Can we define ‘stress’? Undeniably it’s associated with a feeling of helplessness when faced with a situation which is beyond our control. There is a crisis point when the feeling is intensified and we thrash around, delving into the recesses of our minds in a futile attempt to discover a possible hidden solution. There is no solution, so the situation becomes ongoing. Some might gloss over the situation, unintentionally pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s put ‘on the backburner’, where it remains until the heat reaches danger level and the mind seems to implode, resulting in breakdown. Others might respond by frantically searching every area for a solution, sometimes resorting to measures that under normal stress free circumstances they wouldn’t even have considered. My own particular weakness when faced with an immediate crisis or an ongoing stressful lifestyle used to be to ‘hide within myself’, trusting that it would simply resolve itself. It very rarely did, but somehow I managed to retain my equilibrium and hide my inner stress from the outside world. I guess that might be how I became introvert rather than extrovert, though my personality always leaned towards the quieter side of my nature!
Stress affects us all at some point in our lives, whether it’s financial, relational, work related or anything else that causes that inner feeling of helplessness. How we deal with it is probably to a great extent dependent on our personality, but overall it probably simmers away on the inside like a dormant volcano, until one day it has to erupt.
Life will never be stress free! In some ways a degree of stress is essential. It can motivate us to achieve greater things, though on the other hand it can be the very thing that destroys our motivation. It’s a complex emotion and one that needs to be controlled, though the method of control can itself lead to an even greater degree of stress. Experiencing long-term stress can take its toll on the physical body as well as the mind. Exhaustion and an inability to think clearly and rationally are two very clear symptoms of stress, though there are many other ways in which it can be manifested; certain illnesses are thought to be related in some way to ongoing stress.
Some people are able to cope with stressful lifestyles for many years without being adversely affected, but there comes a time when the mind becomes overloaded, often resulting in a ‘near or full blown’ breakdown.
I think I can say with honesty that my whole life, from childhood to the point when my mind and body said ‘no more’, was filled with stresses of one kind or another. I reached the point when the ‘hard disk’ was full and there was no more room in the memory. It needed to be erased. I didn’t think like that at the time, but plodded on because I simply could not let go. Looking back I can see how close I became to breakdown. Then God stepped in, His deep love and compassion boring into the granite shell that encased and shielded my compacted emotions, venting the pressure until there was room for His healing love to gently seep around the memories, washing, spinning, hanging out to dry! It is never immediate, but it is in God’s time. He filters through with healing grace, retaining the precious and valuable and releasing the damaging negativity; like flushing out poison from a wound. God had begun ‘a work in my life’ that resulted in my acceptance of Jesus as my Saviour. One night as I prayed as I had never prayed before, the Holy Spirit poured into my heart, filling me, like champagne bubbling into a glass too small to hold it, bubbling over and spilling out, filling and filling again with a joy that was beyond my understanding, yet left me with the inner knowledge that Jesus had come into my heart.
The details aren’t important except that the Jesus I had learned about at school suddenly became an absolute reality and I could pray (talk) to Him and expect answers and though my love for my family was not diminished one bit, my love for Jesus overwhelmed me in a new way. From then on my life was changed. There were still stressful situations to overcome but now I had someone to lead and guide me through them, someone who understood me as no-one else ever could and who helped me to face adverse situations instead of relegating them to that deep recess of my sub-conscious mind, where they could bubble away like magma beneath the earth’s core, one layer hitting the barrier, then rising up before turning and falling to form another layer. I was ‘a new creation’!
Thirty years on and I still trust Jesus to walk beside me through every situation I have to face. Adverse situations still come into my life, but He never lets me down and I know that there will never be an adverse situation in my life that can’t be overcome as I walk with Him day by day. Stress comes into all our lives, sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes occasionally. Stress is a ‘feeling’ and God gave us ‘feelings’, therefore only God has the answers and only He can help us to learn to deal with the emotion of stress in the same way only He can teach us to deal with all other emotions in the right way - His way!
‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.. (Romans 8:38-39)
‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7)
Sister Pauline, I read this very thoughtful, touching article and noticed how you arrived at the place that God wants you to be. In truth this article is a delightful testimony to your journey from spiritual infancy to full maturity in Christ. It was so refreshing to read your compelling conclusion, "I know that there will never be an adverse situation in my life that can’t be overcome" and this from someone whose husband died just a few months ago. Absolutely terrific. When under stress it is always helpful to remember, "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. " (Psalm 55:22) Thank you for this brilliant testimony and the assurance that we can deal with stress God's way remembering that we are not alone, "For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." (Isaiah 41:13) God bless and keep you.