Summary: This sermon deals with how we handle life's stresses. We look at the life's main stressors; busyness, guilt, grief, grudges, indecision, and fear of the future. We also look at God's prescription found in His word.
Spiritual First Aid
“Handling Life’s Stresses”
We cannot talk about stress without also talking about its two cousins, anxiety and worry. They all fit into same category.
Stress is a state of mind causing tension and strong feelings of anxiety and worry. Those who are under stress often exhibit signs of increased hypertension, headaches, aches and pains, and difficulty in sleeping.
Anxiety is the overall feeling of being worried about the uncertainties of life. It’s a feeling of unease and concern resulting in such behaviors as compulsiveness, apprehension, fear, nervousness, panic attacks, tension, and stress.
Worry is allowing the mind to dwell on the difficulties and uncertainties that accompany life. Worry produces unhappiness, nervousness, and causes people to become frightened.
Things that people become anxious and worried about and that cause unhealthy stress consists of things like health, work, finances, family, and the future.
Effects of Stress
Certain amounts of stress can be positive, keeping us safe when dangerous situations happen. But too much stress produces anxiety that can lead to several physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension and aches, restlessness, high blood pressure, upset stomach and nausea, tiredness, fatigue, and sleep disorders. Stress leading to anxiety has also been “linked to six of the leading causes of death; heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide.”
Emotional problems also surface such as fear, anger or being constantly irritated, a constant state of worry, sadness, depression, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed resulting in panic attacks.
This results in such outward behaviors as eating disorders, outbursts of anger, addictions to drugs and/or alcohol, and being withdrawn from society.
So I think it’s safe to say that stress is not to be messed around with.
There are three realities about stress and its cousins that we need to understand.
First, they don’t work. Stress, anxiety, and worry accomplish and solve nothing. They’re like pushing the gas petal in a car while it remains in park. It revs up the engine and makes a lot of noise, but goes nowhere. They cannot change our past nor control our future. All they do is make us miserable in the present.
Next, they’re not reasonable. They exaggerate the problem making mountains out of molehills, that is, they only expand the problem making it bigger that its reality.
And finally they strangle the life right out of us. This comes from the Old English word for “worry,” which means to strangle. Our bodies were not made to handle all the stress, anxiety, and worry we place upon it.
So predominate is stress, anxiety, and worry in our culture that a whole new medical field had to be developed to deal with it, Psychology. But the good news is that God, our Great Physician, has already written out the prescription.
The Bible says,
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV)
Anxiety, worries, and stress weighs heavily upon the heart and can cause all kinds of heart related illnesses. Therefore the Bible tells us not to be anxious in the first place. Paul says in Philippians 4:6; “Be anxious for nothing.”
These three also move us away from trusting God to trusting in ourselves instead. But Proverbs 2:7 says not to be wise in our own understanding.
Stress, along with its cousins is literally the sin of not trusting God in whatever we’re facing. They also cause us the focus on the wrong thing.
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not! And if worry can't do little things like that, what's the use of worrying over bigger things?” (Luke 12:25-26 NLT)
Stress, anxiety, and worry also give us the wrong perspective, telling us that God isn’t big enough to handle our problems and difficulties.
With this now under our belt, let’s take a look at the causes and cures for stress and its cousins.
Busyness is one of the big stressors of our day. What’s sad, however, it that its considered one of our society’s biggest virtues. We talk with pride about our ability to multitask, work long hours, or having a career that takes us away from our homes and families. Unfortunately, such boasting about how busy we are is counterproductive because of all the stress it produces.
So how can you know if busyness is a stressor in your life? Here’s a short quiz to see how we’re doing.
• Are you always in a hurry?
• Is your “To Do” list too long for the day?
• Do you use your days off to catch up on work?
• Have you been told more than once to slow down?
• Do you feel guilty when you relax or take a break?