I was recently invited to speak to a group of pastors and church leaders about dealing with stress, which is frequently a huge issue for men and women in leadership – particularly church leadership. The message seemed to resonate very meaningfully with those in attendance, so it seemed good for me to share the heart of that message with you here. If you are interested in my full outline/handout from the message I shared, click here (Stress Handout). As always, feel free to contact me via phone (225-387-2287) or email (Roger@hopeforyourfamily.com), if you would like to speak with me about your situation, or to hear more about a topic I have shared in my articles.
Webster’s Dictionary offers this definition of stress: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
Stress is inevitable…and yet…Stress is preventable.
There will always be stress in life – whether in work, relationships, traffic, tragedy, home repair, or a hundred other places. Life is full of expected and unexpected challenges that create stress in our lives. From the original sin in the Garden, God told us we will have stress and hardship in life. In fact, Jesus told his followers, “In this world you will have trouble.” If we want to have a healthy life, we’ve got to learn how to adequately cope with stress. However, much of the stress we face in life is brought on by our own poor choices – choices that are not in line with God’s plans and desires for us. Some common examples for many of us are:
- taking more on ourselves than God has given us to carry
- refusing to take adequate time for rest (honoring the Sabbath)
- separating our “devotional life” from the rest of our life
- taking better care of others than we do ourselves or our own families
- abusing our bodies through poor diets and neglected exercise
- becoming attached to Stuff (aka – the things of the World), such as possessions, entertainment, addictions, etc.
Stress tears us down…and yet…Stress builds us up.
Much in the same way our muscles are built up when we stress them to the point of mild “damage,” our minds and emotions function the same way. Healthy growth does not usually come during times when everything is great. We grow the most when we face challenges, and find healthy ways to endure and overcome. However, when we invite additional stress into our lives through our poor or unhealthy choices, we tear ourselves down – physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually. The same is true when we choose unhealthy ways to cope with stress, or ignore our stressors and allow them to become chronic, unmanagable burdens. Any of the following may be direct results of chronic, poorly managed stress:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- obesity (which brings with it a multitude of health risks)
- smoking (which also brings a multitude of health risks)
- alcoholism (more health risks)
- porn addiction
- and more
If you are really serious about minimizing stress in your life, evaluate yourself in the following areas:
- physical lifestyle (diet, sleep habits, exercise, pace of life, etc.)
- thought life (healthy, realistic ways of thinking about life situations)
- emotional life (mature relationship with self and others)
- family life
- church life
- spiritual disciplines (such as prayer, Bible reading, meditation, silence, solitude, fasting, etc.)
I recognize this article is a bit more disjointed than my usual offerings. I have tried to distill the main points from a one hour presentation into this very brief space. I will write more in the future about the topics included briefly above. For further growth, I recommend the following Christian books/websites. They are not written on the topic of stress, but rather are books that will help the Christian mature in such a way as to live a healthier life with less undue stress:
- “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster (www.renovare.org)
- “The Spirit of the Disciplines” by Dallas Willard
- “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero
- “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning
May you live with less stress as you grow and mature in your life choices.