The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.... Psalm 23:1-2
Researchers are telling us today that stress is causing more emotional and physical damage than our grandparents could have imagined in their worst nightmares, from producing cancer to lowering IQ in our children. There is no question that it produces ulcers, hypertension, heart disease, and a whole lot of emotional hassle which doesn't make anyone very happy.
When you are confronted with a stressful situation, it takes exactly 15 seconds for the hypothalamus gland in your brain to trigger a burst of adrenaline which begins to surge through your body. I've been told that trainers use it to stop the flow of blood from an open wound when prize fighters don't fare too well in the ring. Adrenaline causes little ladies who could hardly lift a sack of groceries to lift automobiles off people involved in an accident.
Stress causes the muscles of your body to go into turbo, or overdrive. It's the fight or flight response to danger. Take your fist and squeeze it as tight as you can and hold it for a couple of minutes. It begins to ache and hurt. Stress does that to your body, but it doesn't release, as your fist does, when you shake it and restore circulation. Stress ties you into a knot and you stay there. Believe it or not, stress headaches account for 80% of the symptoms which bring people to doctors as they complain about stomach pains, aching backs, tight throats, short tempers, impotence and viral infections.
Your emotions are also affected. When you are stressed out, you become irritable and cross. You say things which you really don't mean, your temper flares and quite often those who are closest to you, the ones you really love and care about, become the victims of your inability to eliminate stress. Dr. Jack Morris, a pastor and psychotherapist, sees a downward progression as stress produces fatigue, fatigue leads to tension, and tension produces anxiety, and anxiety, unchecked, leads to depression.
There is another part of your life which is affected as the level of your competency drains in the honeycomb of life: it's your spiritual life. You go to church and the pastor speaks for 43 minutes, but you say, "He could have said all of that in 20 minutes." You become critical and don't get much out of the service. If you read your Bible, you see only words and at the end of the page you can't remember a thing you read. Eventually you feel that God is distant, remote, and disinterested.
You then begin to feel guilt, thinking that you are doing something wrong, because two myths constantly confront those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. Those myths are 1. Christians shouldn't face stress, and 2. Those who feel stress are not spiritual. Seemingly, those two premises just won't go away. But are they necessarily true? One young woman who was climbing the corporate ladder thought so. She wrote, "Yesterday I was told by my physician that there is a strong possibility that I have an ulcer. I must go in Monday for tests to try and determine this or discover what other possibility it might be. This sets hard with me as in my opinion, ulcers and Christians should not go together. I equate this with a lack of dependence on God."
Should you feel as our friend did, ponder this for a minute. Here's a common ordinary table. You stand on the table and it will hold your weight. Then another person joins you standing on the table. It begins to wobble and will eventually collapse as the legs begin to feel pressure it was never designed to bear. The issue isn't spirituality, but stress beyond the load limit. So is it with us.
Resource Reading: John 16:16-24.