Health

Divine prescription: Stress

BY WARRICK LATTIBEAUDIERE

Sunday, October 06, 2019

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THE Amplified Bible at 2 Timothy 3:1 remarks, “perilous times of great stress and trouble” to befall humanity, barring none, man to woman, little one to great. And who would deny that this is the era of great stress foreshadowed in scripture?

How, though, do you handle stress? Do you even know what stress is? Put simply, it is any physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.

Should one understand, then, all stress to be bad? Not at all.

Dr Melissa C Stöppler avers that “a mild degree of stress and tension can sometimes be beneficial. Feeling mildly stressed when carrying out a project or assignment often compels us to do a good job and to work energetically”.

The expert notes that stress is a problem when it becomes “overwhelming, or poorly managed”. In the same vein, stress is best managed in smaller proportions, much like the ease with which one puts out a small fire before it becomes a consuming inferno.

Since stress comes on a daily basis, stress management must become a daily endeavour, a priority — a routine we undertake to prevent over time build-up.

What has the Bible to say on the issue? And, since God “has made us and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3), why not examine some vital truths from his word on the matter of stress?

 

Come to me and you will find refreshment for your souls

The life-giving truths found on the pages of God's word offer refreshment for our souls made weary from insecurity — financial or otherwise — a demanding routine, interpersonal conflicts, a bad boss, or a traumatic experience, among a host of other stressors. God's word, a deep well of refreshing and stress-relieving spiritual waters, acts as therapy in helping us to avoid “suffering shock or being terrified” (Joshua 1:7-9) from the grotesque items of news that colour the headlines home and abroad.

The reassurance that Earth's top boss, our heavenly father, “is very tender in affection and merciful” (James 5:11) is comforting. Especially comforting, too, is knowing that he, in the role of Universal Sovereign, invites us, mere mortals of dust, to approach him without fear in doing so.

Tenderness, that quality which describes the words and dealings of Christ in times of old, renewed and reinvigorated his listeners who were, at once, stressed and distressed by oppressive leaders. “Come to me,” he says, “all you who are overworked and overburdened, and I will give you refreshment” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Far from being harsh, he empathised with the emotional and physical needs of his disciples over whom he exercised loving authority, as seen in his repeated efforts to teach them lessons in humility. He not only encouraged them, but took practical steps for them to rest up from the demanding job of preaching, as borne out at Mark 6:30-32.

Though superior to them in power and authority, never were they made to feel insecure, incompetent or inferior. If, as a man, Jesus excelled in helping the burdened to unload, ours should be the confidence that he, in an elevated role of king in heaven, feels even more compelled to open his tender hand of compassion to any who may feel locked in by stress.

Hebrews 2:17 tells us: “For this reason, he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” What is even more comforting is his promise to provide us “help at the right time” (Hebrews 4:16).

 

Good communication, a great stress reliever

Few things manage stress as well as good communication can. The words of the wise man Solomon are telling: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counsellors there is accomplishment” (Proverbs 15:22).

Communication is the life blood of a relationship. Talk, therefore, to your spouse, friend or colleague, as a means to reduce stress! There is power when words leave us, and there is power when words come to us. No wonder, the medical field has long invested in talk therapy as a means of reconciling complicated and tortuous issues in our lives.

When stress has your thought processes muddled, communicate with God, talk with him as you would a trusted friend and find, according to Philippians 4:6, 7, “the peace of God that excels all thought that will guard your heart and mental powers”, faculties critical to stress management.

Humans are gregarious beings. Yes, no man is an island. For this reason, it is well touted that people with social support systems fare better in the face of stress, having greater mental health than those who try to go it alone. “There is a friend sticking closer than a brother”, says Proverbs 17:17.

Remember, though, that as much as you need a friend, you, too, are to be a friend. And in that mutually beneficial verbal exchange is stress relief to be found.

Value a sense of humour in dealing with stress. Life is too short to take it too serious! While there is “a time to weep”, Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us of “a time to laugh”. Laughter refreshes and keeps us on a healthy track. In laughter, the body produces endorphins, a chemical that reduces pain, and in large amounts, gives a good feel along with bursts of energy. One wife mentions, with fondness, her husband whom she can always count on to make light of something even in stressful situations.

Qualities to manage stress

God's spirit produces great qualities to reduce stress. These are referred to as fruits of the spirit, and there are nine mentioned at Galatians 5:22, 23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control”. Can you work at trying to develop them over time?

As you do, get rid of “malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech”.

The text goes on to suggest that we have no time to 'have up' people, which is unwanted stress for our hearts, when it says we should “freely forgive one another” (Ephesians 4:31, 32). These Bible qualities are excelling in and of themselves. They encourage respect. And be assured that dealing with your fellow man in a respectful manner is one of the greatest stress relievers ever.

And what about modesty that Micah 6:8 refers to? That quality that reminds us we should not bite off more than what we can chew, that we have limitations, be it physical, mental or emotional.

Practise modesty and be determined, with the advice the Bible provides, to control stress, or else it will control you.

 

Warrick Lattibeaudiere (PhD), a minister of religion for the past 22 years, lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.


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