Let’s face it. As individuals, as a society, and as nations - currently, we're somewhat stressed.
For many, 2020 was heralded to be the ‘year of vision’, the turn of the decade, bringing hope, scope for development, promise of a brighter tomorrow. What nobody expected was a worldwide pandemic, widespread isolation, social restrictions, the definition shift of ‘normal’, and universal uncertainty. 2020 has now seemingly become a by-word for stress.
When hit with unprecedented and unpredictable situations, completely outside of your control, what can you do to respond positively? How can we find rest in stress?
When Stress Hurts
Stress in and of itself is valuable to human growth and development. Without stress, growth could not occur in the world. It is an essential element in life. By countering the stress of gravity, muscles grow larger; by taxing minds intelligence increases; and by trials and tests, patience and spiritual virtues may be developed and advanced.
However, stress becomes destructive when it’s intensity or duration exceeds a person’s capacity to react constructively. The body reacts to danger with the ‘fight or flight’ reaction – secreting powerful hormones into the bloodstream to protect against the impending struggle. These hormones continue to be secreted as long as the body senses danger, and this perception of danger comes from the mind. How we interpret a circumstance determines how the body will respond.
"The relation that exists between the mind and the body is very intimate. When one is affected, the other sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many realize. Many of the diseases from which men suffer are the result of mental depression, Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces and to invite decay and death."
Ministry of Healing p. 241
This means, when looking at how to combat the negative effects if stress, the focus is on your reaction. Take some time to consider, how do you respond to stressful situations or stimuli?
Some reactions look like anxiety, overeating, not eating at all, staying up late, sleeping in, drinking, avoidance, procrastination, excess in indulgence, emotional outbursts, despondency and despair. But does it need to be this way?
The Bible tells us, ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.’ (Proverbs 17:22). It’s difficult to be merry, or cheerful during difficult times, unless we know that there is a positive reason and expected outcome for the situation.
For this reason, we have beautiful promises in the Bible, reminding us that God that not forgotten His children during these tumultuous times. On the contrary, God is at the helm, working out the course of things according as He sees fit.
When hit with difficult times, remember these truths that will stand the test of any storm:
'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.' Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
The fact that we can't see the future often perplexes us. But instead of wishing for a certain knowledge of the outcome, trust the One who already knows. His thoughts towards you are of peace, and not evil.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Isn't that 'all' interesting? Some things in life seem impossible to put right. But God sees the end from the beginning - there is no circumstance that He allows which will not result in good.
'But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.'
Job 23:10 (NKJV)
'He hath made every thing beautiful in his time...' Ecclesiastes 3:11
The opposite of stress is trust, and the hardest part of trust is waiting. Our desires and God's plans are often very different, but ultimately He knows just what we need, and when we need it. He will make everything beautiful - this is certain - but not on our terms.
Remembering that God's timing is the key to your happiness will help you to wade through the sea of "what if's" and "if only's", arriving at the calm certainty that He truly know best, and wants you to be happy. Trust in Him