Facing stress is a fact of life. How we manage our stress says a lot about our depth of faith and how much we rely on God each day. When we manage stress effectively, we can find peace in a stressful world.
Here are seven steps to managing stress:
First, live in God’s presence. We may know what scripture says about God’s promised presence, but do we live in continuous fellowship with God? Living in God’s presence means we go beyond basic awareness. We relax in His presence, have confidence in His care, and interact with Him throughout the day.
Second, look up. Our natural tendency is to focus outwardly at circumstances causing our stress. Instead of seeking God’s solution, we obsess with our problem.
Possibly we look inwardly as we try to handle these matters ourselves. We focus on how this situation affects us and spend valuable emotional energy on attempting to fix this problem, which leads to more stress.
Instead, look to the One who always supplies our needs and has the answer to our predicament.
Third, affirm God’s activity. When our world unravels, maybe we wonder if God checked out. What is God doing? He is working together all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
One afternoon years ago, I was walking to campus and met a friend who just moved to Fort Worth to start his seminary studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
I asked, “How’s it going?” He looked dejected.
He said, “I’m going home. I’m moving back to Georgia.”
I said, “What are you talking about? You just got here.”
Prior to our meeting, he tried to register for classes. The registrar’s office didn’t have a file on him and told him he couldn’t register.
Imagine relocating 825 miles, moving into seminary housing, going through orientation, anticipating starting studies to prepare for ministry, and hitting this brick wall. Talk about stress!
He called his wife really upset and said, “Start packing.”
She said, “What are you talking about?” He told her the issue, and she responded, “Craig, I know God is going to work this out.”
Fast forward to our sidewalk meeting. He said, “They won’t let me register.”
I immediately said, “Come with me. We’re going to see Lawrence Klempnauer.” Lawrence was vice-president of student affairs at Southwestern and my Sunday School teacher. His responsibilities included the registrar’s office. We walked into Lawrence’s office and asked his secretary, “Is Lawrence available? We really need to see him.”
He was and I introduced Lawrence to Craig and Craig related his dilemma. Lawrence listened and then said, “Come with me.”
They walked into the registrar’s office and Lawrence said, “Tell Dr. Basden what just happened.”
Craig shared his story, and Dr. Basden asked, “Do you have a letter of acceptance.”
Craig said, “I’ve got it right here.”
“Do you have transcripts?”
“I know right where they are.”
The registrar said, “Come with me,” and took Craig to the assistant registrar and told her to register him for classes. God specializes in working things out!
Fourth, assess your stressors. List your top stressors and decide which ones you and God can do something about. Attack one stressor at a time. Don’t stress over what you cannot control.
Finally, make hard decisions that will lessen stress. Last August, Matt Luke was toiling as the Georgia Bulldog’s offensive line coach, getting ready for his second season at this powerhouse program.
In February, Matt Luke resigned. At age 45, at the peak of his coaching career, one of the highest paid offensive line coaches in the country, Matt Luke walked away from the 24/7 grind.
Luke’s explanation? “I want to be a dad.” Luke’s sons are 15 and 10, and he wants to see their ballgames and enjoy this stage of life.
What stressor can you eliminate from your life?
Fifth, keep a “can do” perspective. Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). An optimistic outlook grounded in faith goes a long way.
Sixth, remember God’s sovereignty. Nothing catches God by surprise, nor will our stressors ever overwhelm God. God sits on His throne and is totally in control.
Seventh, receive God’s peace. Divine peace is more than a ceasing of conflict. This peace, promised in God’s Word and available to you right now, is a byproduct of a growing relationship of trust and full reliance on our unshakable God.
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.mcdonoughroad.org for more information and to view online worship options. Check out Chancey’s other writings at www.davidchancey.com.]