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Overcoming Stress: Part 1

Stress can make you sick, It can be a killer. It is a significant factor in bringing on heart attacks. At the least, it can cause psychological pain and give you ulcers. The multimillion-dollar antacid business is founded to a large degree on stress. Negative Stress need not be a factor in your life. By negative stress I mean harmful stress that causes you problems. A Slight amount of stress can be advantageous. For instance, It can help you in sports and other contests and games. But most stress can be overcome.

Stress is a feeling of strain or pressure. It is a type of psychological pain caused by stressors which are a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or event that causes you to be stressed. Stressors are usually neutral but may be percieved as a danger or threat. Four types of stressors exist. They are crisis and catastrophes, major life events, daily hassles and ambient stressors. Ambient stressors are low-grade global factors that affect every part of our lives like personal organizational problems. Certainly there are real threats and dangers. Natural events like hurricanes, the fires in Australia, tornados, and other events are dangerous stress-causing threats. Neutral events like walking alone at night in certain areas are not inherently threats, but the potential for harm is there. In such situations stress causes a healthy amount of awareness that heightens our sensitivity to danger.

An interesting sidebar here is that animals can perceive some natural disasters like tidal waves and earthquakes. Scientists studying this phenomenon have found that pressures in the earth create low-level electromagnetic waves that animals can perceive, but which we cannot feel. Dolphins have led small boats out into deeper water where there was less danger from a coming tidal wave. Domesticated elephants have headed to higher ground in such situations despite their owners’ commands to continue on course. Cats are especially attuned to these magnetic fields. So, if you live in an earthquake-prone area, or live in a low-lying area near an ocean, and your cat or dog starts acting extremely agitated for no apparent reason, It’s a good idea to consider their actions a clue. Head out of a city or uphill, as the case may be.

However, much of our stress comes from our imagining what could happen in the future. Most of these imaginings are false. They come from our feelings of inadequacy. We feel that if such an event were to occur we’d be unable to cope with it. Most fear-based stress is groundless because it’s never going to happen. Much in our lives is beyond our control. If we perceive these events or situations to be contrary to our way of living or personal safety we become stressed. However, we can deal with or live through them. The answer is literally in Christ.

Psalm One sets the foundation for overcoming stress: “Blessed is he who stands not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper”. The law here is not the law given to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Bible. In the Christian context the law means the guiding principles given to us by Christ. A true Christian will follow these guiding principles because it is his or her new nature to do so. And, the Holy Spirit will guide a Christian through whatever trials appear in life.

Psalm 23 is probably the most famous of all the psalms. It’s on posters, T-shirts, social media, and countless other places: “The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for His sake. Yes, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. The reason this psalm is so popular is its promise that God will guide us in overcoming the stressors in our lives. He will keep us safe from the dangers in our lives. Paul summed this up when He said, “If God is with me, what can man do to me”. In other words, the trials and tribulations of this world don’t matter in the Christian context. God’s ways are not man’s ways, And God’s ways are the Christian’s ways- as best we can follow them.

Paul had a problem which he called a thorn in the flesh, a satan-given stumbling block which he asked God to remove from him. God said no: “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness”.
Therefore, said Paul, he would most gladly work through and with his infirmities so that the power of Christ would rest upon him ( 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; read all of chapter 12 ). Chapter 12 along with Psalms one and twenty-three comprise the key to overcoming stress in your life.

Next week’s blog will go into more detail on how you can put this key to work in your life. Now here’s the thing: You have to put it to work. You have to live it, practice it. Self-help books are extremely popular. People buy millions of them every year. I’ve bought many in past decades. But even the best ones do you absolutely no good at all unless you follow the program or principles outlined in the book. You have something infinitely better than any self-help book You have a God-help book. The letters in the name Bible stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

Any instruction book is worthless unless you follow the given instructions. A common cliche’ says that if all else fails, read the instructions. I’d suggest reading the instruction book first. That’ll save you a lot of self-imposed stress. And who needs more stress? Not me, not you. I suggest getting out your basic instruction book and start reading it. Start with the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And, practice the principles you find there. Next week’s blog will be instruction on how to follow the instructions. See you next week.

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