Summary: God can help us with the stress caused by the world around us.
Forty three percent, almost half of all American adults, suffer adverse health affects due to stress: migraines, high blood pressure, acne, fatigue, depression... One million workers here in the United States are absent on an average workday due to stress related complaints. Stress is real and it affects just about all of us at one time or another.
The question is: what do we do about it? The solutions to stress depend on the source of that stress. We talked about one of those sources last week: unresolved guilt. The stress that comes from within us. God gives us a solution for that stress by taking away the guilt, by punishing Jesus for our sins. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, God justifies us, he declares us innocent of all sins and gives us heaven as a free gift. God has freed us from the stress of guilt.
Much of the stress that we feel in our lives, however, is caused by outward stimuli. In fact, the University of California made a list a few years ago of the things that cause the most stress in adults. Number one on the list was the death of your spouse, followed by divorce, menopause, separation from your spouse, jail, economic problems, change of schedule or conditions at the workplace, and change of residence. For this kind of stress, doctors offer various solutions, many which are good and wise that help to diminish the stress. Exercise more. Eat healthier. Cut down on the caffeine and grease. Take vacations at Club Med. Give yourself personal time to forget your problems, like that old bubble bath commercial on television…Calgon, take me away.
The only problem is that although a good diet and exercise can help you relax, they don’t take away the stress completely. A vacation, personal time, helps you to escape the stress for a while, but you always have to go back to work. You have to get out of the tub or you’ll end up looking like a prune. And so you walk back into your stress filled world of children screaming, husbands who can’t find their keys and deadlines at work.
Well, today we are going to talk about the stress that is caused by outward stimuli and we are going to see that God has lasting solutions for the stress we feel. But really, we need to divide this stress into two categories: stress caused by things we can change and the stress caused by things, which we cannot change.
I. That which we can change
God tells us in the very first Psalm: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. This is a theme that is very prevalent in the Bible. Basically if we live our lives as God would have us, as he directs us in the Bible, he promises to bless us and we will have a more peaceful life.
How does this apply to stress? Well, how could a man cheating on his wife get rid of the stress of trying to cover up his affair and balance his time? That’s pretty obvious, right? Stop having the affair, and the stress will go away. Here’s one that is not so obvious. How do we get rid of the stress that comes from the debts that we build up and the endless hours of work trying to have the "dream life"? Well, God teaches us in his Word priorities. By organizing our priorities, we see what is most important and can better organize our finances, our schedules, our life . And God can help you do that. The more that we are in God’s Word, the more we understand his will for our lives. Because he wants to bless us. He wants us to have peaceful and happy lives.
II. The things we cannot change.
But, there are many things that cause us stress that we can’t do much about. The death of a loved one. Your baby getting sick. An unfair boss. Yet God can still give us a lasting peace of mind and heart even in the middle of all these problems. Let me tell you a little story.
There were once two painters who made a wager, a competition to see who could represent best the concept of peace. The first painter painted a beautiful mountain scene with a lake. A very tranquil scene with no movement. Everything was calm. And for the first painter that represented peace.
The second painter, however, painted a powerful waterfall. Above that waterfall the sky was dark and threatening with rain clouds. Alongside the waterfall stood a tree. And sitting on a dead branch that hung out in front of the waterfall was a little bird, happy and content. In the middle of the storm, in front of that powerful waterfall…the bird was at peace.