens when we let our requests be made known unto God? Paul writes, "And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep you hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." When we REALLY pray, God surrounds our hearts and our minds with His peace, that will keep us from breaking down. Where there are financial limitations, He will supply; where there are time limitations, He will override; where there are ability limitations, He will give strength or aid to accomplish. And He will supply "through Christ Jesus". Our Lord, Himself, will be our supply. The One Who lives within us will bear our burdens and the thin shell of our humanity will not crack. God designed us with a thin shell of humanity. When struck by the pressures of life, we break easily. When we cast our cares on Him, we can bear anything and everything.

Who We Are:

The Salina Bible Church is an independent, Bible-teaching church, located approximately 6 miles south of Apollo, PA at the intersection of routes 819 and 981.

Contact Us                                                 GPS Directions 

(724) 697-5357

Mailing Address:
       Box 275
       Salina, PA 15680

Physical Location:

4132 Route 819
Avonmore, PA 15618

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