There are these handy little online tests that walk you through a series of questions which ultimately determine how stressed you are. Yet the reality is, if you’re typing into Google, “online stress tests,” you’re either a) extremely bored, or b) most likely … stressed. Lately, as I’ve found myself undergoing all sorts of life change, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to be overwhelming, absolutely, stressed.
Yet surprisingly, that hasn’t been the case. I want to share my secrets with you; but first, I need to give myself some credibility so you can truly understand why my lack of stress is quite miraculous. Recently, I accepted a ministry position in Dallas, Texas, (don’t worry I will still be writing here as normal) that is causing my husband and me to move. Our house is filled with boxes as we pack up our lives for the transition. While undergoing this change, we have been trying to figure out where we will live and, for any of you Texans out there who are familiar with Dallas real estate, houses go quick — and I mean a day quick. So with no ‘home sweet home’ and a move underway, things were already crazy.
Enter phase two. After my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, her chemo treatments began the week I was saying goodbye to hundreds of students where I currently work. By day, I was telling kids, one by one, not to cry as we said our final goodbyes and by night, I was praying and doing my best to keep my mom encouraged. Then, I get this call: “Dairy, grandpa passed away last night.” As you can imagine, plenty of goodbyes are being said this past week, and as I write to you I’m boarding a redeye to say yet another one to my sweet grandfather. Yet, as I’ve claimed, I am not really stressed at all. Perhaps you are about to stop reading this because, clearly, I must be in denial or off my rocker.
Let me assure you, I am not. I am simply clinging to a verse I love – a verse which can be a source of comfort and strength to any of you who find yourself in transition or particularly stressed in this season of life. In fact, my hope is that I save you the time needed to Google search for “stress” (I assure you there are no great solutions out there). However, as believers, we do have the solution, not a solution. Ever notice the Word of God is often most alive in your heart when you are clinging to it, and only it? Lately, this has been my experience with a verse in Philippians:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
This verse is essential for anyone dealing with stress, but after reading it several times a few things stood out to me that I believe were intentional by the writer, Paul. The text outlines that there is an order to the way in which we should respond to our stress. First, don’t give it space in your heart, as he assures us we must not be anxious for anything. This means no matter how many things in life you are given to juggle, remember God is faithful and we can choose how we approach the stresses that come into our life.
Secondly, there is an order to what we must do when we begin to feel overwhelmed. Let me pause on that for a moment. In a panic situation, we have been trained since childhood that when someone yells, “fire,” our immediate response should be to “stop, drop and roll.” Yet as Christians, we often don’t find it as easy to recite the steps for remaining calm when life hands us chaos. So here’s a simple way to remember what Paul spoke about so long ago, which is still a constant truth in our modern time: begin with prayer. I often think we forget how amazing the gift of prayer is.
Imagine if we didn’t have access to God through prayer. Perhaps we take it for granted, but the fact of the matter is we have access to the Man who holds all power. Imagine you had the President of the United States on speed dial and you had an issue he alone held the power to reconcile. Would you debate what to do? No, chances are you would take advantage of your connection. This is what prayer is for a believer it is a connection to exchange our problem for His discernment, which ultimately leads to the right answer. We must use this weapon if we want to combat stress. Next, we must notice what comes after prayer in this verse: our petition. We have permission through the connection of prayer to a petition. Indeed we can request, appeal, and even plead with the God of the Universe in our times of chaos. So is there a catch? I guess you could say there actually is. We are told to do all these things with a spirit of thanksgiving.
I cannot highlight this point enough! If you want to relieve stress, you must remain joyous. There is something about praise that allows us to declutter our hectic lives. It absolutely replenishes us and allows us to release our frustrations. How? We are no longer focused on us. It is that simple. So, while stress is an unfortunate factor of life here on earth, a small verse found in Philippians tells us there is a great way to not only handle it but to turn our anxiety into a state of peace.
The answer does not consist of pills, therapy talks, or focusing on trying to efficiently get our “act” together. In fact, I dare you to try to live out this verse for a whole week. Pray and praise the Creator, instead of focusing on your circumstances, and watch how quickly your perspective changes. Now, by no means have I mastered this. I still often get led down a slippery path of stress, but I truly believe the more we claim Philippians 4:6, instead of our heavy burdens, the more we will be able to tackle the life “events” that come our way. Therefore, my prayer for you is that peace will rule your hearts, and joy govern your life, because of the One who holds each day.