Have you ever had one of those days or weeks? That work week that resulted in some unanticipated overtime, or that call from work that came at the worst possible time. The arrival home from such a workday only to find things chaotic at home. Two graduation parties, three soccer games, one swim team practice, a church service responsibility, and an HOA meeting—all in one Saturday. I’m sure you can identify with some combination of most or all of these experiences!
Hey, this isn’t news to anybody: dads can get stressed! Life is full, and the reasons our lives are full are often wonderful. Our families are active. Our lives are vibrant. Our opportunities for fellowship, recreation, and service are plentiful. Our career and job compensation are gifts from God as well. But those full lives also produce stress.
There are also more “negative” contributors to stress. Plans change. Trials come and compound already busy schedules. Past mistakes or failures can result in current angst and unintended consequences. And our response to things like busyness, difficulty, and changed plans affects our families for good or bad.
The Bible Addresses Stress!
Stress isn’t unique to modern western culture. Stress has been present ever since imperfection entered the world. Scripture addresses the modern term “stress” with terms like trouble, being anxious or overcome, or fainting. Reading through the Psalms you’ll often come across statements like this: “my flesh/heart faints as if under a heavy load.” The concept of being overwhelmed is found all throughout Scripture—even in the lives of God’s people. And in many cases where people are overwhelmed there are both spiritual and physical ramifications.
Life in a fallen world is full of pressures, tensions, and adverse, difficult circumstances. Our choice of how we respond affects our spiritual condition. I want us to take a moment and see that Scripture has answers. It calls us to be honest about our stress. It provides warnings, and it ultimately presents a solution. The solution to stress is fellowship with God. Simply put, but not simply lived!
The glories of God’s grace and Christ’s work shine brightly through how God’s Word addresses our stress. So we can ponder that together with joy and hope. After looking at how Scripture categorizes the contributors to our stress, we’ll then park on how it also gently guides us to its God-centered solutions!
The Contributors to Stress in Scripture
Scripture addresses several different sources of stress:
The presence of sin
In Psalm 32:1–5 David describes the stress he faced because of inner sin. Look at how he described it: “when I kept silent”—when I covered my sin and chose my disobedient desires rather than God’s expectations—my bones wasted away, I groaned inwardly, there was heaviness, my energy was gone… Translation: I was seriously stressed! Genuine guilt and God-given conviction are mentally and emotionally straining. They’re designed to be. They’re designed to remind us of the futility of our sin and the freedom of his forgiveness—so seek that forgiveness!
Worry and stress are close cousins in our hearts. Jesus addresses this in Luke 12:22–26. It’s the basic stuff that takes up time and energy each day that we get so bent out of shape about! Yet his gracious care will meet our needs, His sovereign hand guides our days. The fullness of his love controls each detail of life. He cares for the birds. How much more will he care for those he created in his image and bought with his Son’s blood?
Martha (bless her heart) is a classic example of this tendency in Luke 10:38–42. We share her tendency: we view our priorities as admirable, but in reality we’re majoring on the minors. We’re making our Savior secondary. When other priorities eclipse our fellowship with God, stress can be expected!
The Remedy for Stress in Scripture
So what are the solutions we can ponder? We’ve already hinted at a few, but we could summarize the Bible’s emphasis this way: God provides a remedy for stress—and that remedy is himself.
Consider your knowledge of God.
I love Psalm 3. David penned this psalm in the face of some dire circumstances. Likely, he is fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom, who basically plans to kill him. Nice. Just great. I’d say this qualifies as a stressful situation!
David’s stressful situation takes the form of physical enemies. Ours can take the form of the victory of spiritual enemies, like the presence of sin. It can take the form of extreme busyness or marriage challenges or the burdens of chronic sickness. Even the more mundane “stresses” and pressures of daily life are significant without God.
But see how David responds in verses 3–5. God’s character gives peace! We can peacefully rest—lay down and sleep and wake up again—all under the sustaining care of this God. At this point David isn’t delivered from the circumstance; victory over the effects of stress rarely includes removal of our circumstances. But a constant, determined dwelling on who God is on your behalf is a remedy in the face of stressful situations.
Prioritize your relationship with God.
Resting in Him is essential to victory over stress. But actively pursuing him is, too. Psalm 119:143 says, “Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.” What is the psalmist’s response to trouble and anguish (stress and worse)? Delight in the word of God. Be saturated with his Word. Don’t waver in your commitment to prioritize daily exposure to it. The truth you saturate yourself with will enable you to claim God’s character; it will ensure God-honoring priorities; it will put earthly cares in proper perspective; it will aid in your defense against sin.
Your personal time with him isn’t the only way we prioritize this relationship; be committed to his worship, too! Participation at church may seem like something that just adds to your stress. One more thing to do. I need rest; I need me-time! But the ultimate place where we are reminded about the source of our delight, joy, security, comfort, and peace is in public worship. Psalm 27:3–5 teaches us this. Gaze at and inquire of him (v. 4): be consumed with who he is and what he wants you to do. That’s worship.
Relinquish your stress to God.
Take some time to look at 2 Kings 19:14–19. Talk about stress! King Hezekiah faces the Assyrian army gathering to besiege Jerusalem. The enemy has mocked God and stated that no one will be able to deliver Judah from defeat. Where does the king run for help in this impossible situation? He prays!
That alone is striking, but the content of his prayer is striking too. See how he considers his knowledge of God—his character? God is present (“enthroned above the cherubim” is an Old Testament reference to God’s presence in the temple). God reigns over everything. He alone can help! In the face of stressful situations, pray. He hears, he knows, and he longs to see your reliance.
But how Hezekiah concludes his prayer is even more amazing. What is Hezekiah most concerned about? His relief? His throne? His safety? His comfort? He says, “Oh Lord our God, save us so everyone will know you are God alone.” Hezekiah longs for God’s glory. Guys, God alone is worthy of glory in our stressful circumstances, and that must also be our desire.
We naturally view each stressful circumstance as an inconvenience or trauma to be delivered from at all costs. Instead, choose to view them as an opportunity for God to be honored no matter what he ordains. That’s the trust-filled, God-centric remedy for stress. God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of His son for His glory. He’s not all about giving us ease or making life rosy. In our adverse circumstances He’s all about changing us to reflect the glory of Jesus.
So we must turn from sin. We must trust him with the daily cares of earth. We must prioritize fellowship with Him. Choose that path daily, and with his help our stress can become rest. And those who we are called to lead will learn that too!