Stress, Out!

“Say it. Right now. What are you stressed about?”

Finding a job passing my economics class cleaning my room talking to people — paying for gas.

I gave the youth only a moment to consider the question, but their answers were quick. Stress was on the tip of their tongues, too frequently tasted to be far away. None of them are even eighteen yet. What happens when they reach adulthood and the “real stress” begins?

What are you stressed about? Do your current worries pop up in your mind in less than a second? We stress about things that have happened, things that could happen, mundane things, work things, fitness things, money things. We even stress about things we know are irrational! My mom used to worry in advance that I might one day decide to go skydiving. She’d say, “The only time I want to know that you’re going skydiving is when it’s over, and you had better start that call with, ‘First off, I’m alive.’” I was years away from the thought of skydiving, and she was already fretting over my decision.

In the midst of stress, it’s hard to be rational. The enemy tries to pack your mind with so many kinds of worry that you not only can’t commit to memory where on earth you put your keys but you also can’t retrace your path back out of stressville.

Please read these questions with the mindset of preparation, not to be stressed but to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to your peace.

Where do you find your value?

Stress is a sign that you are looking for value somewhere other than God.

 

We all want to be valued, right? I haven’t yet met anyone who honest-to-goodness doesn’t want at least one person to notice their worth. We’re designed for companionship (Genesis 2:8), but along with the desire for companionship seems to have sneaked in the imperative for our companions to adore us at all times. What do they think of what I’m doing? Have I gotten any praise lately? If I’m good at what I’m doing, why hasn’t anyone noticed? How do I get them to notice? Do they value the work I’m doing? Do they value me?

Waiting on their value, your mind is performing a high-pressure gymnastics routine on an unstable mat for a panel of fickle judges. You have to perform well, but you’re not sure how. You want to impress, but you’re not sure who. If you are going to place your hunger for value in anyone, place it in the One whose love does not change. God’s value for you is not based on your looks, age, income, history, or any other shifting qualities.

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

If a small bird can’t move a muscle without God noticing, there’s no way you could spend a moment of your life unnoticed by God. He has numbered all the hairs on your head, and unless you have numbered your own hairs, God knows you better than you know yourself! He knows your value, the value that He Himself weaved into you.

 

Where do you place your trust?

Stress is a sign that you are not trusting God. Harsh, I know. We’re quick to say that we trust God, and I honestly believe that we believe we do.

I’ve been challenged in this regard many times. In college especially, I got into such frequent patterns of stress that my roommate kept a constant note posted in front of my desk with the mantra, “Don’t stress before you stress.” At the time, I was literally stressing about how much stress I had in my life.

I suppose I pictured that my parents would respond to my anxious calls with “It’s going to be okay. We’ll take you out for cheesecake tonight and maybe you’ll feel better.” Instead my Dad responded without fail, “Do you trust God?” Ouch. (If you need a swift kick into faith, call Jon Medin and tell him you’re stressed).

Consider God’s Word:

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

You will keep in perfect peace  those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3).

Now consider that these are not obscure verses. You’ve likely heard them before. We know that God’s plan is to prosper us and give us hope; we know that we have an immovable foundation; and we know we have God’s peace at hand. Still, we stress. If that’s the case, can we truthfully say that we take Him at His word?

Please note that you can trust God for one thing and not another. For instance, Tyler and I rarely worry about money. We’ve never had a financial need unmet and haven’t wondered if that would be the case since before we got married. When it comes to peace about our summer schedule, though, I have often gotten lost in Wonder(if-we-can-make-it-work)land.

To echo Gertrude Stein’s thought on the Law of Identity, let me propose: faith is faith is faith is faith. Faith is not fractioned. Its meaning doesn’t shrink to meet our current level of trust. In fact, the very first definition of “faith” listed in the Oxford Living Dictionary is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Complete.

Proverbs 3:5-6 directs you to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” All your heart. In all you do. In everything you do. Faith in God is all-in. Is your faith — your trust — in Him? Are you all in?

Where do you invest your time?

Stress is a sign that you have not been spending time with God.

I’m sure I sound redundant to the youth at this point; I’ve said it to them so often. There is only one way to do this. If I’m going skydiving, I’m not gearing up with my leather Louis Vuitton backpack, and I won’t encourage you to do so either, especially since we both have to live to call our moms afterward. If we’re stepping out of the plane, we’re doing it equipped with the proper skydiving pack. You know, the kind that’s filled with a parachute? Because I’d sure be stressed if I was falling 13,000 feet without the right equipment.

Equip yourself with God. Revisiting Philippians 4:7, take note that this verse begins with the word “then” in the NLT. Some translations begin with “and”. Both words indicate that the statement does not stand alone. So what comes before?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” (NLT, emphasis added). Proverbs 3:6 is written in the same manner: “Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” First, seek His will. That means time invested – in prayer, in the Bible, in worship. Next (“and”), He will show you which way to go.

By all accounts, your time with Him will be reflected by peace and discernment. I know you want peace, and you know there’s only one place to look for peace that lasts. But I’m not talking about a 30-second prayer before dinner or a quick 2-minute “God, just please make today good” request. Don’t step out into the day without taking the time to equip yourself.

How do I get stress out of my life?

Put your hunger for value in the Lord. No one’s value for you is as unshakeable as God’s. Gather up all the value you’ve entrusted into other people’s hands and put it all in His. The hunt for value becomes much simpler when you have only to look in one place.

Take God at his word. What better word than the one that promises you a future, hope, and peace!

Invest your time in God. Seek God, every day. Wake up early if you need the extra time. If you’re not sure what to say, just sit and listen. Pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows what you need for today.
 
-Catherine Lexvold