What does stress management have to do with a boiling frog?
There is a fable about a frog being slowly boiled alive. The idea is that if a frog is suddenly put into boiling water, it will jump out. But if the frog is put in cool water and then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to, or be aware of, threats that arise gradually.
Stress is definitely a threat to your life.
If you don’t know how to handle stress, it will boil you alive.
Stress robs you of peace, joy and a sense of safety and well being.
You can try to ignore it, but that will only lead to more stress. You will experience an internal battle with emotional pains that affect your body and your ability to function in life.
Death, injury or financial loss are major stress events that grab your attention like an exploding bomb. You are very aware of them because they usually send shrapnel flying in many directions and leave your head spinning and your heart aching.
Smaller stress events often appear out of nowhere but with little noise. They are the minor irritations that are subtle and sneak into life without much notice. But if you ignore them too long, they will cook the life right out of you until it’s too late, just like the boiling frog!
Stress from modern day life is inescapable and it causes serious problems in your mind and spirit.
18 UNPLEASANT SYMPTOMS OF EMOTIONAL STRESS
Reactions to stress also cause serious physical problems within the body.
18 DISTURBING SYMPTOMS OF PHYSICAL STRESS
Dr. David Danskin from Kansas State University estimates that 85% of doctor visits are due to stress-related causes.
A doctor might prescribe a medication to dull your nerves, but unless he targets the source instead of the symptoms, stress will continue to destroy your body, not to mention, your sanity.
You might be surprised to learn that the source of your stress is not the biggest problem. How you respond to stress is the issue.
Christians are beings made up of body, mind and spirit, and one cannot be separated from the other. When the body experiences physical stress, it also affects your mind and spirit. When something creates stress in the mind, it also affects your body and spirit.
THE BIGGEST DANGER IS SPIRITUAL STRESS
If you wonder why God allows suffering and don't believe He is in control, you will suffer a faith crisis. If you turn to man for help, you'll only end up confused and more stressed. God blesses you in the midst of stress when you turn toward Him, not away from Him.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
The world is full of “stress management gurus” who will try to fool you into believing that you can overcome stress with their special program or method. They claim to know how to manage stress in life. They disguise their coping advice as solutions.
All they can really offer is false hope. They do not acknowledge the true source of stress, therefore they have no antidote for it.
They say that traffic jams, toxic relationships, egos at work and lousy food are the source of your problems. And they suggest that if you take an alternate route home, get a divorce, set boundaries at work and eat healthier, you’ll reduce the stress in your life.
But these are all external sources of stress and no matter how much you reduce them, there will always be more.
So if you can’t fully stop the external sources of stress, it is essential to manage stress internally. After all, that is where you feel the effects of it.
THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF STRESS IS INTERNAL
Your life is full of problems and stress because of sin and your response to it.
The world is in a state of chaos because of the sin of people trying to live independent of God. Man wants to be his own god and rule his own kingdom. He wants to be in control and is stressed out when he is not.
Man is self-centered and hates everyone and everything he thinks is interfering with what he desires most. Whether it’s the left lane of the freeway, or the promotion at work, don’t get in his way or there will be trouble!
Man sees himself as always being right, and everyone else as wrong. He may want to reform the world but what he means is “his world.” All his efforts are directed at making himself happy and because of sin, he’ll have to make somebody else unhappy in the process.
This world will never get better, only worse. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a natural tendency of any isolated system is to degenerate into a more disordered state.
Just like the natural laws in nature, sin is a law at work in the heart of all mankind. And when left to itself, it degenerates into more sin. The Bible refers to this as the total depravity of man. (Rom 1:18-32)
We live in a cursed world filled with sinful people and have an enemy whose powerful demonic army is constantly warring against us. Our lives are filled with anxiety, fear and defeat. But this shouldn’t cause a faith crisis.
The Bible does not try to hide these facts. It actually emphasizes how real they are so we will learn to face them instead of hide from them.
The Bible points out that stress will always exist because sin will always exist. It clearly states this world cannot be reformed. It must be redeemed, and God alone is the Redeemer.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS?
Man’s problems have created stress since the fall because darkness prevails.
Darkness is the result of man’s rebellion against God.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
The Bible shows us there is another realm of life, a realm of light. God is light, in whom there is no darkness at all.
The gospel shows us the way out of the darkness and into the light.
2 Corinthians 4:4-6
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY #1: KNOWLEDGE
Being at odds with the world is stressful enough.
But being at odds with the Creator of the universe is alarming.
It's also deadly!
Without a saving knowledge of God through His Son Jesus Christ, all attempts at overcoming stress are futile.
Do you know the answers to the following questions?
Man must acknowledge his rebellion against God and his inability to dispel the darkness. He must trust in the only provision God makes available to reconcile sinners to Himself and that is through the death of His Son as a payment for sin.
This is the gospel, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. You must believe the gospel to be saved.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
The ultimate darkness is death----separated from God forever and suffering extreme anguish and utter despair for eternity.
No sinner has the power to save himself from death. Salvation is of the Lord.
Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Belief is just the starting point. It removes us from the realm of darkness and places us into the kingdom of light.
STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY #2: WEAPONS
But to overcome stress, you must take the next step forward. You must walk in the light. That means you have to apply your belief to your everyday situations that cause stress.
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Although you no longer dwell in the kingdom of darkness, you can still be influenced by the devil. He wants to make you stumble. He sets traps and uses stress to sabotage your fatih. If he can get you to doubt God’s word, you will be miserable, as well as ineffective for the kingdom of God.
Now you are in the Lord's army, and there’s a spiritual battle you must fight to put your faith into action. It’s critical that you put on the whole armor of God and use the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.
The devil targets your mind and tempts you to believe and behave as the world does. You must remind yourself where your power resides...not in you, but In God.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY #3: FAITH
Saving faith redeems you but then you must trust God to get you through the troubles of life.
Fear must be exchanged for faith.
And that will not happen until you know what God is like. How can you trust somebody you don’t know?
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love. The Lord is good to everyone; His compassion rests on all He has made.
All You have made will thank You, Lord; the godly will praise You. They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom and will declare Your might, informing all people of Your mighty acts and of the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations. The Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His actions.
The Lord helps all who fall; He raises up all who are oppressed.
All eyes look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts. The Lord is near all who call out to Him, all who call out to Him with integrity.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry for help and saves them.
The Lord guards all those who love Him, but He destroys all the wicked.
My mouth will declare Yahweh’s praise; let every living thing praise His holy name forever and ever.
Does this describe a powerful, loving God who is able and willing to help you in the midst of your stress?
The world is filled with darkness no man can defeat. Only a fool would believe he can deal with stress on his own. Believers must admit they cannot overcome stress by themselves and ask God to help them.
But what good is asking if you don’t believe God will answer?
God is ready, willing and waiting to help you. He offers you peace in place of stress.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You can exchange your problems for promises. The Bible promises you can overcome all the stress that frustrates and bewilders you.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But you must have faith to believe the promises because He who made them is trustworthy and true.
If you don’t believe the promises, you will resign yourself to the stressful circumstances of life. You will become a cynic. That is not faith, it is failure.
Your problems will never be solved. You will never know the sweet taste of victory. You will only ignore the pain and push yourself through it as a stoic.
Cynics and stoics might tolerate their troubles, but they do not overcome them.
They do not experience peace and joy. Their hearts are still tormented by discouragement, defeat and failure.
Faith has the opposite effect.
Victorious overcomers are filled with faith--which leads to assurance, rejoicing, praising, gratitude and peace.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
1 John 5:4
And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.
The Bible is filled with stories of people whose faith in God gave them power to overcome every kind of trouble that caused stress.
Toxic relationship - David and Saul.
Life in danger - Elijah on the run from crazy Jezebel.
Troubled finances - Elisha and the widow’s one jar of oil.
Death and sorrow - Naomi’s husband and sons died.
These stories show how God provided for and protected His people. What He did for them, He will do for you!
For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY #4: TRUTH
The only way to experience peace and joy and know how to respond to stress is by concentrating on the truth.
You must focus your thoughts on God instead of your problems.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
To overcome stress you need to renew your mind with truth. It’s easier than you might think.
The way to manage stress is to manage your reactions to stressful situations. The best way to manage your reactions is to track them and look for patterns in your responses. The goal is to replace the sinful responses with righteous ones.
When traffic gets hectic to you get road rage? Or admit that a sovereign God is in control?
When your kids talk back to you, are you angry because they are disrespecting you? Or correct them because they are disobeying God’s command to honor their parents?
When your co-worker gets snarky with you, do you respond with cutting sarcasm? Or realize you do not wrestle against flesh and blood but with the ruler of darkness who is at work in unbelievers?
Did you recognize a pattern of anger in response to these stressful situations?
To renew the mind with truth, study God’s word and learn all you can about anger. What is it, why do people experience it, how it can be expressed in a righteous way, when is it wrong to be angry, etc.?
Start a journal and track the stressful events of your day.
CREATE A STRESS MANAGEMENT JOURNAL
Ask yourself and answer these questions:
Knowing your natural tendencies is a key to change. As you begin to understand the ways you respond by default, you can search the Bible for ways to respond that do not create more stress.
You must “put off” the sinful response and “put on” biblical responses.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Let's evaluate the examples above about what should be put off and put on.
- Bad traffic:
Put off road rage
Put on truth - a sovereign God is in control of traffic
- Disrespectful kids:
Put off anger
Put on truth - your duty to discipline disobedience to God
- Snarky co-worker:
Put off sarcasm
Put on truth - they are not your enemy
These are the ways to overcome stress.
THE ONLY CURE FOR STRESS
If you start with you, your problems, the difficult people in your life and the troubles in the world, you will fail to overcome stress. Instead, it will overcome you.
You cannot be confident in yourself to overcome stressful external forces. As soon as you eliminate one, two more show up.
This is the only stress management principle that promises success for overcoming stress, instead of stress overcoming you!
How are YOU facing the stressful difficulties of life?
Is stress boiling you alive?
Are you conquering the sins of worry, anger and despair?
Are you walking in the light and living triumphantly over the enemy?
Do you fall asleep at night in peace and wake with joy?
That’s what God intends for you to do.
And He even shows you the way!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
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