Stress Part 1: Introducing Stress

I’m starting a 3 part series on stress, focusing on Philippians 4:4-7. March will be full of midterms, trip planning, and just the day to day grind, so it’ll be demanding… There will be plenty of stressful days. These posts will come out the first three weeks in March; it seems fitting. Stress is something I’ve been studying on my own, and I pray you’ll gain something from reading!

This first part is where we’ll lay the groundwork for the latter parts. To open up, I figured I’d describe my last really hectic day that drove me to study stress:

It’s Friday. This is crunch time. I have a Chemistry exam in the morning, and then have to turn in 2 applications by 5 o’clock. The first application is a 7 page form with a 2 minute “about me” video for a huge job on campus. The second is a scholarship with a 500 word response. I’ve got these irons in the fire, cooking like marshmallows to create a s’more of success and future opportunity. Once I pull it off, it’ll be smooth sailing on the financial storm surge of college.
But it’s falling apart. I don’t have anywhere near enough time to handle all of this. This stress wears me down and I’m a little irritable.

I finally turned in my last application online at 5:03 . I’m devastated. I missed a deadline. I huff and puff and hold my face in my hands and I quickly call the office to plead for more time. I can buy them lunch or mow their lawn or anything just so long as I get this application handled.

They don’t answer the phone of course. It’s 5:05, they left early for the weekend. I’m doomed. Hours of work are burning up like marshmallow in a campfire. My sails are torn, I’m gonna sink in the monetary tide and be eaten by a 23 foot debt shark. It ain’t gonna be pretty. Thousands of dollars are being shredded before me.

I let out a haggard breath and sink into my seat in defeat.
And then I get a call!
God provided and they said it was pending review and that all was well.

I was stressed to say the least. It was a draining day.

Stress 
Stress and even anxiety are things we all face in our lives. Different amounts at different times, but we all experience these things nonetheless. Even if you humbly characterize yourself as easy going and down to earth like I do, you’ve still experienced stress. Before college it was easier to be a little more hippy dippy and just stay chill, but in college I’ve found that work piles up faster than I can shovel it. 

We’re going to look at stress through a biblical lens. We’ll look at few passages, but we’ll hone in on Philippians 4:4-7.

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 
  2. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
  3. do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 
  4. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Merriam Webster defines “anxious” as feeling afraid or nervous especially about what may happen. It’s also a state characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency.
That’s a bit wordy, but it’s pretty accurate for how we feel when we’re stressed, right? We feel like it’s all hitting the fan at once, like everything is weighing down on us, like the walls are burning down around us and we have a water gun full of gasoline. It can even feel like drowning or being eaten by shark (kind of?).

We’re all familiar with stress and anxiety, regardless of how often they overwhelm us. It’s definitely a real issue.
Stress and anxiety are closely related, so we’ll talk about them interchangeably as stress leads to anxiety and vice versa.

Is stress inherently evil?
It’s important to note that stress isn’t always bad, though. There’s “EUSTRESS“, which is good stress, and “DISTRESS“, which is bad stress.

Eustress (good stress) is a natural response that helps us in many ways. It helps us focus and meet deadlines. This good stress initiates actions that’d otherwise be left alone.
I’m stressing to some extent writing this post: checking my pitiful grammar, making sure it reads well, solidifying the ideas, trying to present them with concision, etc.
Eustress is helpful if you’re taking a test, for example. It helps you block out distractions and focus, work efficiently to manage your time well, and therefore make a good grade.

Good stress is a gift from God that helps us sharpen our senses and perform to the best of our ability.

But we usually think of stress negatively, don’t we? When we’re “stressed out” we’re experiencing distress.
In our testing example you’d be experiencing distress if you were frantically marking random answers, surrendering to failing the class, or crying.

Stress becomes a problem when it leads to anxiety, the very thing Paul said for us to avoid.

This Friday was the first really stressful day of the semester. I was definitely a dude in distress. I’ll have many more stressful days, and many more times I know God will show grace and providence. But I was still bogged down in the moment, and we all feel this way at times too.

We know stress is bad, but why do we do it? Why does a Christian stress?
Why do you stress? Have you ever had a breakdown due to stress? Does stress slowly wear you down? Let me know in the comments.

Look for Part 2 to be out in a week or so.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll join me for the next segment.

Advertisements

Dear Antiestablishment Christian,

Dear Antiestablishment Christian,

I have to preface this by stating my love for you as a brother in Christ. I have no doubts as to your salvation. I can tell you’ve built your beliefs on the solid foundation of Christ crucified. I’m overjoyed that you’re in the fellowship of His church, and will praise Him with me in Heaven for all eternity.

You are intelligent, well spoken, and grounded. I know your ideas are well researched and thought out; you’ve definitely done your homework. You speak passionately and intensely. You eloquently share your thoughts and people hear you.

But, I think you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping…

You can come across as hateful at times. I don’t think it’s on purpose either, just happens incidentally. The issues you speak on are so close to your heart that you’re moved to challenge them. This is a wonderful thing.

I understand your concerns about what the Church has become. 2,000 years of sinful people will dilute and contort any idea, especially one so bold, yet so nuanced as Christianity. I more than understand your contentions with ignorant branch of psuedo-Christianity, the shallow sect that goes to church, but is not the Church.

They turn Jesus into a political mascot riding a donkey or an elephant with an American flag in His hand. Their Jesus either passes guns out to toddlers or gifts Priuses and kale juice. They’ll come on Sunday mornings, maybe even sing a little and stay awake during the sermon, and then live out the week no different from the world around them. They politicize church affairs, picking sides and fights. They create God in their image, not recognizing that it’s the other way around.

I get that. That infuriates me too. They hurt the Gospel. Others perceive these people as the entire Church and generalize and assume that we’re all like that.

But you tend be known more for what you’re against, rather than what you’re for. This is partially due to how different your ideas are from mainstream, more fundamental Christians. I recognize that anything new will be faced with opposition, and I commend your persistence in your sharing of these controversial ideas.

The beauty of salvation is the grace that’s allowed for flexibility on some nitpicky issues. This has allowed the Gospel to be applicable in many cultures and communities throughout history. Your right to express your opinion is God given and should never be smothered.

But the way express your opinion is causing others to stumble. Not in the self examining, reflective way either. I, myself have stumbled. You’ve ticked me off. I can’t show love for the saints if I’m mad at one of them. This is my fault. Not yours.

Oftentimes your inflammatory, pointed statements and statuses alienate those who believe differently than you. That’s not how it should be. You bounce back and forth between praising an apparent abuse of grace and browbeating those who sin differently than you do. I’m sure you have patience and understanding for other Christians, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

You can come across as sassy and pious, which evokes an equal response from others. And then you tend to take the high ground, saying that you were “not mad, just having a conversation.” That’s not how it should be, brother.

Please understand I don’t want this to be hateful or judgmental, I want to encourage! This is not an open letter bashing your beliefs, just critiquing your presentation of them. I actually agree with a few of your ideas, but you’re not sharing them effectively. You have the purest intentions, but they are often polluted by your demeanor.

You’d be more effective if you’d build up the Church sometimes, rather than trying to gut it and remodel the whole thing.

There’s room for disagreements in theology of course, but it becomes an issue when it separates the church.
We will be know by our love for the saints. So let’s unite under the cross to go out and bring the lost home. Evangelism is more important than our disagreements.

Blessings and Love,

Josiah Robinson