Stress Relief: Looking at our Decisions

All the literature that is written on stress agrees with one thing – that we are the most stressed out generation there has ever been. In addition, the next generation will be worse because there is a very close relationship to “progress” in a society and stress.

Yet at the same time, you and I as Christians ought to be the ones who deal with stress and the cares of this life in an effective way. We serve an all powerful God, who is able to guide us into all truth and guide us through the pressures that seek to create stress in our life.  

If we are honest, we can see that the body of Christ does not seem to be manifesting drastic differences in how we handle stress. Seems we get sucked into the same vortex as everyone else of constant demands, deadlines, conflicts and worries that promote stress living. We’ve got to be manifesting more fruit of peace that we currently are.

God’s Ways and Stress

We have easily forgotten that if we make decisions to follow God’s ways in our decisions, there is an entire layer of stress that will not come our way. As the psalmist said, “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.” Psalms 91:7 (NKJV)  But this is providing that we have been coming under the shelter of the Most High.

In the years of working with people whose lives are stressed out with drama and tension, there are often dominos of poor decisions in their history that are building momentum. Now hear me clearly, God is a God of mercy and grace. The fruitfulness of life is not 100% based on you living perfectly. But there is truth to how poor decisions pile up and create stress in our lives.

And often the truth is, we make many decisions taking matters into our own hands or doing things in ways that are contrary to God’s prescription for healthy living.

God’s Guidelines and Stress

Stress 101 starts with coming into full agreement with God’s ways and living under the safety of obedience to His guidelines. This does not eliminate every stressor from your life, as every believer has trouble that comes their way. But we compound massive layers of stress on our lives by the decisions and lifestyle choices we come into agreement with.

Then we get mad at God that we don’t see blessing in our lives.

But we fail to take a sober look; not in condemnation, but in honest assessment, of decisions that have influenced our life–choices we made that are having an effect on us.

For example:

  • If you and I live according to God’s ways of marriage, we would eliminate many stressors right there.
  • If a man refuses to love his wife the way God is asking him to love his wife, there is going to be stress in that marriage.
  • If a teenager refuses to obey his or her parents the way God teaches, then there will be stress in that relationship.
  • If a man or a woman abuses God’s financial principles about giving, saving and budgeting, there will be stress in their finances.
  • If we don’t apply ourselves at work and being diligent in our calling, we will experience stress in that area.

There are many simple areas that make major changes for stress relief:

  • If don’t humble ourselves and forgive in relationships, we will have massive layers of stress and tension in our life.
  • If we don’t take off from work to refuel, we will experience the consequences of that.
  • If a couple is dating, and they refuse to live inside God’s moral guidelines, there’s going to be stress in that relationship.

Change Your Decisions

It is important to know that as long as I keep a sinful habit and live outside God’s basic boundaries, I have added an unnecessary level of stress in my life. And God says, “You don’t have to live that way.”

So the first lesson in biblical stress management is this: Get your life within God’s guidelines and you will peel a major layer of stress off of your life.

Now many of you reading this, that’s all you need to break through into a more stress-free life. You may need to simply decide, “Wow! I’m living here or doing that or I’m hanging out with him, and that’s got to change! No wonder I am such a mess and so stressed out!” It would be easy for you to make some changes that would immediately alleviate some stress in your life.

You cannot do anything about the past. But if you don’t learn from the past, you will keep defending your life and making the same decisions over and again.

Getting to the “Why”

But to leave the subject there would only lead you to looking at your decisions without the “why” that drives so much of what we do. Most people I talk to that make poor decisions want to change, but struggle to get themselves out of those patterns.

When we continually make poor decisions and walk in disobedient patterns, we usually do it from broken desires that keep us in the same cycles and loops.

We keep making the poor decisions we make to fill empty places in our heart. Instead of going to God with those areas, we take matters into our own hands.

  • We seek for achievement or success to fulfill us, only to find ourselves more stressed out.
  • We compound our stress load to appear as something we are not.
  • We are impatient. So we push the process of certain areas of our life into a stress zone, rather than waiting on God’s process.

The Stress of “Bigger and Better”

You are a married couple, struggling your way into building a strong marriage. As you feel your insecurities, your heart gets nagged by all the friends you know who are buying bigger and newer houses. You want to have a life that’s worth bragging about on social media.

So the get your calculator out and say, “If we never eat lunch again, ever go out, if we don’t ever go on vacation, and if you get another job we can get a new house.”

So in order to keep up and attempt to feel better about yourself, you get pulled by social status and how you will appear to others. You therefore make a decision that adds stress to your life; unnecessary stress that you did not need to have.

Career Progress

As believers, we can easily feel like our career or calling path is going too slow. We get hooked into finding any way we can to short-cut our process, which always seem to add more stress.

You may find your “success” pathway going a little too slow. The wheels are not moving the way you planned. For many reading this, you feel like everyone you know is moving faster than. Progress seems to be passing you by.

So the temptation arises for you to franticly look around and see if there is something you can do to enhance your success and speed up this process. You may be tempted to cut corners, mess with your integrity or try to be something that you are not in the name of pursuiing “success.” You may even be tempted to do something that counselors and advisors tell you not to do. Many find themselves way over their heads in pressure, debt or even in legal problems.

Extra stress could have been avoided. But the pull to look like a great achiever in life took hold and ran the show.  

There is so much stress in our lives that is rooted in a drive to be something we’re not, or to appear to be something we’re not.

The Desire for Marriage and Stress

A top problem I witness over and again are marriage problems that often stem back to a person’s marriage choices. They made a marriage decision based out of loneliness more than pursuing a quality relationship.

Maybe you are a single adult, feeling like you are the last one in musical chairs for the marriage game. Everyone seems to be standing with a marriage partner and you are alone. You’re tired of this.

So you wake up one day and decide, to throw in the towel, tear up your standards and find a marriage partner at all costs. You think to yourself, “I can change him,” or “I think she loves God. I am sure she will commit to God once we are married.”

But the truth is, the decision was made more out of fulfilling a need for companionship rather than a wise choice for your future and family.

Every day people are making decisions out of an empty need without trusting God’s process.

Therefore, the stress levels rise.

Leaning Into God’s Process

You have a journey that God has you on, but the timing is not going to look like everyone else. In fact, your timing will often be different than what is considered typical social patterns.

That is because God is developing your trust muscles and building something in you through His process. But there is an impatience inside of you that pushes back at this, looking for ways to short-cut and bypass this process. The waiting creates stress. But we fail to see that getting out of the waiting pattern creates way more stress than ever.

We want what God wants – but we want it now. And all of us are one “dumb decision” away if we allow ourselves to plunge into the impatience and make compulsive choices. In other words, we are one big stress ball away from happening if we don’t learn to wait on God’s timing and allow Him to heal those empty areas in the meantime.

Christians living in the modern world need to realize: you cannot bypass 5-10 years of the learning and maturity process in a week or month.

One of your greatest stress relief steps is to lean into God’s process for your life. Make decisions that are in agreement with where He has you right now.

There’s no need to focus on what other people are doing or have that you don’t have. You can avoid a lifetime of stress by simply following God’s ways and leaning into His process for you.

We must remember His promise:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that (and here is the key word) that He may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

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