Let's Talk Stress pt. 2

The Spiritual Connection

So, let’s talk about how stress impacts your Faith, Spiritual Growth & Relationship with God. What? You didn’t know that your stress levels tie directly back to how well you are doing spiritually? Think about it…  If you are stressed to the max, struggling with everyday life, getting sick and overwhelmed, do you really feel connected to God? Like He’s helping you directly, listening to you and answering your prayers? Probably not…  But, how about we put it to the test, shall we….

Question 1:  What do you have to get done today? What’s on your “to do” list? Write a quick list.

Let me guess: Work, family, kids, spouse, friends, bills, doctors’ appointments, school meetings, sports, practice, games, working out, shopping, cleaning, responsibilities, duties, tasks….. on & on & on… right?

Let’s face it. In today’s busy world we have so much to do, so much going on, so many responsibilities that have priority.  There is always something new to do, or to catch up on.  It seems like the list never ends and just keeps growing.  We are stretched and pushed and pulled in every direction.  Our attention is constantly being split as more time is needed to try and get everything done.  This is so common now that it seems normal, but do you ever remember your grandmother being this busy? This tired? Trying to fit more time into the day? I don’t. But let's keep going.

Question 2: What are your priorities?

Of the things above, how are they prioritized? Write all your tasks down if haven’t already.  Then, take a moment number them by most important.  What do you absolutely have to get done today? How many things are on that list that you just can’t push down or give a lower number?  Are you overwhelmed and tired just looking at your list? At all the things you have to do, haven’t gotten done, or have to add to your list? I bet you’re getting stressed just thinking about this.  And that’s just the big things.  I bet you haven’t even broken them down into the smaller tasks that are required to get them done and off your list.
Question 3: Where does God fit in? Is He just another task? Is church just another appointment?

Sometimes, we get so busy and stressed dealing with all of our stuff that God has no place, or gets assigned a small spot on our “to do” list.  Something we have to remind ourselves to do, or an automatic process that, while we enjoy it, does not get our full attention.  And even if it does in the moment, when we’re done, we move on and our attention shifts onto the next task and God (including prayer, worship, reading the Word) is left in his box until we can check Him off again the next time we have time… This leads me to my next question

Question 4: Is God your 1st Defense, or Your last resort?
Stress is the beginning of the decline in our relationship with God.  We get so busy that we begin to forget how important He is and how much space He requires in our hearts and minds to help us get the jobs we need done.  So we turn to other things to help us get through.  Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs (legal and illegal.  Abusing legal drugs has the same impact), food, sex, work, social media, tv…   Temporary fixes that initially help give us a boost, but they never really do the job.  By the time we really cry out of God, we are usually so stressed, overwhelmed, tired, down in the dumps because we have tried everything else and He’s all we have left.  How often, have you waited until you had nothing left to call on God, or accept His help? When have you allowed Him to become your back up, not your primary support? How many times have you gotten to the end of your rope trying to do it on your own?

This is not an accusation, but rather an observation.  We always try to do it on our own.  As human beings this is both our strength and our weakness.  One that the enemy knows all too well.  To understand how he uses stress you have to understand biblically what stress is and how it hurts you.  Chronic stress not only wears you down physically and emotionally, but also spiritually.  When we become worn down, sick, tired and overwhelmed we struggle with prayer, attending church, worshiping. We begin to avoid everything and anything we perceive as stress. We begin to live in fear of stress and its impact on our lives.   

How does this happen? Well, spiritually speaking, stress is about fear.  Fear of the unknown, not being in control, being vulnerable, of not having our needs met.  Fear itself takes us away from who God created us to be.  It makes us feel weak, alone and confused and it is at this moment, that the enemy takes advantage of the disconnect (not praying, not believing, not worshiping or reading) in our relationship with God.  He tries to make us question everything in our lives, including who God is and where God is in our situation.  He pulls our attention away from God, away from who makes us strong.

But, God knew that this would happen, so He put the truth in writing for us to have and know what’s Him and what’s not.  Let’s look at His words, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy  1:7).  If stress has taken over your life and now you have become fearful, or anxious, then by definition, your spirituality and faith are involved.  There is hope, however, if you begin to make the connection and grab onto the tools He has provided. Through His teaching Jesus says: “Keep your eyes on me. Keep believing in what I have created you to do. Turn over to me your fear, and hold fast to faith in me. Know that my presence is your antidote to fear.” 

Understand, you have to decide where your attention will be placed. You can stay focused on your fear, your worry, your stress, but then there will be no room for God or faith.  Every day we are challenged to set priorities, stay busy, get things done.  Every day we are pulled in a million directions. The world we live in is loud, but God is not.  Instead He speaks in a “… still small whisper…” that we have to strain to hear. On purpose.  So that we have to choose to focus and pay attention.  We have to tune out distractions, including our jobs and families so that He can guide us and lead us the way we should go.  Of course, this is the hard part because that requires us to trust Him and surrender our will and desires to Him.  And faith is all about those two words: Trust and Surrender. 

But how? How does one trust? In the storms of life I find people desperately wanting to trust this God that offers hope, but simply not knowing how to do it when the waves are coming fast and threatening to pull them under.  Well, that thought, leads me to my last question:

How has stress & fear changed, interrupted, interfered with your faith?

Take some time and write out your answer.  Without judgement or shame be honest with yourself about how your stress, worry, fear and struggle have taken their toll on your trust in God’s willingness and ability to help you. Then, take the time to talk to God about it.  Get in a quiet place and have a conversation or write Him a letter. No holds barred.  Believe me, He already knows all the darkest thoughts you’ve had already…  Then listen out for that whisper and remember:  Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the Voice of the Lord… 
[Picture]
Now, that is enough for today so take a deep breath.  Or Two or Three.   We’ll continue next time with Part 3: Breaking up with stress…  coming to your email soon.  Want more information? Contact us for your free 15 minute consultation today!

Nyshia Johnson

HD Christian Family Counseling, 14420 Civic Drive, Victorville, CA, 92392