When you’re feeling all stressed out and no place to go, how do you handle that stress? And if you’re tired of wearing the same stress-filled wardrobe, how can you change it? Here are five ways to help you redress your stress:
1. Clothe yourself with gratitude.
Thank God for the stress. Not all stress is bad. A brilliant counselor and good friend of ours, Ernest Dixon Murrah, Jr., taught the following principle often. You can read more about him later in this post.
“Stress is good for you and is necessary for you, whereas distress is painful and can kill you. Distress occurs when we do not respond to stress properly. Stress is essential to grow your faith.”
God’s Word bears witness to that same truth:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4 NLT).
As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands (Psalm 119:143 NLT).
Dixon Murrah adds that stress can also be “a cover-up for worry, fear, or anger.”
Doctors and scientists agree that stress can motivate better production, increase immunity, and develop inner strength and endurance. But stress can also result in harmful, chronic issues if prolonged and handled the wrong way.
2. Add a belt of truth and wisdom.
Ask God what He wants to teach you through this situation or how He wants to change you. Ask for wisdom on how to develop endurance and patience, and on how to grow your faith when stress shows up uninvited.
In my recent post, Five Ways to Embrace the Seasons of Life, I mentioned the Serenity Prayer. Dixon Murrah also stresses the importance of following that prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Learning how to cooperate with God on changing the things you can and accepting the things you can’t is a great principle for handling stress. Remember, also, as in Job’s situation (Job 1-42), that God may be using your stress (or distress) to teach you more about Himself and His character.
When Job’s friends tried to foolishly explain Job’s temptations and losses and God’s part in it, and when Job, though he never turned away from God, had questions of his own, God enlightened them as to Who He really was—and to His magnificent power:
Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:1-4 NLT).
And in the next few chapters, Job simply listened as God revealed more of Himself to Job.
There are times when we can and should ask God to remove the stressful condition. But there are other situations in which we need to add, “But if not…or even if…” Times when God simply wants us to walk through it with Him. But in either event, we can trust the God Who always, without fail, knows what is best for us, Who will bring good out of possible harm, and Who wants constantly to transform us into His own image.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20 NIV).
3. Choose peaceful colors.
Learn to relax with deep breaths, and take a few moments, if possible, to walk away emotionally and mentally from your current stressful situation. Picture a peaceful place, maybe a favorite place you love, and let your mind travel there for a few moments.
Sometimes I love to picture myself walking on a beautiful beach like the picture on this blog post–hand in hand with Jesus, listening to His compassionate voice, with cool water lapping at my feet. Others times I combine a simple prayer with a verse of Scripture and allow it to fill my mind and thoughts as I linger on its truth, like this one:
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3 NLT). “Lord, I trust You, and I want to keep my thoughts tuned positively to You. I know You will give me peace in this situation.”
4. Consider a complete change of clothes when you sense your stress moving into distress.
If possible, remove yourself physically from your distress, even if only for a short break. Go for a walk outside. Try some mild exercise. Listen to a praise song. If necessary and physically possible, move away from the circumstances for a day or so to give yourself more time to think through how to handle the stress, decision, or whatever you are facing, with a clearer mind.
Let Jesus redress your stress and give you completely new garments. Here’s a beautiful promise in Isaiah that I believe God wants us to apply to our lives:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me…To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:1, 3 NKJV).
5. Wear an attitude of humility, asking for help if necessary.
Sometimes your circumstances may involve more change than you feel you can handle. Ask God to help you find those who can show you better, more constructive ways to redress your stress and find joy (and sometimes sanity) in the midst of your distress. When we humble ourselves before God and others, He will lead us to Christian friends and/or counselors who can help.
That’s one of the reasons God gave us the body of Christ—so that we could work together, mutually encouraging and building each other up in the Lord.
Dealing with Stress in the Ministry
If you happen to be in the ministry—and we all have a ministry of sorts—I highly recommend his recent book, Stress in Ministry, Causes and Cures, written by our counselor/friend whom I quoted earlier, Ernest Dixon Murrah, Jr. In addition to being a minister for some 30 years, he had two graduate degrees in psychology. He was approved by the state of Texas as a supervisor of professional therapists. Prior to going into the ministry he was a rocket scientist at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. When NASA came to Houston, Texas he served as Head of the Apollo Trajectory Section. After the Apollo program ended he was Assistant Mission Evaluation Room (MER) Manager. The MER is where most of the mission problems were solved.
Considering his background and experience, I would say this wise man knew something about dealing with stress, wouldn’t you? My husband I were privileged to attend a couple of his small group Stress in the Ministry conferences years ago that truly changed our lives.
Dixon’s book on Stress in Ministry is basically the compilation of experience gained from ministering to some one thousand ministerial couples from some twenty different denominations and six countries during over one hundred Stress in the Ministry conferences. These conferences were week-long conferences designed to help ministers avoid and/or deal with stress and prevent burnout. The book discusses the causes and cures of stress in ministry.
But after reading Dixon’s book, I believe some of the principles he shares would be helpful to anyone dealing with stress, not just to those in ministry. Rather than offer a traditional book review, I chose instead to share a few powerful quotes/truths from his book.
“If someone hands you a snake drop it.” (letting go of things you can’t change).
“Hurt people hurt people” (his favorite saying, one familiar to you, I’m sure).
“You will get most complaints when you are doing your most effective job” (ministry).
“Every time you run into a difficult problem, it is God ringing your phone.”
“A lot of us start out as individuals and end up as copies” (Copy Christ, not others).
“Conflicts and problems are always about God wanting us to change.”
“The problem is never the problem. It is usually just a symptom or metaphor for the real problem.”
“God does His best work with us when we are in the ‘waiting room.’”
“God said you were worth suffering and dying for; that means you have great value.”¹
Dixon Murrah possessed the unique ability to see through a problem immediately, and some of his counsel, by his admission, may be challenging. But I believe his book will be a valuable asset to anyone who wants to learn better how to deal with stress. He had a true heart for God and for people, especially those hurting and/or in ministry. I hope you’ll check out his book.
¹ © 2017, Ernest Dixon Murrah, Jr., Stress in Ministry, Westbow Press.
Another post you might like regarding stress is one I wrote called 10 Simple Stress Busters for Women.
My Personal Prayer for You
We all deal with stress at one time or another. Help us to depend on You more and on ourselves less. Our own efforts often fail, but You walk with us and work through us in our distress. You also use those stressful situations we face, whether it’s a temptation, a struggle, a challenge, or a change, to develop the kind of character we need—one that mirrors You more and more. How we need you, Lord! Thank You that You are willing to redress us in robes of righteousness and garments of praise as we turn to You in faith. Turn our stress into a good thing, Jesus—and always, use it as a wake-up call to see You better–and bigger–and to love You and others more.
How are you handling stress right now? How has Jesus helped you “redress your stress?”
*One other note. Easter is around the corner. If you would enjoy some devotional inspiration regarding Lent and the Easter season, check out these Easter meditations I wrote.
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