Stress is generally experienced most tangibly in our physical bodies when we face a short-term challenge, for example: an upcoming exam, a job interview, pressure in the workplace, etc. When the short-term challenge has passed, we can relax again. Stress accelerates when there’s not enough time to complete a task. Anxiety on the other hand, can be a continuous state that can grow worse by excessive prolonged stress. Anxiety is unidentified fear, whereas fear can mostly be pin-pointed. Under national lockdown due to COVID-19, uncertainty causes many to experience high levels of stress, anxiety and fear.
Does this mean Believers struggling with stress and anxiety are sinful or unacceptable before the Lord? Certainly not! Let us look at the examples of Jesus and Paul when they were confronted with stressful situations, and their responses to those challenges.
1. From the life of Paul
Challenge: 2 Corinthians 7:5 – For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.
Promise: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… Even Paul suffered numerous life-threatening challenges, but his spirit was strong amidst it all.
Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you with His might in the inner man.
2. From the life of Jesus
Challenge: John 13:21 – When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
Promise: John 12:27 – “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. Jesus was also troubled, but knew that His life had a purpose and that He had to press through the difficulty before Him, even to the point of death.
Pray: Ask the Lord Jesus to strengthen you with His hope, to endure and overcome everything troubling your heart.
3. Jesus’ encouragement
Challenge: John 14:1 – Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
Promise: John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do, I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Jesus encouraged His disciples to believe amidst adversity and rather than addressing their every fear, ministered to them about their spiritual lives. Once our focus rests on Him, everything else comes into the right perspective.
Pray: Ask the Lord to encourage and strengthen your heart with faith.
4. Practical tips
In addition to prayer, are there more ways to cope with stress, anxiety and fear? Certainly! There are many practical things we can do in moments when we become anxious or feel overwhelmed by circumstances. You may consider trying some of the following:
- Exercise:Do some home exercises according to your ability and what is possible in your home. This may require you to do them early in the morning! Exercise breaks down adrenaline.
- Take a deep breath: Just stop for a moment, and take a few long, slow deep breaths. Stop when you feel a bit dizzy and repeat it again after one minute until your heartbeat subsides. You can do this more than once a day.
- Journal: Take a notebook or your journal and just write down everything that is on your mind – be it fear, things you worry about, frustrations, real concerns, etc. Write it out in prayer form, as in speaking to the Lord.
- Worship: Listen to worship music that ministers to your heart. Do this for as long as necessary, even installing it as a practice into your daily routine.
- Scripture: Take your Bible and read, for instance, any five Psalms of your choice. If that is too hard, consider downloading a Bible from YouTube to your mobile device and take time daily to just listen to Scripture for at least 20 minutes – even twice a day if possible.
- Have a good laugh: One of the best stress relievers is to have a good laugh. Be sure you have people in your sphere of influence that are funny and positive, and spend some time connecting with them daily. Disconnect from reading ALL the news ALL the time and fill your mind with other more uplifting material.
- Have a conversation with someone: It is nearly always of great value. It is not necessarily for the purpose of counselling, but very often our minds start making sense of the clutter when we express our feelings and emotions to another.