Christian responses to pressure.
In the course of my life, there aren’t many days when I don’t face some level of stress. Some days, stress is short-lived and easy to deal with, while other days, it gets worse and gets so bad that you can’t move.
Not only does my stress come in waves of different levels, but it is also caused by many different things. Most of the time, my stress comes from having to worry about money or not meeting the expectations of those around me.
And like a lot of other people, I’m finding that the current state of the world and the discord, division, and weakening of our own American culture are causing me stress in ways I’ve never felt before.
Even though the things that stress us out every day may be different and unique, there are some things that are always true when we feel stressed.
We think about the problem more than God.
Someone once told me that God looks very small when we look at him through the lens of our problems. But if we look at our problems through the lens of what we know to be true about God, they seem small.
This is really about how you look at things. When I’m worried about something, I have to ask myself, “Am I thinking more about the problem in front of me or on God’s power and faithfulness, as shown in his word?”
In the Old Testament, there is a story that shows this truth in a beautiful way. In 2 Kings 6, verse 8, it says that the King of Aram “was at war with Israel,” but Israel had a secret weapon in the form of the Prophet Elisha.
When the King of Aram did something strategic against Israel, the LORD would tell Elisha, and Elisha would tell the King of Israel.
“The prophet in Israel tells the king of Israel what you say in your bedroom,” they told the King of Aram (v.12).
This made the King of Aram very angry, so he decided to kill Elisha. When it was found out that Elisha was in the city of Dothan, the Bible says, “He sent horses, chariots, and a large army there. They came at night and surrounded the city” (v.14).
The next morning, Elisha’s servant got up early and saw that “an army with horses and chariots was circling the city.” He was horrified and cried out to Elisha, “Alas, my master! What are we going to do? (v.15).
The answer Elisha gave gives us a way to deal with many of the stresses we face every day. Elisha just said, “Don’t worry, because we have more people with us than they do” (v.16).
The servant must have questioned the prophet’s sanity because, other than the two of them, there was no proof that they wouldn’t be gone soon. What a perfect way to put it! Two men are in the same situation, but each of them sees it in a very different way.
When the servant’s eyes are opened, he sees that the mountain is “full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v.17).
Even if the answer to our problems doesn’t come to us on horses and chariots of fire, the same principle applies to us as it did to Elisha’s servant.
Sometimes, we might need to pray and ask God to open our eyes so we can see what we can’t see without faith.
Only then can we focus on God’s goodness and power in a way that lets us rest in his faithfulness.
We focus on ideas about God that don’t come from the Bible.
Stress can also happen in the life of a Christian not just because we don’t focus on God, but also because we don’t have a biblical view of who God is.
If we’re not careful, we might love and serve a version of the real God that we’ve changed to fit our own ideas.
Maybe we get stressed because the God we’ve made looks more like the God we wish he was than the God he really is, and because of that, he is neither big enough nor good enough to meet us in our struggle.
When God says, “You thought I was just like you,” he is accusing the people of Israel of making a similar mistake (Psalm 50:21).
I have never doubted God’s power or ability to do anything in all the years I have been a Christian.
My struggle has always been caused by my own doubt that God would help me, which is nothing more or less than a stubborn lack of faith in God’s goodness.
If I’m being honest with myself, most, if not all, of my stress comes from what I believe about God. If I’m not completely sure that God is good, I have every right to feel very worried every day I live.
But, alas, this is not how the Lord God really looks. God told Moses about himself by saying, “The LORD, the LORD God, is kind and generous, slow to get angry, and full of lovingkindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6).
So is our God, and that’s why the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8).
I often think that Paul may have had me in mind when he wrote, “Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
How is it possible to be sure of these facts about God’s character and nature and still worry about problems or needs on earth?
Jesus talked about this same truth when he said, “If you, who are bad, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11)
What’s the deal?
When a Christian is stressed out or worried about something, it’s a sure sign that their view of God is too small or blurry, and they need to be corrected immediately.
The way for a believer to deal with and get rid of stress is not hard, but it is not simple, either.
The prophet Isaiah says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is on you because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). The Psalmist says, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolation delights my soul” (Psalm 94:19).
“Keep your eyes on the road” is a phrase I’m using more and more every day, but it’s important to remember. When we drive, our hands always go where our eyes go.
If we lose focus, whatever we’re trying to steer will soon follow, which could be very dangerous. If my spiritual eyes stop looking at Christ in his Word, it’s likely that stress, anxiety, and worry will start to take over my life soon.
He is nice, good, and there. Don’t let the worries of the world drown out God’s Word and pull your attention away from the only One who can calm your soul (Matthew 13:22).