Stress Faith, Hope, and Love

The winter season. The new semester. The new financial year.

We are firmly into 2015, and already it may seem to some of us that the year is out to get us. We have so much to do and so little time to do it.

Combating stress and worry is rarely simple. Most of us struggle to “leave it to God” or remember that God’s “eye is on the sparrow, who neither reaps nor sows.”

Are there ways to approach stress through our faith positively without simplifying a deep struggle? Yes, I think so.

How can we begin the process of alleviating our worries?

  • First, seek help. The darkness of winter days and the end of a brightly-lit season can leave anyone feeling down. Add to that the stress of a new year and new responsibilities – well, you get the picture. There are pastors at your church, friends in your community, and professional health care members who are dedicated to supporting you. Don’t let that opportunity pass you by if things are tough.
  • Second, say “no.” There is no shame in saying “no” for your own health. Many times, those of us who are heavily involved, caring people often think that if something is to be done we must do it ourselves! But this is far from true. If a project or activity overburdens you, ask for help! Crashing and burning will prevent you from doing your best on the next project. Say “no” to the one now that induces more stress and trust those around you to handle things in your absence.
  • Third, understand that worry is not a character flaw. It is both a mental/physiological state (some of us struggle with more worry than others due to our neurotransmitters and life circumstances), as well as a spiritual/soul state (we all struggle to trust God and are friends of Nicodemus, who just could not understand how simple God’s grace is).

There will be many parts of life that create for us stresses we can hardly bear. And to be ready for those times, we must prepare beforehand or be ready to stop when necessary. Worry is certainly normal and understandable. It is also beatable, with work, time, and support.

What are some spiritual ways to alleviate and/or prevent excessive worry?

  • Open space in your days for quiet. This will be difficult for many of us – we are overscheduled, overworked, and overtired. But space in one’s day leaves room for God’s Spirit to groan for you as you work out your stressors. This time of no connectivity (turn off that phone, email, TV, etc.!) will not only allow you to empty space into silence, but it will also create space for God to speak to you in that still, small voice.
  • Open space in your week for movement. God created us with whole bodies. We were never meant to sit at a desk and worry. God made us to move, interact, and be alive in so many other ways. Whether it’s a walk through the neighborhood with family or friends or dogs, or some roughhousing with the grandkids, or simply making sure to move around in some small way every day, it will make a difference in your stress level. The scientists tell us that sitting is no good for our body chemicals, but moreover, most of us feel the effects of a motionless life as we try to face our daily stresses with so little strength. Get up, get moving!
  • Whatever is true, noble…praiseworthy – think on such things. Our over-committed culture is also predominately negative. We only criticize ourselves; we don’t lift ourselves up. To stop worrying about one’s appearance or successes as a primary focus, one must first change the inner negative voice. This might require some professional help, or it might simply require a daily inner reminder about that voice. If there is space to hear God, listen to that voice, not your inner gremlin. Thoughts of the Spirit are true, noble, and praiseworthy – not negative or hurtful.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he said “Faith, Hope, and Love” are the backbone of Christianity. Faith, not worry. Faith that God will provide (Hope). And Love to conquer all Fear.

May you find ways to move your Stress to Faith and thus embrace God’s Hope and Love.

And may we all support each other as we work toward better balance in our lives – Mutual loving relationships are the only way we will all be able to make space for God among us and alleviate each other’s struggles even as God works in our inner selves.