Managing Stress and the Role of Faith
Have you ever found a long forgotten list of things that stress you? Do you understand the concept of managing stress through faith?
Back in my 20s, I listed my top 10 struggles on a sheet of paper, which I recently re-discovered. These were not just problems to solve— they were simple life struggles I was stressed or worried about. We each experience some things that bring unavoidable stress: losing a job, serious illness, death of a loved one, moving and so on, but many of the things that stress us are not the big things. It’s the little drip-drip-drip of daily stress that wears us down. How do our daily stresses weaken our relationship with God and others? What can we do to lessen ordinary stresses?
What worries are bothering you today that you won’t even remember next week? Many of the things that bother us and sap our energy are things that really don’t matter in the scope of our lives—except that their combined impact on us does matter.
Anxiety, stress, and feeling discontent keep us from accomplishing the things that would help us heal from those very problems. It’s like being stressed about your messy house but then just sitting there, wallowing in those sorry feelings, and not cleaning it up. There is a spiritual component to this. We have this odd tendency to avoid doing the very thing that would help us most.
Instead, we focus on stresses like that idiotic thing some random person we don’t even really know posted on social media. We lose time doing that, and then we forget to do the laundry. The laundry not being done means someone doesn’t have their white shirt when they need it, and a series of other dominoes fall. Worst of all, we’re not dealing with this patiently and humbly because of that bad mood we got into when we read that post. Meanwhile, our own soul, and our own sins, are not getting our attention at all.
We know that reading the Bible and praying while seeking and giving mercy builds joy, peace, and love into our lives, but instead we’re fuming about something on Facebook. Really?
One of the most peaceful women I know starts her morning everyday with prayer and Bible reading. It only adds a few minutes to her routine, but it sets the tone for her whole day. She radiates calm even in life’s toughest times, which helps everyone around her. And she does it in such a humble way that even if she read this, she wouldn’t know I was writing about her. How many of us do that?
The following reminders can help us manage priorities and perceived stressors with a spirit of gratefulness and resolve. Ask yourself:
1. Did I start my day with prayer?—If you are in need of morning prayers, consider antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers/morning-prayers.
Notice at the bottom of the prayers, there is a place to add your own words. The written prayers help us get into a beautiful rhythm of prayer but our own words help us grow closer to God by building our relationship with Him. Share your heart with God.
2. Have I read the Bible lately?—A great source to encourage you to read the New Testament in one year is bibleplan.org/plans/new-testament-in-a-year/.
3. What is my top priority today?—Setting priorities can help us not get sidetracked as we work to accomplish goals related to career, relationships, and simply completing mundane tasks. However, our top priority should be to grow to be more like God each day. That’s why we’re here.
4. What’s getting in my way today?—Often we don’t recognize what really prevents us from accomplishing things because we are the ones standing in the way. We’re unaware or even blind to the sins that throw up obstacles in our paths. What temptations and sins are getting in the way of what we’re put here on this earth to do? A list of questions to help us become more sensitive to our own sins can be found at antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers/self-examination-confession.
5. What am I doing for others today?—My kids are natural givers. They hold open doors, carry packages, and show compassion for others in many simple ways. They’re also involved in a club that gives them opportunities to help others in an organized manner. Both kinds of giving—everyday acts of caring and organized charitable work—help us lead more peaceful lives by nurturing compassion and love for others.Showing God’s love for others helps us to feel His love and builds our connection to God and to other people.
6. Trust God in all things.—”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”— Proverbs 3: 5-6
Stress is something we all deal with, but sometimes we can minimize it through the choices we make. Trusting God and taking time to care for our souls will help ease some of our modern stresses. On my list of struggles composed so long ago, I had confidently written one word: God. I was symbolically giving Him ownership of my list because only He could really conquer it, but I had to do my part, too. Looking back at my list, I can tell you that He was faithful. I was inconsistent. But somehow, most of those problems are at least diminished—if not forgotten. The roots of some of them linger and need constant care to prevent them from springing up into weeds, but that is part of my life struggle.
What’s on your list, and how can you, through God’s mercy and faithfulness, fight those daily stresses?
“We have but one concern: how to do God’s will and to prepare our soul so that it is not condemned when we die; and how with complete attention to learn about the snares of the demons and our own faults which, being more in number than the sands of the sea and like dust in their fineness, pass unrecognized by most people.”—Saint Peter of Damascus, A Treasury of Divine Wisdom
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