"Stressed Out" part 1:
Surviving Stress
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 29, 2007

 

Main Passage: Matthew 6:24-34 (NLT)

 

Stress. We all face it everyday. It complicates our decisions, causes sleepless nights, and robs us of the joy of living. So what can we do about it, and where can we go for answers? How can we gain control over the threshold of stress in our lives? Does the Bible give any tips about how we can deal with stress?

This morning here at Sunrise we’re beginning a brand new series on stress. And those are the types of questions we hope to answer. We’re going to talk more in general terms this morning, and then over the next few weeks we’re going to address some of the specific causes of stress.

Like busyness – that is, the hectic pace of life.
Or emotional reasons, like guilt or anger or loneliness or grief.
Or change. Most people can only tolerate about 20% change in their lives each year. Beyond that, the stress level goes way up.
We’ll also talk about financial reasons for stress, like living in debt.
And we’ll talk about relational stresses that you might find in marriages and in families.

And we’ll see if there are some practical, Biblical solutions to the stress levels that so many of us experience in these different areas.

You know, stress can be caused by so many things, and really, it’s different for each of us. You may be stressed out by the demands and pressures of work. Maybe that’s a big deal for you right now. Or maybe you get stressed out by something as simple as a call from a telemarketer.

I got a call this week from someone taking a survey. We have a provincial election looming here, and so it was one of those surveys to find out what public opinion is about the parties and the candidates and the issues at hand. I normally ignore those calls… I detest getting them… they stress me out… but I happened to pick this one up. And I thought one of the questions was really bizarre. She asked me, “Which of the following people are you most likely to vote for?” And that was it. No options. So I waited a few seconds… still nothing, so I repeated the question back. “Which of the following people am I most likely to vote for?” And she said “yes”! Just didn’t clue in. So I just gave her the name of one of the political leaders and finished up the survey.

But stress can be triggered by something as simple as that… or it can be something more serious like a major health problem or the loss of a job or a family emergency.

Now, in case you’re here and you’re not sure if you’re stressed out or not, let me give you the top ten signs you are under stress…
 

Top Ten Signs You Are Stressed Out:

10. Antacid tablets have become your sole source of nutrition.
9. You begin to explore the possibility of setting up an I.V. drip solution of espresso.
8. You say the same sentence over and over again, not realizing that you have said it before.
7. You think about how relaxing it would be if you were in jail right now.
6. You include “Bathroom Breaks” on your to-do list.
5. You’re stockpiling food in case that Y2K bug ever hits.
3. You say the same sentence over and over again, not realizing that you have said it before.
2. You listen to your relaxation CDs on high speed.
1. You’re still upset that I skipped #4.
 

Well, besides those ten things (actually, nine things) I just listed for you, there are some common symptoms of stress… some ways that you can identify the result of stress in your life.

• Memory problems
• Difficulty making decisions
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgement
• Moody / Hypersensitive
• Depression
• Anger / Resentment
• Easily irritated (“on edge”)
• Sense of being overwhelmed
• Headaches
• Digestive problems
• Muscle tension
• High blood pressure
• Problem getting to sleep or sleeping too much

And these can lead to some pretty serious problems like…

• Heart attacks
• Hypertension
• Strokes
• Diabetes
• Clinical Depression
• Ulcers
• Memory loss (Did I already say that?)
• Insomnia
• Thyroid problems
• Infertility
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Now with that in mind, take a look at the person sitting next to you this morning. Just how stressed do they look?)
[Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm]

Now, here’s something you need to understand: Stress is not bad. In fact, you need stress. A certain level of stress is healthy. Where you run into problems is when you have a high level of stress for a prolonged period of time. That combination can be deadly.

Kind of like a rubber band. A rubber band is only useful when there’s some tension… when there’s some stress. But too much stress, and it snaps.

So we all face stress, and a little stress is actually a good thing. But the problem is, we tend to go way beyond a healthy dose of stress and we peg that stress needle right in the red danger zone and we keep it there.

But the thing is, most of our stress is unnecessary. Check this out… The self-help guru Earl Nightingale has made these observations about the things we get stressed about.

40% will never happen.
30% concern the past which cannot be changed.
12% deals with criticism and petty problems.
10% is related to health which worsens with worry.
8% are real, legitimate concerns.

Most of the stuff we stress about isn’t worth it. It’s either never going to happen or we can’t do anything about it anyway.

“I've dealt with many crises in my life, but few will ever happen.”
~ Mark Twain

But we do have that 8%. There are things that legitimately cause us stress. And we can’t completely avoid stress. We can reduce it, we can learn to cope with it, but we can’t eliminate it. So how do we handle it?

Let me give you five solutions for surviving the stresses of life.

 

If you want to survive the stresses of life…

1. Realize that troubles are going to happen.

There’s no way around it. Stress is a part of life. We’re going to have things that go wrong. Some things will be our own fault, some things we’ll have no control of at all. But we will experience stress.

“The perfect no-stress environment is the grave.”
~ Greg Anderson, Author of “The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness”

But as long as you’re alive, you’re going to experience it.

Now, I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by stress because they’re not expecting it. They think that somehow they’re going to sail through life and never experience hardships and stress. But it is going to come. That’s just a fact of life. In the passage Bev read for us earlier, Jesus said…

Matthew 6:34 (NLT)
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Those are the words of Jesus, and you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t say we wouldn’t have trouble. He didn’t say we wouldn’t experience stress. He said we would! But in the face of that trouble, He tells us to relax… don’t be overwhelmed by it. Don’t get preoccupied with all the potential problems that may or may not happen down the road… Just focus on the realities of today.

Now just to clarify, Jesus is not saying that we shouldn’t plan for the future. He’s saying we shouldn’t worry about the future. And planning for it and worrying about it are two very different things.

Maybe you’ve heard of Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman who suffered in one of the concentration camps during the Second World War because she helped Jews escape from the Nazis. You’d think that if anybody had cause to worry day after day it would be someone in a Nazi concentration camp. But this is what she said.

“Worry doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
~ Corrie Ten Boom

So take one day at a time. Realize that you are going to have troubles that can cause stress, and then deal with them on a day to day basis. Let God worry about tomorrow. You don’t get stressed out about it yourself.

 

2. Keep a positive perspective.

It’s all in how you look at things. Troubles are going to come your way, so when they do, can you see any positive in them? Or can you only see the negative? Do they only lead you to despair. Let me read you a story…
 

There was once a Canadian bird who decided he didn’t want to fly south for the winter. He decided it was nonsense to go all the way down south when he could just stay right where he was at. So when all the other birds set out, he stayed behind. Well, after a while, it got kind of cold. Until finally, he could take it no more, and he decided to fly south after all. But because he had waited so long, as he was flying through the air, ice began to form on his wings. And the ice continued to build, to the point where he could no longer fly. And so, using all of his strength, he glided down and landed in a barnyard.

So here is the bird, he’s half frozen in a barnyard and at the point of death. And as he’s trying to recover, and looking for solutions, along comes a cow – who walks right over the bird and drops a "plop" on him. Now the bird is really disgusted. He’s half frozen, dying, and now he has this "plop" on him. After a short time though, the ice begins to melt off of the bird. He starts to get warm under that "plop." He begins to think to himself, "It’s getting warm. I’m going to live! I’m going to live!" So there, right beneath that "plop" he starts to sing little bird songs. He’s now happy once again.

About that time a cat comes along and hears this noise coming from underneath this "plop." He moves the stuff off the bird and eats the bird.

There are three morals to this story:

1. Not everyone who drops a "plop" on you is necessarily your enemy
2. Not everyone who moves it off of you is necessarily your friend
3. And if someone does drop a "plop" on you, keep your mouth shut.
[from http://www.jesussite.com/jokes/index.htm, adapted slightly]
 

There may be bad things that happen to you, but can you see any good in them? When life drops a plop on you, can you actually see that there may be something positive that may come from it?

Stress does not have to be a negative experience for us. It can be good. But a lot of times it depends on how we view it, if it’s going to be positive or negative. In the New Testament book of James, it says…

James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Can you see that negative things can have positive results? So look for the good. If you want to survive the stresses of life, that’s what you have to do. Don’t get distracted by and focused on the negatives. Kim Reichelm who is a world champion Tree-skiier in extreme sports advises;

“Don’t stare at what you don’t want to hit.”
~ Extreme-skiing world champion Kim Reichelm on Tree-skiing

Good advice. Makes sense. If you’re skiing through trees, don’t focus on the trees. If you do, you’ll hit them. Instead, focus on the spaces between the trees and aim for them.

So be positive. Look for the good. Let God use the stresses you experience to develop perseverance in your life and help you grow as a person.

 

3. Ask yourself, “Is this worth stressing about?”

Most of the time, no, it isn’t. You see, what happens is, we start to get stressed about something and so the problem seems to grow. And the bigger the problem seems to us, the more stressed we get. Which in turn makes the problem seem even bigger. So it’s a progressive, cumulative effect. Until we’re left with no perspective of how minor the problem really is.

Let me give you an example. My wife flew out this past week to go on a humanitarian trip to central Asia. In fact, she’s pretty close to Iraq. Now, I’m not really supposed to tell you what country she’s in, but in one side of the country there’s land dispute. And there’s some violence there. She’s on the other side of the country and should be perfectly safe.

She flew out on Wednesday, and we knew that we probably wouldn’t be able to be in touch on a daily basis. But we were hoping that she’d be able to send an email just to confirm that she had arrived.

As of today, I still haven’t heard from her.

And you know what? If I let myself, I could get really stressed out about that. And I could start imagining all the possible things that could have gone wrong.

But what good would that do? It wouldn’t do any good at all! Even if I was right and something terrible had happened, what good would it have done for me to worry about it and get all stressed out without knowing anything? No good at all.

This is supposedly a letter that a freshman girl (freshgirl?) wrote to her mother. Maybe you’ve heard it before…
 

Dear Mom;

Since I have been away to college now for one full semester, I think it’s time that I bring you up to date on what is going on. Shortly after I arrived at college I got bored with dormitory life and stole $20 out of my roommate’s purse. With that money I rented a Honda bike and crashed it into a telephone pole a few blocks from college. I broke my leg, but was rescued by the young doctor who lives upstairs in the apartment house on the corner. He took me in and nursed me back to health, set my leg, and thanks to him I’m up and around again. We wanted to let you know that we’re going to get married as soon as possible, but we’re having some problems on the blood tests because there’s some disease that keeps showing up. We do hope, however, that we will be married before the baby arrives and will be home soon after to live with you and dad. I know that you will love the baby as much as you have me, even though it will be of a different religion. But please try to understand. The reason we are having to come home to stay is that my doctor friend has flunked out of medical school because of all the attention that he has had to give my condition.

Really mom, I didn’t steal $20 out of my roommate’s purse, or rent a Honda bike, or hit a telephone pole or break my leg. I did not meet a young doctor of a different religion nor are we gong to get married. There is no disease or test or baby to worry about. And I won’t be home to live with you and dad and he won’t be either. I am getting a D in Geometry and an F in Geology, however, and I wanted you to accept these grades in their proper perspective.

Your Loving Daughter,

Susie
 

Sometimes you just need to get some perspective. The problems may not be quite so big as they seem at first.

Jesus essentially told us the same thing. He said…

Matthew 6:25-27 (NLT)
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

Notice how ineffective getting stressed out is. “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Getting stressed out accomplishes nothing… at least nothing positive. If anything, it complicates things and makes you lose perspective. What you need to do is relax and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It will keep you busy but won’t get you anywhere!”
~ Vance Havner
(several others are also credited with this quote)

 

4. Remember that Jesus cares for you and knows what you’re going through.

You’re not alone. Jesus knows and He cares.

The apostle Paul understood this. In the New Testament, Paul went through all kinds of things in his life that could cause him stress and get him down. He had been arrested, imprisoned, he had had rocks thrown at him, he had death threats. But listen to the words he wrote to the Church in the city of Philippi…

Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Paul understood that he wasn’t alone. Jesus… who is God… was on his side. And because of that, all the stresses of life were diminished. Jesus gave him the strength to handle anything!

Where does your strength come from? If it comes from a relationship you have with Jesus Christ, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Let me read a few other verses for you…

Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Read this verse with me…

2 Corinthians 4:8 (NLT)
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.

And here’s something else Jesus said…

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus can and will sustain you, if you trust Him to do it. I think it’s funny that we sometimes get it in our heads that we can handle the pressures of life better than the one who created life. But the truth is, He’s the One who is uniquely equipped to handle everything. That’s why it says in Proverbs in the Old Testament…

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

That’s a promise for today. You can trust God. And He will strengthen you and guide through life, if you’re willing to trust Him and seek His will.

 

5. Don’t try to go it alone.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…

We all need a support group of friends, especially when we are under stress. Our tendency is to withdraw from others when we’re going through a rough patch, but that’s precisely the time when we need each other.

So seek to encourage other people who may be going through stressful times, and accept encouragement when people offer it to you. Take time to get together with friends regularly. Enjoy yourself and laugh with each other. Be there to help each other. That’s one of the reasons the Church exists… to encourage and build each other up.

So don’t try to go it alone. You’ve got a whole support network right here at Sunrise.

Let’s pray.

 

 

 

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