by Dr. Ken Matto

One of the most pandemic fruits of our society is stress. Stress may be defined as: anxiety, nervous tension, worry, urgency, et al. Modern medicine has already revealed many of the results of stress, such as, colitis, sleeplessness, chest pains, diarrhea, rapid heart beat, headaches, and the list goes on.

Probably a good percentage of those who go to the doctor with a symptom of undetermined etiology can probably diagnose a root cause of stress for many quasi-ailments. For example a person comes in complaining of chest pains which is a definite symptom of a heart attack, however, when placed on an EKG, a normal sinus rhythm appears. Yet, that person suffers from existing chest pain.

If this person is given a one milligram shot of Ativan or placed on another tranquilizer, the symptoms wane and normal feeling returns to the person and they begin to feel better. This person when medically interviewed, will be found to be an excessively active person, which basically means they do not know how to slow down or are lacking the knowledge and method to manage their stress and so the Stress Management Seminar is born. I want to address the Christian specifically on this issue because the world knows not our God (John 17:25) but we as Christians do know our God. I would like us to look at two reasons why we allow stress to build up in our life:

A. We do not trust God - The sovereignty of God or the sovereignty of man? It is an exchange principle which happens millions of times each day. Compartmentalization: God you handle this and I will handle that. This creates a dual sovereignty in a single Christian life. We relegate the sovereignty of God to the sovereignty of man by a single action called worry. Why worry if God is sovereign? If He is not, then He is not God! It is as simple as that. Complexities need not be the ruling despot either. "Trust and obey for there’s no other way" as the hymn goes. Can water and oil homogenize? Can worry and trust homogenize?

B. Insecurity - This is a person that is unwilling to say no, not or can’t. This person becomes involved with many things and the eventual result is an overwhelming life with seemingly no way to back out of all the commitments. With many people stress can be reduced by a simple tactic, instead of going for tranquilizers, go for a letter of resignation. Those who are insecure in home, vocation, or worse, in God, are those who still try to please God by their ridiculous amount of "good works," not realizing that Christ pleased God by His sacrifice. For those who feel they must work like crazy to please God, we need only look at Luke 10:38-42.

(Luke 10:38-42 KJV) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. {39} And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. {40} But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. {41} And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: {42} But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha was "careful and troubled." The word "careful" may be translated "you are anxious." We know what the response of Jesus was to this situation. He chided Mary for not getting busy and for loafing when she should have been doing ten things simultaneously. Of course not, Jesus said Mary had the better part. Why? Because the Prince of Peace was on the scene and anxiety has no place in His presence. Our insecurity and anxiety have no place in His presence either. Anxiety and insecurity run high in the "you can lose your salvation" crowd. If you are part of a church that teaches God forgives your sin to a certain point and then beyond that point you must live a certain way of life to maintain grace, then you have fallen prey to a false gospel, because it is no longer grace but grace plus works, which is an affront to the sacrifice of Christ.

There is a plethora of reasons that Christians find themselves in stressful situations, some are: refusal to deal with small problems before they mushroom into large problems; avoidance; no functional approach to Scripture (unable to apply Scripture to situation owing to shallowness); mind thinks earthly in contradistinction to a heavenly sovereign God; we rate present situations by past failures; we compare ourselves to others (normally to those in the upper social class but why never to those in a lower social class); envy; jealousy; we seek happiness and not joy, etc. With all this as our introduction, let us attend to the meat of this essay, and that is stress management. Before we get into what stress management implies, we must first know what God states about stress and how we are to deal with it when it rears its ugly head in our life. So how do we deal with stress according to Scripture?

How to Deal with Stress from Scripture:

1) Psalm 119:165 - If we love God’s Word - Result is great peace.
2) Isaiah 26:3 - Keep our mind on God - Result is perfect peace.
3) Isaiah 48:18 - Heed and obey God’s Word - Result is peace like a river.
4) Matthew 6:31-34 - Take no thought - Why? Because God knows exactly what we need and how to supply it. If we seek kingdom of God first, all needed things will be given to us, therefore, we need not concern ourselves with tomorrow.
5) Matthew 11:28-29 - Being yoked to Christ (Remember Prince of peace) - Find rest for your souls.
6) Philippians 4:6-7 - Prayer and supplication - Result the peace of God will keep (guard) our hearts and mind.
7) 1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all anxiety on the Lord - Give it to Christ

If we could summarize these seven basic principles of handling stress biblically, it would be as follows: When a stressful situation arises in our life, we must immediately pause, give it over to God by prayer and supplication who will guard our minds from outlandish scenarios which we tend to turn into believable facts (not in evidence). God knows our very need in peaceful times as well as stressful times and if our mind is stayed on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace. If we love God’s Word and are yoked to Christ through salvation, our souls will experience a peace that does pass all understanding and peace shall flow like a river. This is how God expects us to handle stress. He is totally involved in every part of our life. After all, our life is hidden with Christ in God as Colossians 3:3 states.

(Col 3:3 KJV) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Have you ever seen a dead man stressed out?

Stress management implies we are capable of keeping a stressful existence while possessing the ability to manage it. Anyone knows that in business, management presides over the company setting policies and directing the affairs. The word management also carries such synonyms as governing and control. If we choose to maintain a stressful existence void of the principles of Scripture on this subject, we live under a cloak of deceit. What deceitful umbrella do we live under?

-We believe low level or moderate level stress will not affect us if we can manage it.

- If we believe we can manage stress, we can pile on more "good works."

-We believe we are in control and can handle all our situations. It builds false confidence.

Here are some deceits of stress management:

-Stress management deceives like an alcoholic who tries to control his drinking, it simply does not work.

-Stress management exchanges the truth of Scripture for man’s failed theories.

-Stress management causes us to change Gods, from Christ to us.

Christianity is a dependency upon the all-sufficiency of Christ and not independent of it. If God tells us to give over our anxiety to Him, there must be a reason. That reasoning is simple, He knows we are unable to manage it and part of the spiritual benefits of salvation is the fact that we may truly live a peaceful Christian life in the midst of a hostile world. Remember, Psalm 23.

(Psa 23 KJV) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. {3} He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. {4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. {5} Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Look at the two bold parts of this psalm. It is possible to lie down in green pastures and sit by the still waters in a hectic society. This only depends on our assessment of God. If we believe He can supply peace in our lives then we will give it over to Him, if we do not then we will not and the end result may be disaster for us. God offer us such peace and fulfillment without man’s failed gimmicks. Isn’t it interesting that we have so many stress management seminars and books and yet, anxiety is at an all time high. The reason is simple, managing stress does not work and it will never work, especially for the Christian because God has already written in His word how we are to handle it. If we ignore it, we pay the penalty, if we heed it we benefit.

(Acts 5:29 KJV) Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

(Psa 4:8 KJV) I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

(Psa 29:11 KJV) The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.

(Psa 85:8 KJV) I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

(Psa 85:10 KJV) Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

(Psa 147:14 KJV) He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.

(Isa 26:12 KJV) LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

(Isa 32:17 KJV) And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

(Isa 53:5 KJV) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

(Isa 54:13 KJV) And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

(Isa 57:2 KJV) He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

(Jer 29:11 KJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

(Luke 1:79 KJV) To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

I think by now you get the picture. God offers us great peace as part of our salvation inheritance, just appropriate it.