Friday, November 1, 2013

Living in a Culture of Stress

“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.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

One constant working with college students is they are stressed much of the time.  And I rarely notice much difference between those who say they follow Jesus and those who don’t.  The college campus is a culture of stress that the inhabitants reinforce among each other.  Like adults who constantly talk about how busy they are, often seemingly wearing it as a badge of honor, so do students talk about how stressed they are.  

I don’t doubt they are, but what puzzles me is they never seem to seek a solution to how to deal with stress.  It’s as if they think, “I am a college student, therefore I am stressed out.”  And many seem to think once they graduate, life will become less stressful, which those of us on the other side of the diploma know is not true in the least.  So what concerns me is this culture of stress is producing people where “stressing out” will be the norm for their lives. 

Paul offers a solution, one not frequently embraced, but a biblical command nonetheless.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  “Anything” and “every” are comprehensive words; they don’t leave much room for interpretation.  A paper due or an exam to be taken? Included.  Plans for the future? Included.  A relationship issue? That, too. A serious illness or tragedy in your family?  Yep.  No matter what you are facing currently in your life that is causing you stress, or what you may face in the future, the solution to dealing with it is the same—going to the Lord in prayer and, with thanksgiving, presenting your needs to Him.  

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But we know it isn’t because, if it were, the vast majority would be doing it.  Rather, it is quite difficult because it involves letting go of our perceived control over a situation.  If we are stressed about a situation, it gives us a sense of control, but if we give it over to God, then we need to trust Him to take care of it.  Much harder to do.  

But the reality is if we follow Jesus, by default, we are to trust in Him.  So while stress will always be a part of our lives, how we handle it is to look much different from the world.  In the midst of stressful situations, we are to have a sense of peace because we have handed over our anxieties to the Lord, trusting He is in control so we don’t need to be.  

Today, what are you stressed out about?  By following Paul’s command, you can set yourself free from the constant anxiety life brings and exchange it for a peace that comes when you entrust the Lord with control of every aspect of your life.

© Jim Musser 2013

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