‘My people will live in peaceful dwelling places…’ Isaiah 32:18 NIV
Years ago stress was considered mostly a male problem, but not anymore. Women are experiencing the stress of pursuing perfection, looking a certain way, competing in the workplace, attempting to do it all, never saying no, and having no time for themselves. That’s not how God wants you to live! ‘The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.’ (Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV) So, (male or female) here are two practical suggestions for de-stressing: (1) Allow yourself more time. Since everything takes longer than you think, having enough time to complete the job reduces your anxiety greatly. Whenever you’re under pressure, a good rule of thumb is to allow 20 percent more time than you think you’ll need. (2) Be content with less. A recent study of thousands of households found that those who maintained lifestyles beyond their means were more prone to stress-related illnesses such as heart attack and depression. ‘He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house…’ (Proverbs 15:27 NKJV) You say, ‘Does that mean God doesn’t want me to get ahead in life?’ No, He just wants you to keep your priorities straight and to learn to enjoy where you are, on your way to where you’re going. If you’re feeling stressed today, pray: ‘Lord, I need to be renewed. This business of living has drained me. Thank You for ordaining quiet times and places of rest in the midst of hectic schedules. Help me always to put You first and to find my place of rest in You.’
‘…Created in Christ Jesus to do good works…’ Ephesians 2:10 NIV
We were saved to serve, not sit on the sidelines. But even in our appointed slot, overload is possible. We love serving the Lord, yet sometimes our attitudes stress us. The toxic mix of inadequacy and perfectionism in serving leads to burnout. It pushes us to behave obsessively and compulsively, decreasing our joy and increasing our tension. We feel trapped. We don’t know whether to quit and feel bad, or keep going and feel overwhelmed. So we either become overly responsible by carrying our own workload plus everybody else’s, or drop out, leaving everything to others. What’s the solution? First, we must stop serving to please others. It’s the wrong motive and never works. And when it doesn’t, we work harder for approval and end up disappointed. Paul writes, ‘…I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.’ (Galatians 1:10 NLT) Our ‘well done’ must come from God, not people. Secondly, we must stop serving in our own strength. Jesus said, ‘…The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.’ (John 5:19 NLT) Like hand in glove, they move together. That’s cooperation and interdependency. ‘…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.’ (John 15:4 NIV) It’s how Paul served. ‘…I labour, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.’ (Colossians 1:29 NIV). He worked hard, but the energy was God’s, not his. So we must remember our source of effectiveness, and we’ll reduce the stress of serving.
‘…Am I trying to please people?…’ Galatians 1:10 NCV
Whether we are ordained ministers or lay people, we aren’t exempt from stress. A deadly combination of traits, seen frequently in those serving God, produces inferiority and perfectionism – traits that make us obsessive-compulsive performers who think we’re inadequate and that our service is never satisfactory. As a result we become: (a) Over-responsible: We think we must do everything ourselves. (b) Irresponsible: We think nothing we do is acceptable so we shouldn’t tackle anything. (c) Uncertain: Vacillating between (a) and (b), we feel like losers either way we go. Understand this: it’s the stress we generate, not the demands of the service, that wears on us. And nothing stresses us like people-pleasing! Paul says, ‘Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ,’ because he’d previously lived for people’s acceptance. Now he found himself unable to be an effective servant of Christ and still worry about people’s opinions. People-pleasing must not be your motivation for serving, because: (1) It won’t work. Every vote you capture loses you others. (2) It makes you attempt the impossible. The more you fail to please people, the harder you try. So you get caught in a cycle of pressure, failure and discouragement. (3) You become the source of your strength. Jesus avoided this exhausting lifestyle. ‘…The Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing…’ (John 5:19 NLT) Only when God is your source, do your stress levels go down!