Torch, Fall 1984

SAINTS and STRESS by Dr. Stanley N. Ballard T hank God for God-given stress, because it is normal and beneficial. Although it gives us motivation and even keeps us from being bored, it can, on occasions , become overwhelming. Constant, unrelieved pressure may lead to serious physical and emotional problems and spiritual burnout. How did biblical personalities respond when they were confronted with stress? This article will consider specific, stressful life events and how these individuals reacted. But first, what is stress? It is somewhat synonymous with the term pressure; it is the spiritual, psychological, and physiological effects that a person experiences in adapting to the demands and conditions of life. The Bible speaks of these circumstances in terms of trials , tribulations , and troubles (I Peter 1:7, John 16:33; Matthew 6:34). God has not promised His children immunity from such stresses. On the contrary, He has indicated that in this life they will have stress-laden tribulations (II Timothy 3:12) . The critical factor is how the individual deals with them. Although a believer undergoes many everyday stresses just as the unbeliever does, he has a spiritual source of help that non-believers do not possess (Hebrews 4: 16; 7:25). The following examples bear witness to this. MOSES Moses faced many stressful situations during the 40 years he led the Israelites toward Canaan. In Exodus, chapter 16, we discover an overworked servant of God who was deeply involved in numerous rribal needs. He confronted people's demands, requests for decisions, and problems to be solved. He was assuming too much 4 responsibility rather than delegating tasks to others. In the midst of this context, Moses was visited by Jethro, his perceptive father-in -law, who recognized the cumulative effect of trying to do too much all alone. When he saw Moses at the brink of exhaustion, he gave his judgment as found in verse 18: "Thou wilt sure!y wear away ... for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone." Jethro made a suggestion: as leader, deal with the more important issues and then pass around to qualified people the balance of the workload . Verse 24 indicates that Moses " ... hearkened to the voice of his father-in– law , and did all that he had said ." Moses realized that the environmental stress was not going to change , and that the needs, demands, decisions, and people problems would remain. So he changed his own behavior. Inferentially, it can be suggested that this response to stress enabled Moses to have many more years of effective leadership . JOB Job is one of the most dramatic examples of stress. In the initial description of Job, we find him to be a wealthy man, morally upright, the father of a large family, famous, and widely respected (Job 1:1 -3) . The things that were going well for him suddenly changed. Not only did Job face financial stress , but his house collapsed in a storm and his seven sons and three daughters were killed (Job 1:18,19). That Job's wife, the only family survivor, was not even a comfort and support to grieving Job (2:9) only compounded the stress. Even his health was lost as he sat in ashes suffering with boils (2:7 ,8) . In chapter 29, it is recorded