Serious Help Dealing with Stress

I know many friends, family and church members who are under incredible stress right now. I’m in the perfect position to give unsolicited advice on this, since, as a pastor I’m immune to stress and free from the burdens of a stressful life. No, that wasn’t thunder; I believe God may have just laughed. Actually, I’m a long-term worrier who comes from a line of worriers. Yet, I’ve discovered some helpful tools along the way to minimize the negative impact of stress on my life and family.

Is there purpose in our troubles?

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that he had been under such great pressure during his time in the province of Asia that he considered it “beyond his ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” (2 Corinthians 1:8)  In the next couple verses he explains what happened as he reached the end of his rope.

9 “In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”  (2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NLT)

Yes, our trials should push us to the end of ourselves and into the realization there’s nothing you or I can do to make this get better. Sometimes I have to try all my conceivable solutions before I’m willing to admit I need help. Only when I’m ready to say, “God, I can’t do it – You’ll have to handle this situation,” do I open the door to release the stress brought on by my need to control my life and everything around me. When I’ve given up the foolish belief that I control what’s happening around me, I can finally accept that God’s the only One who can handle it; which, in turn, opens the door for me to trust that He will handle it.

Unresolved Distress Is Unhealthy

How do you know if you’re not handling your situation in the best possible way? If you find yourself living with unresolved anger, hurt, sadness, betrayal, frustration, unhappiness, disappointment, discouragement or fear, then you’re allowing the negative responses to stress control your emotional and spiritual health. These are all normal experiences that can become destructive if they linger in your heart and mind unresolved.

How Jesus Handled Stress

Yes, Jesus had stress. Situations led to his experiences with anger (Mark 3:5), grief (John 11:35-36; Matthew 26:38), and trouble/distress (Mark 14:33), and many other emotions. He’s experienced those painful emotions, often to the point of being overwhelmed. He’s familiar with the struggles you have. However, Jesus handled these stressors well and didn’t allow them to hang on unresolved. Here are a few steps to help resolve those feelings as modeled by Jesus:

  1. He didn’t try and stuff or skip these experiences, but allowed himself to FEEL the emotional distress. (Matthew 26:37; John 13:21)
  2. He identified and admitted what was bothering him. (Matthew 26:38; John 12:27)
  3. He expressed his pain, especially in prayer. (Hebrews 5:7)
  4. He shared his pain with others and asked for their support. (Matthew 26:38)
  5. He forgave those who caused His pain. (Luke 23:34)


What About MY Pain?

Circumstances from which there are possible solutions to decrease or eliminate the stress should be addressed. Steps toward spiritual and emotional health don’t negate the need to remove stressful triggers that can be dealt with directly. Take steps to pay off debt that’s strangling you or to protect yourself from an abusive relationship, and so on.

If the situation is beyond your control to change, consider if you need to release the stressful circumstances into the hands of God. (See the above “Purpose for Troubles” section.) If you believe you’ve already done that step, then go through the five actions taken by Jesus as outlined above. Allow yourself to feel and admit what’s bothering you. Express the pain to God and others who can support you. Take steps of forgiveness if that’s keeping the pain from being resolved in your heart.

These action steps won’t usually change your external circumstances. The stressful event, person or situation may still remain. What you’re working to change is your internal reaction to the stressful trigger. You’re changing your heart and attitude toward the external people and things beyond your control; and in that change, hopefully finding resolution and peace.

How Can I Help Others Who Are Struggling?

Christians have an advantage over other groups because we have a call to help other believers through their struggles. There should be no one who goes through their stressful life situations alone. While it’s true we sometimes shirk this responsibility, and that people who never ask for help are hiding their need from the very people who could help them, this should not be the norm for the people of God, but the exception.

The most basic answer is to practice the “one another” ministries of the New Testament. There are many Scripture passages that could be applied here, but here are just a few helpful applications when trying to help others struggling through their pain. Help the individual carry their burden in practical ways (Gal. 6:2). You can pray for them (James 5:16), comfort them (2 Cor 1:3-4), encourage them (Heb 3:13), build them up (1 Thess 5:11), and share wise counsel with them when appropriate (Col. 3:16; 1 Thess 5:14).


I hope this has been helpful. There are many other steps and ways to deal with stress and pain. Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself and allow the enemy to convince you that no one cares or that you’re all alone in your situation. Whether it’s a church family that loves you or one good friend who helps carry your burden, there are always people who care nearby. Don’t close yourself off to those resources. Even when you feel everyone else is failing you, remember that God is waiting for you to decide it’s too big for you and you need His help. It’s true that He stays up all night every night so you don’t have to. (Psalm 121:4)

The Unexamined Life,
Pastor Jeff

If the above doesn’t help, I suggest staring at the classic poster from the 70’s…

Posted: May 5, 2010 
Filed under: Deep Thoughts with Pastor Jeff, Jeff, Pastor Jeff, Spiritual
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