Philippians 4:6 NIV Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Worry will kill your joy and cause you stress. We tend to expect the worst in life. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, they affect 18.1 percent of the U.S. population.
But worry isn’t just a mental issue. It’s a spiritual one. It’s assuming a responsibility that God never intended for us to have. It’s playing God and trying to control the uncontrollable.
There was once a scientific study on worry that discovered:
40% of our worries never happen
30% of our worries concern the past
12% of our worries are needless worries about our health
10% of our worries are insignificant or petty concerns
8% of our worries are really legitimate concerns
Worry is worthless. It can’t change the past or control the future. It only messes you up right now. It’s an incredible waste of energy. It’s stewing without doing. When we worry about things, they get bigger and bigger.
How to Handle Stress Like Jesus
Have you ever felt like you had the “weight of the world” on you?
Your responsibilities outnumber the hours in your day. Your paycheck won’t stretch to cover all of your bills. Everyone in your life wants a little piece of you—and you have nothing left to give anyone.
You’re not alone.
The truth is, only one person has ever had “the weight of the world on his shoulders.” It’s exactly what Jesus came to do: to carry the weight of the world.
1 John 2:2 NIV He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Nobody carried greater stress in life than Jesus. He not only carried the sin of the world on him while on the cross, but he also faced constant demands on him during his life. People frequently wanted to see him and be healed by him. He had no privacy. Other people tried to trap him and they sought to kill him.
But Jesus knew how to handle the stress. He had an incredibly attractive balance to his life. He handled pressure with peace
The Seven Step Jesus Stress Management System
Step 1 Know Who You Are
If you don’t know who you are, you’ll find all sorts of people who are more than happy to tell you. Your parents will try to turn you into what they think you should be. Your friends, your spouse, and your co-workers will all have their ideas, too.
Not knowing who you are—and letting everyone else mold you into their image—is a leading cause of stress for people today.
Jesus had no doubt as to his identity. In fact, he defines himself with “I am” statements 18 times in the Bible. Here are a few;
John 14:6 NLT Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
John 10:34-36 NLT Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world.
John 10:9 NIV I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 6:35 NIVThen Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (Emphasis mine)
Jesus knew exactly who he was, and we need to know exactly who we are, who God created us to be.
Romans 8:29 NKJV For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Emphasis mine)
If you don’t know your identity, you’ll depend too much on what other people say about you.
Stress happens when you try to be something you’re not. We all start off as originals, but too often we end up as carbon copies of somebody else—because we don’t know who we are. (see You Are God's Masterpiece)
When you learn who you are, you’re less dependent upon the approval of others and you’re more stress-resistant.
Step 2 Know Whose Approval You're Living For
You can’t please everyone. It’s one of the great truths of life. If you haven’t learned it yet, you’ll struggle with stress for the rest of your life.You must know what (and more importantly, whose approval), you’re living for. If you please group A, group B will be upset at you. And if you please group B, you’ll upset group A. One minute you’re a hero; the next minute you’re a zero.
Even God can’t please everyone. Think of all the sporting events where people on both sides pray for a win. Only one team can win the game. One person prays for rain. Another prays for snow. Only one gets their prayer answered.
If God can’t please every person, it’s foolish for us to try.
If you don’t know whose approval you’re living for, stress will always follow you.
John 5:30 NIV By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Jesus wasn’t trying to win a popularity contest. He lived for an audience of one. He had a simple life in many ways. He just did what God put him on Earth to do.
Jesus never let approval or rejection of others control him. It’s part of the reason he lived without stress.
Step 3 Know Your Calling (Vocation)
God doesn’t just call pastors and missionaries. The overwhelming message of Scripture is that God calls each of us to a specific purpose and mission.
When we don’t know what God is calling us to do, it causes stress.
Vocation comes from the Latin word for voice and means what God has called us to do.
And you must settle your vocation if you want to cut down on your stress.
John 8:14 NIV Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. (Emphasis mine)
Jesus understood his unique purpose—and he lived for it.
Your life is driven by something. All of our lives are driven by something. Sometimes they’re driven by regret or anger. Sometimes they’re driven by shame. Sometimes they’re driven by money or sex.
God wants your calling to drive your life.How do you know what you’ve been called to do? Take a look at your SHAPE.
Heart (what you love to do)
God doesn’t give you a calling you’ll find miserable. He’ll call you to do something you enjoy and something you’re good at.
Ephesians 4:1 NIV As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ask yourself every day: Am I doing what I’m called to do?
Step 4 Know What Matters Most
You and I tend to get distracted by trivial things. If Satan can’t get you to be bad, he’ll get you to be busy. This causes us more stress than we can imagine. You must know what matters most.
Jesus was a master of concentration. He focused like a laser on what the Father wanted him to do.
When light is diffused, it has no power at all. But light that’s focused has enormous power. Take the sun as an example. On its own, the light won’t harm grass. But if you focus its light with a magnifying glass, you can burn that grass.
Focus light even more and it becomes a laser—and a laser can cut through steel and kill cancer.
If you want your life to matter, focus it.
Luke 9:51 NIV As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was where the cross was. Jesus knew that was where God wanted him. Nothing would keep him from it.
You have enormous spiritual power that will only be unlocked if you decide what’s most important to you. You can focus on either what will last for eternity or what is temporary. It’s your choice.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 NIV “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
You’re free to do anything, but not everything will be helpful. If you don’t concentrate your life on what matters most, you’ll stress yourself out over what matters least.
Step 5 Listen to God
To reduce your stress, you need to listen to God.
Luke 5:15-16 NIV Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Emphasis mine)
Jesus, who literally had the weight of the world on his shoulders, spent time alone with God. As the pressures on Jesus increased, he got away to talk with God. Jesus had a habit of quiet times where he went away to reflect, to renew, and to recharge.
Noise is stress. That’s why you must create intentional times of quietness and solitude in your life.
Spend time with God. Find out what God wants to say to you.
If you want to lower the stress in your life, develop a daily time with God where you listen to God—and let that set your mood for the day.
Create A God-Space And Recharge
I led a study based on the book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey. In that study I learned of how to create a God-space. A God-space is a place where you shut out all the noise, and it’s just you and God. It’s a space filled with God’s presence and nothing else. Your God-space can be anywhere and at anytime. It can be your bedroom, your bathroom, or your prayer closet. It can even be when you are walking down the street or surrounded by a group of people. You can shut them all out and still be aware of everything that’s going on around you. It takes practice to learn to create your personal God-space but when there it’s just you and God. I’m not talking about some New Age or Eastern religious mystic thing. I’m talking about being filled by the Holy Spirit. He does the recharging.
Ephesians 5:18-20 (NLT)18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In your God-space you can even “stop time”. I don’t mean that time actually stops. Here’s something else I learned in that study. The author Philip Yancey has a chapter section “Stopping Time”. In it Philip talks about a surgeon, Anthony Bloom, who after his conversion to Christianity, and many years as a surgeon, became a priest. He describes in his book “Beginning to Pray” , about a technique that he used for creating his God-space. He calls “stopping time”. The practice of stopping time gradually transformed Bloom’s life with God. He concentrated on living in the present, recognizing that the past is irremediably gone and the future is irrelevant, because who knows whether it will happen or not.
He started by just stopping everything that he was doing for short periods of time during the day. One minute, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes. He just shut out everything. Just a short time of quietness. It could be in prayer or just being quiet. The first thing that he noticed, and we should take note of this ourselves, the world didn’t stop. His medical practice didn’t fall apart. For us whatever it is that is waiting to be done will wait. After these quiet times he was more efficient when he went back to the tasks at hand.
Anthony Bloom’s example is a good one but the best is the example of Jesus who often removed Himself from the hustle and bustle of ministry and took time to recharge.
Matthew 14:21-23 (NLT)21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home.23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
Luke 6:12 (NLT)12 One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
Step 6 Surround Yourself With Other Believers
Read the Gospels, and you’ll realize Jesus did just about everything with his small group of like minded people—those he called to be his closest disciples.
You were never intended to handle the stress of life by yourself. God wants you to share it with others.
You’ve probably heard this statement: If you need to get something done right, do it yourself.
That’s a recipe for stress—not success!
It’s not what Jesus did. He knew God intended we live in community, so he lived out that truth.
Jesus turned to his small group during the most stressful night of his life. When Jesus knew he’d be arrested in Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he went to the cross, he didn’t go alone. He took his small group with him.
Matthew 26:36-38 NIV Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Jesus didn’t need their advice. He didn’t need their words of comfort. He just needed their presence.
If Jesus benefited from a small group, imagine all the ways you can benefit, too!
Step 7 Take Time to Recharge
When we think about Jesus, we tend to think about the miracles. We think about him teaching thousands. We think about him dying for our sins—and rising from the dead on the first Easter morning.
But we don’t usually think about Jesus relaxing.
Relaxing is one of the reasons Jesus was able to live stress-free despite all the demands upon his life.
Even though Jesus had more important work to do than we do, he still took time to relax.
Mark 6:31 NIV Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Last year I wrote “Take Time To Recharge”. In it there is a section “Finding Solitude” which is an excerpt from Pressing Pause a book by Ruth Schwenk. Ruth says even Jesus, God in the flesh, needed solitude, and that he knew and practiced discipline of solitude, a time to recharge.
If Jesus can rest and relax, so can we.
The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, Proverbs is full of sayings about being lazy and the circumstances from it.
Proverbs 10:4-5 NIV Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
Proverbs 19:15 NIV Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.
But the Bible also calls those who will not rest disobedient
In fact, God thought rest and relaxation was so important he put it in the Ten Commandments. Right along with commands to not murder, commit adultery, or steal, God tells us to take one out of every seven days to worship and rest.
The commandment with the most written about it the one to remember the Sabbath, the day of rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 NIV “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
If you’re too busy to take time off, you’re simply too busy—and likely too stressed.
A Prayer For Stress
Lord, Thank You That You Want Us To Cast Our Cares On You. Thank You That There Is Nowhere I Can Go That You Are Not There With Me. Thank You For Having A Hold Of My Life, Even As I Feel Like Everything Is Crumbling Around Me.
Lord, I Confess That I Have Let Stress Take A Hold Of My Life, Rather Than You. I Have Let Stress Control My Mood, My Attitudes And My Actions. Lord, I Repent Of This! Please Father, Help Me See What Is Stressful In My Life And Hand It Over To You. Help Me Not Let The Stress Win Out. Help Me Actively Think On Your Goodness To Me.
I Am So Hopeful For My Eternity With You, Lord, Where There Will Be NO More Stress! Help Me Look Back On All The Ways You Have Rescued Me From My Stressful Moments, And Look In Hope To The Future Where You Will One Day Rid All Stress, Forever.
Help Me Live Boldly In The Truth Of Your Goodness Amen!
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.