Chances are you’re reading this blog because of one of two reasons. Either you saw the title and said to yourself, “That’s impossible. Let’s see what this guys says on how to live a stress free life.” Or you said, “I’m stressed to the max and I need to realize how to eliminate some stress, I need help!” I’m not sure I will write something that will truly help either one of these statements, but I hope what I write can at least provide some perspective.
Stress has gotten a bad reputation, but that’s because people only focus on the bad stress. Believe it or not, there is also good stress. Bad stress, the kind that causes disease and fractured relationships is usually the kind that comes to mind. When we say,”I’m stressed”, its usually coupled with negative connotations. What we’re really saying is, “There are a lot of things happening in my life I have little control over.”
That stress can be financial. Maybe we have gotten ourselves in so much debt that, without some kind of help, we’ll have a hard time getting back into the black. We’ve lost control. Maybe it’s relational stress. We’re in the middle of a friendship that has been stripped of its comfortability and now the presence of the other person causes tension. There’s nothing we can do about it, we’ve lost control, and we’re feeling the weight of it. You’ve found yourself in a position that no matter what you say or do, you can’t remedy the situation. These are difficult forms of stress and we’ve all likely experienced one of these forms of stress.
So what truly causes stress? Lack of control. Whether its the loss of a loved one or the pressure of school assignments, the root is a lack of control. We can’t adjust or control the due date of the school assignment so the looming deadline causes stress. We can’t bring back a loved one and the absence of their presence causes pain and anxiety. Maybe we’ve committed to too many things and now we’ve found that we’re not being really effective at any of them. We’ve lost control because of our overcommitment.
We’re stressed when perceive that we are losing, or have lost, control.
So, how to eliminate stress? I’m sure there are a dozen books out there with step by step instructions so I’m not going to waste your time with that. I’m going to simply offer a few principles that may guide you in the process.
1) Support What is Popular: If you want to live a stress free life, just support what is currently culturally popular. The downside is you’ll be a person of no real convictions and you’ll influence nobody, but you’ll be on the cutting edge.
2) Don’t Care: People will only cause stress in your life if you care about them, so, just make the decision not to care about people and you’ll be stress free. The downside is you’ll be lonely, have no meaningful relationships, and likely no friends, but at least you won’t have anyone holding you down and funerals won’t be sad for you.
3) Keep Life Ambitions to a Minimum: Don’t strive for anything that could potentially result in failure. Don’t apply for the job promotion, don’t set out to fulfill your dreams, and by all means, DON’T ask God what His assignment is for you. Every day will be the same and nothing exciting will ever happen for you, and the most intense moment of your week will be the seconds before the PowerBall numbers are drawn, but at least you won’t have contend with the feelings of failure.
4) Cast All Your Cares on Him: Yeah, this one doesn’t fit the sarcastic tone of the previous three, but this one has all the benefits with none of the downsides. 1 Peter 5:5-7 says,
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
It turns out the key to a stress free life really has nothing to do with the first three solutions I mentioned. According to God, it looks more like this:
1) Be Humble: Being right is not always the right thing to be. Being humble is more valuable than being right as God shows favor to the humble. And God’s measure of showing favor is astronomically greater than anything we could gain by being prideful.
2) Strive for Godly Ambition: Keep the heart of a servant and allow God to exalt you as He chooses. When we exalt ourselves it becomes our responsibility to keep us at the exalted position. But if God exalts you, the humble, then He is the one who will show you favor and oppose those who would come against you.
3) Share the Burden: As a dysfunctionally independent person it is very hard for me to share my burdens. Only one or two people in my life are privy to my struggles and that’s enough for me. But no matter how many confidants you have, one of them HAS TO BE GOD. Seeking Godly council is beneficial but it should never replace seeking God’s council. Yell at Him, throw things, whatever, just share your heart with Him because HE CARES FOR YOU.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. – Eleanor Roosevelt