Stress is pressure, and if we were honest, we are probably stressed out most of the time from the pressures of life: work and school responsibilities, family or friend drama, and not to mention the constant buzzing on our phones of someone who needs to get a hold of us right away!
Add the world’s current political climate as a cherry on top, and we get a perfect recipe for constant stress.
What are we to do to overcome stress? Does God provide anything in the Bible that can help? The answer is yes!
Since Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, stress has been around, and ever since, God has been giving His people strategies to overcome it.
This article will cover just a few ways the Bible teaches us how to overcome stress. I can tell you from personal experience that it works. (I originally wrote this article on Christianity.com. View the original article here.)
Let’s take a look at strategies the Bible gives us to battle stress.
1. Choose the Better Thing.
We see such a great picture of what to do with stress in Luke 10:41-42. In this story, a woman named Martha is hosting a party, which many know is stressful. Thoughts like “Do we have enough food? What about drinks? Where is everyone going to sit? How many are coming? Oh no! We need more plates!” fill our minds.
This party had one extra pressure added: Jesus, the Son of God and most important Man in the universe, was coming to dinner.
I don’t know about you, but if the most important man alive were coming to my house for dinner with dozens of other people, I’d lose some sleep the night before.
Martha, like us, is stressed out by everything she has to do. Her sister Mary is supposed to be helping, but when Martha looks over, Mary is sitting there listening to Jesus as He talks to everyone.
So Martha makes a stressed-out remark to Jesus about Mary needing to help her, and Jesus’ response gives us insight into what is necessary to overcome stress.
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
The word for “anxious” here in Greek means “to care,” but in a way that distracts you. It comes from a root word that means “to cut and divide into pieces.”
Doesn’t that describe stress and anxiety perfectly? Something you care about that is now dividing you and cutting you into pieces? You feel pulled in a million different directions!
So what do we do? Jesus said to choose “one thing that is necessary” and choose “the good portion.”
The first step to overcoming stress is to order everything you have to do in the day into the most necessary tasks and into what is the good portion.
You cannot do everything. So choose what is most important to you, do that first, and then do the others if you have time.
Things will fall through the cracks. But if you choose first what is most important, then at least what falls doesn’t matter that much to you.
Also, make sure that the first thing—the most significant priority—is time with Jesus! Every day, make sitting with Jesus a priority. It will come at a cost. You may not get something else done. But at least you spend time with God first, and that is the “one thing” that will give you strength for everything else.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30).
2. Vent to God and Be Thankful.
OK, you are stressed still, but now you are at least giving a moment to be with Jesus. Then what?
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
What stress and anxieties are we supposed to talk to God about? According to this verse, all of them. The word “casting” in Greek means to “throw upon.”
When you are stressed, start talking to God about all of it! Every detail stressing you out, speak to Him about it and throw it upon Him.
King David had a lot of stress ruling his kingdom! This is how he was able to stay sane:
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him (Psalm 142:1-2).
Something happens when we tell God our stresses. First, it gets all the garbage out of our hearts and minds, then once it’s out, we can start thinking clearly again. That is why it is so important to take time to vent to God about your life.
Whether we like it or not, we will vent to people if we don’t vent to God. Eventually, it will ooze out of you onto your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers, and when it does, it isn’t pretty.
Give it to God. He is the one who can handle it.
Do not be anxious about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6).
Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Tell Him everything you need. He is listening, and it will empty your heart.
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3. Focus on Thankfulness.
Stress can put us in a weird funk where the world seems like it is falling apart.
After we vent and get all the garbage out of our hearts, we must replace it with something. That is why the second half of that verse says, “Thank him for all he has done.”
Even when you don’t feel it, start thanking Him. I try to think of at least 10 things.
Venting gets the stress out. Thankfulness puts things into their proper perspective.
It reminds us of everything God has already done for us. When we remember everything God has given us and done for us, we forget the lack and pressure we feel.
It is hard to be worried and thankful at the same time.
Choose thankfulness, and stress starts to fade.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
The stress will go away when we stop focusing on everything we lack, need, and have to do, and we go back to the feet of Jesus and focus on what is true in our life.
4. Go Outside.
I love how practical Jesus is with us.
“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? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:26-28,34)
What does He say to do when we worry? Go outside and look at the birds and the flowers. Something will happen when you do. When you see the beauty of creation, you begin to remember, “Oh yeah, God provides for everything I need.”
Look at these birds. They are so carefree and have no idea what they are going to eat! Yet they always find food! So God will provide for me as well!
Look at those flowers. They are gorgeous. I think I will be OK.
Sometimes all you need to relieve stress is a good walk. I go on a walk and vent to God at the same time. Start the walk venting, and by the end of the walk, you will be thanking.
Creation declares the glory of God, and when we see His glory and majesty, stress seems so little in comparison.
5. Take Your Thoughts Captive.
As you get back from your walk or venting session and move on with your day, the devil will try and bring the feeling of stress back.
As thoughts and worries begin to creep back in, we have to stay on guard. We have to choose what we think about!
We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
When that lie comes in saying that you will fail, the stress is too much. Stop right there and take that thought captive.
Say to that thought, “No, Jesus is enough to deal with this stress.” Then give it to God again!
What can we do to overcome stress? Follow the Bible’s strategies. Choose not to get divided, choose what is necessary, go get time with Jesus, vent to Him, and after that insert thankfulness, and remember to get outside and take every thought captive!