I’ve spent quite some time thinking about what to say in this post. My wife, Haley, said I should write about dealing with stress because she thinks I’m good at it, which I find funny but wrong. If there is one thing I harp on with her, it’s that we make sure we rest. However, stress is a very real part of my life. It’s something that I’m continually working through, so I agreed with her that this may be worth exploring. Get ready for some random thought processing.
Stress is a part of life that I’ve been forced to come to terms with over the last few years. Near the end of grad school, I started to get panic attacks, so for me, letting stress build can have very real and evident physical and mental impacts. The peak was when I spent about a week with my nose and hands somewhat numb or tingly from stress and anxiety.
I’ve been specifically contemplating this aspect of my life for the last 5 years. I’ve tried many things to help deal with stress and anxiety, like cutting caffeine, increasing physical exercise, breathing exercises, and a whole lot of prayer, but it always comes back. What I’ve come to believe is that the underlying issue with stress is not fluctuating workloads, dynamics with significant others, or other unpredictable circumstances but rather how those impact us. Psalm 119:143 says,
”Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.”
I think that’s one of the hardest sentences I’ve read in the Bible. It implies a fundamental shift in what defines us. It seems evident in two ways.
First, it puts the world in perspective.
What feels so big and immediate in this world is measured against Heaven, and it always comes back small.
While I’ve prayed so often about feeling stressed, it’s been for strength to get me through, for relief, and for answers. It’s been for help rather than what the Psalmist did above. I am small in scale against the Lord, so the greatest troubles the world can put on me are pitiful against the Lord.
Second, God gives us commands. That means He’s the one leading the show! My moments of greatest stress and anxiety are when I’m trying to run things according to my plan and carry the weight on my own shoulders. It’s delightful to think that when we can’t see the way forward, we can stop and listen to the One who sees all things. What’s even better is this is exactly what God wants.
I’m still going to have stress and anxiety, but I have hope that when I compare my troubles and distress to God’s plan, they will be small. I have hope that when I stop and listen, God will share his commands. To me, that sounds restful.