The APA (American Psycho-logical Association), reports that stress among Americans is on the rise (USA TODAY, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007, 7D). The report tells us that women are more likely to experience higher stress levels than men, singles have more stress than those married, and that money, work and high housing costs are the biggest sources of stress.
What is stress? Stress is defined as “bodily or mental tension.” To be stressed is to be under constant pressure and has many negative effects. High levels of stress causes health problems, both mentally and bodily. Stress has the ability to change one’s disposition which, of course, affects one’s different relationships in life. As a result, stress has hurt marriage relationships, parent-child relationships, teacher-student relationships and even relationships between employers and employees and co-workers.
Being overly stressed is not something at which we should scoff. Not only does it have many adverse physical and mental effects, more importantly it affects our spirituality. Jesus describes what stress can do in His parable of the sower.
“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow… And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them… He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:3, 7, 22).
The words “the care of this world” is a direct reference to stress. Jesus teaches us that when one is filled with anxiety, often the word is choked out of that person which then ends in fruitlessness. Jesus tells us in another place that the fate of fruitlessness is to be cast into the fire and burned (John 15:6). So, clearly there is more danger to stress than just heartburn. There are very real physical and spiritual consequences.
How can we combat stress? I’m no doctor, so I can’t speak to the clinical solutions to stress. There are no doubt different kinds of medications that can help with stress, though my personal opinion is that doctors sometimes act too quickly along these lines, especially when it comes to prescribing a bunch of drugs to children. But, while I may not know exactly what approach is best from a medical standpoint in treating stress, I do know the best approach spiritually; and therefore, the best approach. The approach I’m talking about doesn’t involve taking anything. In fact, it involves giving. The best stress relief in the world is to give more trust to God and His Son, Jesus. Why do I say that? I say it because Jesus says so, and I believe Him. The very things that Americans stress over the most (money, work, and housing), are the things that Jesus says a little more faith will relieve. Read Matthew 6 and see the solution for stress that Jesus proposes. It all centers around more faith in our heavenly Father. Jesus reminds us of some important facts in Matthew six that should help us when it comes to worrying too much and being filled with stress.
Jesus tells us that God has provided us with a body; thus, He will surely take care of it (v. 25). This is an argument made from the lesser to the greater. What is more important - life or the meat and raiment needed to sustain life? If God gave the greater, He will surely sustain it with the lesser.
Jesus also reminds us that we are the crowning point of God’s creation. Since God takes care of the lesser part of His creation (birds and flowers), He clearly will take care of us (vs. 28-30).
Stress is a problem that more and more people are experiencing in this country and throughout the world. But as God’s children, it is nothing that a little more remembrance of our heavenly Father won’t cure. Trust God! It helps.