What Is StressQUESTION: What Is Stress?ANSWER:
What is stress? Stress is the state into which an individual may unwittingly enter when he or she is subjected to undue emotional, physical, or mental strain. Undue emotional, mental, or physical strain is relative to the individual; what causes stress for one person may not necessarily produce stress in another. While physical stress may be caused by sickness or disease, mental and emotional stress is often caused when situations occur which are outside of our control or during unexpected events. When we feel we are inadequate to meet the situation or make a proper decision, we become stressed. Stress may be caused by receiving bad news; it may be caused by a negative encounter or an argument with a loved one. Whatever the cause, stress has a very negative effect on the body, producing headaches, elevated blood pressure, gastric upset, and heart problems.
What does the Bible have to say about stress? There are many examples of persons in the scriptures who became distressed and acted in inappropriate ways as a result. A very well known instance of an individual who acted inappropriately due to stress was King Saul, the first King of Israel. Saul made a series of poor decisions that angered the Lord. God indicated through Samuel that the kingdom would be torn from him and given to another. When Saul enquired of the Lord, God remained silent. Out of desperation, provoked by this stressful situation, Saul consulted the medium at Endor to contact Samuel, who had passed away, to find out what he should do. This was blatant disobedience against God's command to "not consult mediums." Saul added insult to injury by seeking help from ungodly sources.
In contrast, King David learned a different way to react to stress. When he was captured by the Philistines and taken to Gath, he wrote these words: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you" (Psalms 56:3). He discovered that no matter how difficult the situation, or how much we may lack control, God is always able to help us and deliver us. If we learn to trust God, we will be less prone to stress and more able to meet surprise situations or unwanted circumstances with a resolve and conviction that God is on our side and will come to our aid. Psalms 91:9-13 reminds us "If you make the Most High your dwelling -- even the LORD, who is my refuge -- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent." The lions and cobras of our lives might, at first, bring a negative reaction, but we can immediately look to the Lord, trusting in His power and mercy.
Ultimately, no matter what happens, if we believe that the events or happenings in our lives are working for our good, we will be less quick to enter a state of stress or to remain there. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).