Summary: In order to survive job stress, we must put God first; we must sometimes say "no" to other things in order to say "yes" to God.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the demands of your job, as if no matter how hard you work, you just get farther and farther behind? You go into the office early so you can get some work done before the phone starts ringing, you work through lunch answering e-mail, you stay late trying to get the work done that you couldn’t do because you were in meetings all day, you take a laptop and a briefcase home at night -- and you still can’t keep up. Somehow, there’s always more to be done than can be done. You’re perpetually running behind.
Do you remember the TV show, MASH? There’s a recurring scene in which Hawkeye and B.J. have been in surgery for eighteen hours straight. Finally, they finish and drag themselves back to their tent. Just as their heads hit the pillow, we hear the faint sound of helicopters in the distance. And then, Radar’s voice over the PA system, shouting, "Incoming!" Ever feel like that? Just when you think you’ve caught up, just when you think you’ve earned the right to relax a little, another crisis hits.
Americans are stressed out. A recent survey by Integra Realty Resources reported the following statistics:
* 42 percent of workers reported that yelling and verbal abuse took place where they worked.
* One in ten said that physical violence had occurred where they worked.
* 34 percent had lost sleep because of workplace stress, and 23 percent had been driven to tears.
* Almost two-thirds, 65 percent, identified workplace stress as a problem for them personally. [And the other 35 percent must have been too busy the answer the question].
But you don’t need statistics to know that job stress is a problem. The stress in your own life is all the proof you need. In this church, we have quite a variety of occupations; including doctor, nurse, lawyer, accountant, computer programmer, engineer, teacher, custodian, office worker, and full-time homemaker. And every one of those occupations can be stressful.
So what do we do? How do we "survive" when the pressure gets intense, when the weight of all the demands, and expectations, and responsibilities threatens to overwhelm us? What do we do when our life feels like a treadmill that’s stuck on "high"? To answer that, we’re going to do two things. First, we’re going to look briefly at what causes stress, and how people try to cope with it. Second, we’re going to see what the Bible has to say to help us deal with stress and pressure.
What produces stress?
1. Excessive demands. Being expected to do more than you can reasonably hope to do. Perhaps the person making the demand [manager, customers, husband] just doesn’t understand that they’re being unrealistic. Or they do understand, but all that really matters is that their goals are met.
2. The work itself may be difficult, unpleasant, hazardous; the people may be hard to get along with.
3. Lack of control. Often, it’s not the work itself, but the fact that you have little or no control over it, that causes stress. You are told what to do; you are assigned work; someone else decides what you’re going to do; and how, and when, and where.
That’s what causes stress. How do people respond to it?
* The most common response is anger and rage. They may act out their anger, yelling and cursing and throwing things. Or they may internalize it, so that they become depressed and withdrawn.
* Sometimes people immerse themselves in pleasure or sensation in order to avoid feeling the pressure. They bombard their senses to shut out the pain; they anesthetize themselves with addictive behaviors -- alcohol, or drugs, or pornography, or over-exercise, or television, or food.
* And if all else fails, they just get sick. According to the American Institute of Stress [I’ll bet that’s a fun place to work], 43 percent of Americans suffer from stress-related health problems. (Source: Referenced in Fast Company, May 2000, "Cease and De-Stress", http://www.fastcompany.com/feature/stress.html)
People try all kinds of things to cope with stress. Yoga, meditation, aerobic exercise, deep breathing, visualization, biofeedback, diet, time management. But these don’t deal with the root issue. Because stress isn’t really caused by our circumstances; rather, a feeling of stress is a subjective response to our circumstances. It’s a response that’s driven by our beliefs and attitudes. So in order to relieve our stress, we have to change the way we think. The goal is not necessarily to change our circumstances. The goal is to change the way we perceive and respond to our circumstances; to see them as God sees them, and to respond with the strength and wisdom God provides, so that they don’t overwhelm us.
But before we can do that, we have to believe that God’s way is best. We have to believe that He loves us, and that He knows better than we do what will make our lives meaningful, and rewarding, and fulfilling. Listen to this: