Stress is one of the big “joy killers” that God wants to free us from. Stress makes it difficult to operate and is a cause of terrible unhappiness, illness, and even death. According to one news article that I read, between 75 and 90 percent of doctor visits in developed countries could be directly or indirectly traced back to stress.
Faith is an antidote for stress. Faith and trust that everything is in God’s hands, that He is in control, and that He is able to bring about something good from even the worst situations, automatically eliminates a lot of stress from our lives.
Each of us is able to trust in God for certain things, but there are always aspects of our lives that we feel we need to worry about or burdens we feel we need to carry, instead of giving them to God and trusting that He can take care of them better than we can. And if we let those burdens settle on us—whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—eventually they will cause stress, which can have devastating effects on both body and spirit in the long term.
Most of us have at least one or two areas where our lives have gotten out of balance or our perspectives have gotten skewed. Often this is because we’ve been carrying a load for too long without sufficient breaks or balance. God wants to help provide those things in order to lighten those burdens and make them easier to bear.
A common misconception is to equate stress with hard work, or to feel that some amount of stress is inevitable in a busy life. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can be a very hard worker and not be stressed if you:
- Maintain a balanced life. Work when it’s time to work, play when it’s time to play, and above all, keep your time with God sacred. If you go through a period that’s extra busy and you have to cut corners on your relaxation and fellowship with others, make sure that things slow down again when that project or period of time is over. Don’t let it continue indefinitely. That fast pace can become an unhealthy addiction.
- Let God carry your burdens, which means exercising your faith by committing difficult and stressful situations to Him, instead of trying to resolve them on your own. Stressful situations are part of life; there’s no way around that. When one of your children is sick, it’s stressful. When you’re low on finances, it’s stressful. When you have tight or unrealistic deadlines, it’s stressful. But you don’t have to solve those problems alone. God is a “very present help in trouble.”1
- Know your limits and don’t try to do more than is healthy. Learn to be realistic, and if you’re not realistic, listen to others who are, so that you don’t wind up creating unnecessary stressful situations for yourself and those around you.
- Step back from time to time and take stock. How are you doing on each of the points above?
A lot of stress comes from negative mindsets, rather than actual deadlines or events. Worry, fear, concerns, excessive pride, and self-centeredness, for example, can all create or contribute to stress.
Getting rid of stress isn’t easy. Changing habits and mindsets is usually difficult and takes time. Two things that can help keep you on track while you are trying to make such changes are making a conscious effort to trust in God, which you do by reminding yourself that He is in control and that His timing is best, and determining what practical steps you can take to reduce the load you are carrying while He works out more long-range solutions. How can you “cast your burden on the Lord” so He can sustain you? 2
God has promised in His Word, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”3
You might not have realized before that you can actually be free of stress. You might have thought that it’s simply an inescapable part of your life or your circumstances, part of the price for being so busy or having such a demanding job. But that doesn’t have to be the case. We will probably never attain a once-and-for-all victory over stress, because we’re human. But we can learn to overcome or reduce the negative effects of stress each time it comes around by replacing it with trust in God, which brings peace.4