Everyone deals with stress at some point, and Christians are not immune to the pressures and pitfalls of life.
Stress tends to hit us when we’re overtired, when we’re sick, and when we’re outside of our safe and familiar environment. When we’ve taken on too many responsibilities, during times of grief and tragedy, when our circumstances spin out of control, we feel stressed. And when our basic needs are not being met, we feel threatened and anxious.
Most Christians share the belief that God is sovereign and in control of our lives. We believe he has given us everything we need for living. So, when stress dominates our lives, somewhere along the way we have lost our ability to trust in God. That’s not meant to imply that a stress-free existence in Christ is easy to obtain. Far from it.
Maybe you’ve heard these words from another Christian in one of your moments of stress: “What you need to do, bro, is just trust God more.”
If only it were that easy.
Stress and anxiety for a Christian can take on many different shapes and forms. It can be as simple and subtle as slowly backsliding away from God or as debilitating as a full-blown panic attack. Regardless, stress will wear us down physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We need to be armed with a plan for dealing with it.
Try These Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress as a Christian
1. Recognize the Problem.
If you know something is seriously wrong, the fastest way to the solution is to admit you have a problem. Sometimes it’s not easy to admit you’re barely hanging on by a thread and can’t seem to manage your own life.
Recognizing the problem requires honest self-evaluation and humble confession. Psalm 32:2 says, “Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
Once we can deal honestly with our problem, we can begin to get help.
2. Give Yourself a Break and Get Help.
Stop beating yourself up. Here’s a news flash: you are human, not ‘Super Christian.’ You live in a fallen world where problems are inevitable. The bottom line, we need to turn to God and to others for help.
Now that you’ve identified the problem you can take steps to care for yourself and get the appropriate help. If you’re not getting enough rest, take time to restore your physical body. Eat a proper diet, get regular exercise, and start learning how to balance work, ministry, and family time. You may need to find a support system of friends who have “been there” and understand what you’re going through.
If you’re sick, or working through a loss or tragedy, you may need to step back from your normal responsibilities. Give yourself time and space to heal.
In addition, there may be underlying hormonal, chemical, or physiological reason for your stress. You may need to see a doctor to work through the causes and cures for your anxiety.
These are all practical ways to regulate stress in our lives. But don’t neglect the spiritual side of the matter.
3. Turn to God in Prayer
When you’re overcome with anxiety, stress, and loss, more than ever, you need to turn to God. He is your ever-present help in times of trouble. The Bible recommends taking everything to him in prayer.
This verse in Philippians offers the comforting promise that as we pray, our minds will be protected by an inexplicable peace:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)
God promises to give us peace beyond our ability to understand. He also promises to create beauty from the ashes of our lives as we discover that hope comes from loss and joy springs from times of brokenness and suffering. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
4. Meditate on the Word of God
The Bible, in fact, is filled with incredible promises from God. Meditating on these words of assurance can dispel our worry, doubt, fear, and stress.
5. Spend Time Giving Thanks and Praise
A friend once told me, “I find that it’s almost impossible to be stressed and praise God at the same time. When I’m stressing, I just start praising and the stress just seems to go away.”
Praise and worship will take our minds off of ourselves and our problems, and refocus them on God. As we begin to praise and worship God, suddenly our problems seem small in light of the largeness of God. Music is also soothing to the soul. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try following my friend’s advice and see if your stress doesn’t begin to lift.
Life can be challenging and complicated, and we are much too vulnerable in our human condition to escape the inevitable battles with stress. Yet for Christians, stress can have a positive side too. It may be the first indicator that we have stopped depending upon God daily for strength.
We can let stress be a reminder that our lives have drifted away from God, a warning that we need to turn back and cling to the rock of our salvation.