We hear a lot about stress these days. Stress could be defined as mental tension and strong feelings of worry or anxiety, brought about by problems in work, family, friendships and life in general.
Most of us probably have the tendency to consider stress as a bad thing, but that is not necessarily so. There are two categories or sides to stress. Eustress, or good stress (the prefix “eu” from the Greek language means “good”) motivates us to work or to do and to move forward and get the job done.
Distress, or bad stress (probably the one that we are more familiar with) is the flip side of the coin. This stress is when tension and anxiety builds to such a degree that there seems to be no relief, no light at the end of the tunnel and the challenge of achievement is replaced by discouragement, sluggishness, poor decision-making, and even serious physiological symptoms.
In my pastor’s report this year, I shared a prayer request with the church that God would, “Keep me busy without my feeling rushed and keep my schedule full without my feeling overwhelmed.” In reality I’m asking that I would be motivated by eustress, not overcome by distress.
There are several practical steps that can be taken to reduce distress. Dealing with perfectionist tendencies and setting realistic priorities and goals might well top the list. Dealing with false misplaced self-guilt is also important (although if true moral guilt is present because of sin and failure that has to be dealt with).
Allowing procrastination to die a natural death through intentional plans and decisive actions is also essential. And finally enjoying an achievement, and perhaps even an occasional self-applied pat on the back wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
There are also spiritual steps that can be taken. In fact, the Bible is rife with suggestions and advisement for how to deal with the difficulties and distresses of life…not the least of which is a simple assurance that God exists and that He is not only aware of and concerned with our plight, but is much bigger than any of our stress producing situations.
One of my favorite passages (and I quote it to myself typically several times a week) is found in Philippians 4:13. It says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is a wonderful reminder that as I fulfill my responsibilities, I needn’t be overwhelmed because I am both strengthened and accompanied by the Lord.
“In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before him, into His ears” (Psalm 18:6).
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor of Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
FAITH & REFLECTION