The Holiday Season is upon us. The five week run from Thanksgiving to New Years Day is America’s annual stress and cholesterol festival. Smithsonian magazine calls our generation the “Age of Anxiety.” You can actually feel the stress ramping up!
We’re a society in need of stress relief – especially during the Holidays. So, here’s three stress relievers found in the “Mental Health” chapter of the Bible in Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB).
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
The first stress-reliever is WORRY ABOUT NOTHING.
In Philippians 4:6 the apostle Paul says: “Don’t worry about anything…” Worry and anxiety are a major source of stress. That same Smithsonian article reported that there are “macro worries” & “micro worries” that everybody on the planet worries about.
“Macro worries” are anxiety about global warming or the earth being stuck by an asteroid. Worries about earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and floods. Worry about gang violence and violent political unrest. Fear that our kids could be assaulted at gun point by someone at school or even just walking down the street…these are all “macro worries.
And then there are “micro worries.” These are personal worries like anxiety about our health or our family’s health or the security of our job or the quality of our relationships or our stock market investments.
“Micro worries” & “micro worries” – we all have them.
Let me give you a definition for worry: “Worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended for me to have.” Worry is playing God and trying to control the uncontrollable. Worry really is worthless – because it can’t change the past or control the future. It only messes us up right now – in the present. Worry is an incredible waste of energy & creativity. It’s “stewing without doing.”
The Bible agrees: “Don’t worry about anything.”
Now, I know that’s a hard command to obey. It’s hard to obey because some of us are born worriers. We have the ability to “find a problem in every solution.” We always seem to look at the negative. But Jesus commanded us in Matthew 6:34 (NASB): “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”
For many of us worry is our “default.” It’s something we learn along the way in life as we depend less and less on God and more and more on ourselves. It takes practice to get good at worrying. But Jesus is saying that if worry can be learned, then it can also be unlearned.
SO HERE’S AN INSIGHT FOR YOU: What Jesus and Paul are saying is that in order to relieve stress you have to live one day at a time. And that’s not idle advice or flippantly spoken words. Jesus uttered those words even though he knew he was going to be crucified on a cross for the sins of mankind. Paul was in prison waiting to be executed when he wrote Philippians. They both had opportunity to let worry, anxiety, and fear control their lives – but they choose to worry about nothing.
The second stress-reliever is to PRAY ABOUT ANYTHING.
Whenever God tells us to eliminate something from our lives (worry, anxiety, fear), He always has something better for us (prayer). He always replaces a negative with a positive – the problem we face with a promise he’s made.
Philippians 4:6 continues: “…pray about everything; tell God your needs…” Or as the NASB version puts it: “…but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your requests be known to God.”
The apostle Paul is saying, don’t worry or panic – pray! When we stop worrying we have time to pray. If, when we’re tempted to say “I don’t have time to pray,” we would spend our time praying instead of worrying, we’d have a whole lot less to worry about. A Jamaican proverb underscores the Biblical relationship between prayer and worry. It says: “If you’re going to pray, don’t worry. If you’re going to worry, don’t pray.”
The Bible is saying that we should pray about anything. Some people think that God is only interested in us praying about what we consider “spiritual” things. But God is interested in everything in your life. He also tells us to use “supplication” or “petition.” That means ask God for a specific, detailed request. Get specific with God. Tell Him exactly what you want and what you need. Don’t pray general, vague prayers. Be specific. Ask him to fulfill his promises to you!
Prayer is a tremendous safety valve for the release of the pressure of stress. So, unload all your worries on God. He’s big enough to handle all the details in your life. He can handle anything you give Him.
THE INSIGHT HERE IS: There’s no problem that’s too big for God’s power or too small for His concern.
Here’s the third stress-reliever: GIVE THANKS IN EVERYTHING.
Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says: “… in everything … with thanksgiving …” Always approach God with a thankful heart. In other words, “Don’t forget to thank him for his answers to your prayers.” One of the healthiest human emotions is gratitude – having a grateful and thankful heart. Being thankful actually increases your body’s immune system. There’s a physical benefit to expressing gratitude. By contrast, ungrateful people tend to be unhappy people. Nothing ever satisfies them.
Here’s an idea: If you’re stressed or anxious, make a list of twenty things you know you can be grateful for. Because when you’re grateful, it gets the focus off your problems and back on to the benefits in your life. We have so much to be grateful for. So develop an attitude of gratitude and watch the stress level in your life go down. It gets your eyes off the problem and on to the things you can be grateful for.
THE INSIGHT HERE IS: There is always something to be grateful for.
So, what’s the result of practicing these stress-relievers? It’s found in Philippians 4:7: “If you do this you will experience God’s peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your heart quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” v. 7 (TLB). That’s a promise of guaranteed peace of mind!
People are looking everywhere for peace of mind. They try pills, herbs, booze, therapy, and stress reduction seminars. They listen to podcasts and buy books – anything to give them just a little peace of mind. To paraphrase the apostle Paul here: “God’s peace is a gift to you. It is a gift that can’t be explained, duplicated, fabricated, or understood. It’s a gift from God that just comes over your life when you follow these stress relievers.”
And how do we maintain that kind of peace of mind? “.. as you trust in Christ Jesus.” According to the Bible, God made us to know him. Nobody’s here on this planet by accident. He made us for a purpose. The starting point of that purpose is to understand that he made us for a relationship with him. He wants us to know him. And when we know him there’s a sense of peace that comes into our lives. Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
This passage in Philippians 4 ends by saying: “His peace will keep your thoughts…” The word “keep” in Greek is a military term. It means “a sentry guard, a garrison, or a detachment of soldiers.”
That’s the way God will guard your mind and heart when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ and trust Him moment by moment. You worry about nothing. You pray about anything. And you thank God in everything. Then God will put a garrison, a sentry guard, around your heart. And when worry comes knocking at the door He will protect you with His peace.
Have a stress-free Holiday Season!