Have you ever talked to someone and he told you, “I never get stressed.” Prima facie, this seems quite spiritual and without doubt, attractive. You probably even walked away wondering what is wrong with you. However, there is a little more to the story.
Granted, if you are always stressed, you do have a problem. You are either a control-freak, do not trust The Lord, aren’t flexible, or all of the above. On the other hand, if you never get stressed, let me suggest that this also might be a problem.
What do I mean?
There is a difference between learning to cope/deal effectively with stress and simply avoiding it. When you live a lifestyle of avoiding stress, there is a good chance you are having to do one of the following:
1. Say no to any ‘risk’. Risks can be scary. A jump in the dark. A leap with a blindfold. Potential failure. Potential success. People may not agree. You may disappoint some people. You might lose money. You may not be as popular. If it is a new venture and you are not a little scared, you are not human. Being a little nervous or a little anxious about a new project at work, a new major, or retaking a class you previously failed, can stress you a little bit. It is part of life. The only way you can avoid this type of ‘risk’ stress is to never take risks, never go on that mission trip, never take a college class, never talk to that girl, never move off. A little ‘risk’ stress just means you are daring to grow, daring to be different, daring to try something, daring to stretch yourself. If your filter for making decisions is to avoid all stress, chances are you will never try anything new. Let be be blunt: If your goal is to avoid all stress at all times, you will never come close to following Jesus. Not because he was stressed, but because you are human, and as you follow him, he is going lead you to some places that require a great leap. Stress sometimes means you are in unknown, uncharted territory and do not know how it is going to turn out. But, isn’t that where Jesus kept the disciples day in and day out?
2. Reject increased responsibility. If you are going to live stress-free, you cannot allow your responsibilities to be increased. In the past year, I have shifted from being a Husband and Young Adult pastor to the following: Husband AND Father, LifeGroup Pastor, and Professor of two classes at local college. I’ve added father and professor to my list. There are times I have been exhausted and definitely stressed. But would I trade it? NO! The stress comes with the new roles and additional responsibilities. Now, if stress becomes my normal mode of living, SOMETHING IS WRONG. That is not God’s will. My heart would be sick if this were the case. Even thought this is true, this does not mean that it is unChristlike to ever feel stress. What would God have me do? Don’t take the leap and become a father? Don’t take the jump and become a professor (one of my lifelong dreams God has put in my heart to do for His glory)? He would rather me jump into these pieces of my destiny and have to learn, over time, how to cope with the additional load rather than avoid these new frontiers so that I don’t feel stressed. The Holy Spirit is here to teach me how to trust God more as more gets put on my plate. I would rather be stretched, step into new things, and have to learn how to deal with new levels of stress than avoid any and every situation (and open door) in order to avoid stress. Yes, I might look more spiritual on the outside, but inside, dead.
A horribly lame spirituality would result from believing that God never wants me to feel stressed. Now, what stresses me today should not stress me as much years from now. I should be maturing, trusting God more, learning how to manage my time better, becoming more disciplined, and so forth. Yet, there are going to be times when God requires more of me than at any other time in my life, and no matter how much I trust Him, there will still be butterflies in my stomach and a little stress in my heart.
What if stress is evidence that you are not staying put, not settling, trying new things, taking risks, and/or taking on new responsibilities? Again, do not interpret this blog as giving you an excuse to not deal with inordinate stress/anxiety/fear levels in your heart. Yet, on the other hand, forget following Christ if you want to avoid all stress.