Christianity 201

June 24, 2016

A Life Without Stress

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:4 NLT

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair. 2 Cor 4:8 HCSB

That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:10 NIV

We usually dig into Bible exposition and related texts and somewhat avoid illustrations, but sometimes it occurs to me that God has built into nature many teachable lessons that we ignore at our peril.

Biosphere 2Recently a mailing from Brent Hackett at Our Daily Bread Canada* contained a story I simply could not forget:

A number of years ago I read about an experiment performed in Arizona
with an environmentally controlled climate that was maintained inside
a specially constructed dome. Called Biosphere 2, the ambition of the
project was to copy our planet’s life systems as a prototype for a future
colony on Mars.

However, one of the most profound discoveries had nothing to do with
a new way of farming land. Rather, the discovery brought to light how
important the role of wind is in a tree’s life. The trees in Biosphere 2
grew more rapidly than they did outside of the dome, but they toppled
before they reached maturation. After the scientists reviewed the root
systems and outer layers of bark, they realized that a lack of wind in
Biosphere 2 caused a deficiency of stress wood. Stress wood helps a tree
position itself for optimal sun absorption and helps trees grow more
solidly. Without stress wood, a tree can grow quickly, but it cannot
support itself fully. It can’t stand up to normal wear and tear and
survive. The trees needed some stress in order to thrive.

Similarly in our life, God allows us to experience stress for a reason. We
need to grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. If we
were to live our lives in a perfect environment, we might grow, but we
would have a spiritual deficiency. Thankfully, we are different than trees.
We do have the ability to grow, but we also have the ability to enjoy a
relationship with our eternal God.

One of the hardest things for me is to be able to accept stressful situations as a gift from God. I simply do not bear stress well.

In Phillipians 4, Paul writes,

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

The illustration of the stress wood in the trees really impact me this week. Paul learned the secret of contentment in the middle of those times the winds are blowing because he understood the principle he states so clearly in Romans 8:28, which J.B. Phillips translates as

Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.

This the promise we are given, that God, who sees the events in our lives beyond the constraints of linear time by which we measure things is orchestrating a beautiful symphony of goodness.

Not seeing that in your own life? I know. It’s difficult. We can give intellectual assent to God’s goodness, but not want the winds to blow.

But today’s illustration powerfully reminds us that given a life without stress, we would eventually just topple over.


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Brent Hackett provided us with links to two articles from which he derived his information about stress wood, Discover Magazine and Wikipedia, from which we got the pic of Biosphere 2.


* For American readers, here’s the link to Our Daily Bread USA.

October 10, 2013

Stressed People Make Bad Decisions

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 pm
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This is a reblog of an article from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick. You can read the article at its original source at this link.

We live in a moment-by-moment news reporting world. I get updates on my phone for each “Breaking News” story. Many of these stories are upsetting.

A young man begins to shoot people, a young woman is shot while using her car like a weapon, another person sets himself on fire, a group of bikers violently beat a man- each of these stories flash across my phone. The news reports look for a reason why. Often they chalk it up to some sort of mental illness.

Shouldn’t we be concerned why these people became ill rather than looking at the illness as if there is nothing that can be done? Nearly every case reveals that those who commit these acts have been under long term significant stress. They lost their jobs, were bullied, live in depression or somehow believe they have been denied something they deserve. This stress multiplied by time has caused them to become mentally ill if even for a moment. They are stressed and have no outlet for relieving that stress.

Think of Saul in the Old Testament. He didn’t believe he should be chosen as king. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, the humblest of the tribes. He hid among the baggage when called out to be recognized by the people. Later, he would offered a sacrifice that was not his to offer because he was afraid that Samuel the priest wasn’t going to get there before he lost to the Philistines. He kept the best spoil from a group of people whom God told to destroy with everything that belonged to them because he was afraid of the people. He opposed his best general when he wasn’t given as much praise as that general. He lost his kingdom because he made bad decisions. He was a man under stress.

Each day I watch people burst into road rage. I believe that most of these people are normally good neighbors and good citizens. What causes them to explode over the insignificant slights of others? I believe they are under such stress that any added stress sends them over what they are able to take. It is like a balloon that can’t take an ounce more air. It simply explodes.

This is so unnecessary. The Bible tells us to pray and turn it over to God. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that He wants us to give Him our fears and anxieties. But I have observed that few Christians are having Quiet Times with God. They aren’t turning those things over to Him and, therefore, are carrying their stress on top of everything else that stresses them. Eventually the balloon must pop.

So, I urge you to make a very needed decision today before you make a bad decision. You may not do something violent but the decision may be just as harmful. (You might continue to bite your husband’s head off until you have added so much stress to him that he leaves- another bad decision!) Tell your stress to God. Put all of it in His hands. Trust that He will take care of it and you.

Then, laugh for He has healed you from your bad decision.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

If you enjoyed this, here is another article from the same writer: Carefully Choosing Words to Bless.

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May 7, 2011

Taking it to the Next Level: Stress Relief

When you write a blog named Christianity 201, you expect each day to post items which will dig a little deeper for devotional or Bible study content.  But taking it to the next level for many people involves digging a little deeper in terms of the work that God wants to do down deep in our hearts; dealing with our own spiritual deficiencies and allowing God to do a work of inner healing in our lives.  Ideally, a blog like this would be a 50-50 split between deeper teaching and encouragement toward a deeper revolution in our hearts.

I was thinking about that tonight when reading Jeff Leake’s piece on Stress at his blog, The Launch Pad, which he called What’s Stressing You Out.

Yesterday, I was asked a question about staying healthy in ministry over the long-haul.  Basically the question was, ‘what have been the keys to dealing with stress and sustaining personal health in ministry over the past 20+ years of your life?’

There are two sources of stress:

EXTERNAL STRESSORS – some of these things can can attempt to control – our schedule, our pace, our priorities.  Some of these things we cannot control – our circumstances, the response of the people around us, the impact of events and happenings in our world.  There are some keys to managing external stressors:

  • Learning good time management skills.
  • Scheduling in a date nite, exercise, family time.
  • Keeping a sabbath (a day set aside unto God every week).
  • Developing a consistent devotional habit.
  • Learning what and how to delegate & how to manage people and systems.

INTERNAL STRESSORS – my sense is that it is the internals not the externals that stress us out the most –

  • What we believe about ourselves and about God
  • How we process criticism, failure, perceived rejection
  • Learning how to choose joy in the midst of trials
  • Giving ourselves time to grieve when loss happens in our life
  • Being able to forgive ourselves when we fail and access God’s forgiveness
  • Maintaining purity and accountability so that we are not unnecessarily weighed down by guilt and sin

The first ten years of my ministry I worked primarily on trying to master the management of the EXTERNALS – but I never really worked through some of the stress on the inside.  Several years back after the stress in my life caused boughts with migraines – I took the time and did the work to deal with the INTERNAL sources of my stress.

Both are necessary.  But I think my choice to rigorously deal with what was going on – on the inside has produced in me a greater degree of peace and the capacity for sustainability over the long-haul.  I say that with an awareness that this is something that you can never stop paying attention to and must continually depend on God for his sustaining grace.

~Jeff Leake