This is the last installment of the series on stress relief. If you haven’t read the previous two weeks’ blogs, I suggest that you read them before reading this one.
Stress relief is very simply the reliance on God’s faithful providence. Providence is the continual care God exercises over His creation. It is not possible that God would create the universe, and then let it run however it goes without His continuing care. God promises us through the Bible that He will continue to care for the world (Ps. 33:13, 15; Isaiah 45:7; Acts 17:24-28), and His care is unlimited to all things (Psalm 145 9-17). However, mankind is the highest of God’s creation, so we are the most important to Him ( Matthew 6: 25-32). So, He extends extra care to people.
God’s purpose in His Providence is to fulfill the plan He had for us before the foundation of the world, which is to bring all of us into harmony with Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:9; 2:8-10; Colossians 1:19-23). But of course that won’t happen. The majority of people will choose not to follow Him, and they will be lost to Him in eternity.
Paul gives the key to entering into the special providence of God that He reserves for those who faithfully follow Christ in Colossians 1:19-23, that we must stay faithful to God throughout our lives and follow His plan: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). That is the key: God is faithful to us, and He will keep His promises to us (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 31:23; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Accordingly, He preserves His faithful people: Matthew 24:14-30). So, it is required of us to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Faithfulness to God is the key to overcoming worldly stress. We are in mortal bodies at this time and live in a physical world. So, we naturally tend to get wrapped up in dealing with physical problems in a physical manner. That’s normal. We need to deal with the physical in kind-to a point. Christians are in the world and for the world, but we are not of the world. If we let or focus be on just how to deal with worldly problems in a worldly way we naturally get stressed, because our dealing with the world is often beyond our capability to manage by ourselves. We need to stay focused on God’s plan for our lives, and then whatever we can’t do for Him, He’ll take up the slack: “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink…But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you…Therefore, take no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:25-34).
The message God has for us in the Bible is that stress relief requires that we stay faithful to Him as He is to us. He has a plan for your life that fits harmoniously into His plan for the universe and particularly for His highest creation, which is you, me and all His people. I don’t want anyone to get an elitist attitude here. You and I aren’t any better than anyone else because we’re Christians. It’s that you (hopefully) and I have decided to follow Jesus with no turning back, as the song says. It’s our decision to live our lives in Christ that particularly extends God’s providence to us. I’ve been sharing a Peanuts cartoon on Facebook that shows Charlie Brown and one of the girls I forget her name) laying down with their heads propped up on the opposite sides of a tree. The girl says, “I think I’ve done all that I can do, Chuck”. Charlie Brown says, “Then let it go and let God take care of it”.
Problems do come. God doesn’t promise to take away all our problems, just to help and guide us in working through them: “These things I have spoken to you that you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). If we do all we can do to fulfill our part of His plan, He will do the rest. If we stay true to how He has planned our lives to fit into His plan, everything works out. A corporate head hunter liked to ask prospective executives what their plan for life was. One interviewee instantly replied, “To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can”. The head hunter said that for once in his life he was speechless. And, that is what God fundamentally wants. He wants to bring everyone into harmony with His plan.
Problems, or tribulation, is a challenge to look forward to. Instead of worrying and getting stressed over problems, look at them as opportunities to bring Christ to the unsaved. Let them see Christ’s light shining out from within you, let them watch how you get ways of solving problems that seem miraculous to them, because they are miraculous. Instead of being burdened down by your problems, get excited by the opportunities they are giving you! Paul said he rejoiced in his infirmities.
Rejoycing in our problems requires faith in God that He will see us through. The writer of Hebrews spent all of chapter 11, 40 verses, explaining faith. He started by defining faith as “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1-3; emphasis added). Very simply, the physical universe was made and is sustained by the power of God (John 1:1-3). Accordingly, it’s impossible to solve what are actually spiritual problems by using physical means.
Ultimately, stress comes from trying to solve problems ourselves and by using the wrong method. I saw a five-year-old boy trying to fix his broken peddle car by beating on it with a hammer. The problem was that a spot weld had broken loose, and beating on it with a hammer only made the problem worse. Your trying to fix a basically spiritual problem by physical means is beating on the problem with a hammer. Often it just makes things worse, which increases stress.
Jesus says to come to Him when you’re burdened down, because His burdens are light, and He will not let you be burdened beyond your capacity to handle them. We are His ambassadors in the world, and the world sees Him through us. Learn to exercise faith in God that He will handle what you can’t if you are following His plan for your life. His plan for you fits into His ultimate plan for the world. And, if you’re living in harmony with God, there is no stress- or at least very little and it’s easily bearable. That is the only stress relief that exists.
Faith takes practice. It doesn’t come all at once. The more you exercise faith in Christ, the less stress you’ll experience in life. Faith is an action verb, as Hebrews explains. We may know that a chair will support our weight, but that’s not faith. Faith is taking action and sitting in the chair. It’s trusting the chair to hold us. Likewise, trusting God is by doing, and expecting Him to hold up His end of the bargain (Psalm 37:40; 2 Corinthians 3:4,5; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Hebrews, Ch. 11). And the ideal time to start practicing faith is now, right this minute. What are you waiting for? See you next week.