Torch, Fall 1984

! I Scripture provides some excellent examples of people who managed stress , chief of whom are the Apostle Paul and our Lord . Both experienced great stress and both overcame it. The stress Paul recounted in II Corinthians 11:23-12:10 is mind boggling. Let us see how he coped . 1. Paul expected stress. Acts 9:16 To change , grow , and adapt is a normal part of human life. Change makes life dynamic and exciting . In this sense, stress is routine . But, when one becomes a Christian , some extra stressors are sure to follow . Paul knew it, and so did Peter (I Peter 3,4) and James (James 1) . Jesus told us not to be surprised ifthe world hates us . It hated him (John 15) . Christians can count on the stress of having to adjust to a hostile environment. Simply planning on such things helps people cope with them better. 2. Paul did not avoid stress when it was for Christ's sake. Acts 21 :10-14 In this astounding story , a prophet told Paul that if he went on to Jerusalem he would be imprisoned and given to the Romans . His friends begged him not to go, but he did not hesitate to experience stress for the cause of Christ. Sometimes the Christian willingly walks directly into a stressful situation because it is the right thing to do . Not all avoidable stress should be avoided. 3. Paul did avoid stress related to material things. Philippians 4: 10- 13 The author of the book of Hebrews (13 :5) tells us to keep our lives free from the love of money because God our provider will never forsake us . Paul had learned this contentment. Thus , we see that some stress is best avoided and other stress is best confronted. Sadly , many of us get confused and reverse the biblical approach to stressors. We enter into stressful situations concerning mortgages , car payments , recreation, and the like while we avoid stressful situations which , for Christ 's sake, would stir up opposition from the world , the flesh, or the Devil. While we should avoid unnecessary stress over material things, encountering stress for spiritual reasons is necessary for developing one's faith and character. 4 . Paul had a clear vocational goal. Romans 15:20 Paul was blessed in that he had a clear and simple vocational goal - to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. Such singleness of mind helped Paul avoid many of the stresses and conflicts people face today . The sacrifices and adjustments Paul made were worthwhile because they helped him reach his goal. When one' s mind is on one's work, the adjustments and inconveniences recede into the background because the work itself stabilizes and motivates the person . Paul had ample justification for the stress he endured. It was necessary for him to reach his goal. For many persons today who are not drawn to their work and do not have vocational goals, stressors in the workplace assume undue significance. When there is no goal in sight , there is little reason or satisfaction for overcoming the stress. 5. Paul had a clear purpose for living. Philippians 1:21 One of the greatest problems that modern man faces is meaninglessness . Most people are trying to determine their value and their purpose for living. When an individual's self worth is based on anything less sure than his standing before God , every stressor is a threat to his meaning and value. Often , people who suffer most from stress are those who have no goals or reason to go on living . Every stressor seems like an insurmountable mountain and they feel as though they have no strength , will , or reason to climb it. Paul could not lose . He believed that to live is Christ, and to die is gain . If things went tranquilly, then Paul could reach his goal 'of evangelizing those who had not heard the gospel. If stress arose, he could complete in himself Christ's suffering. If he were killed by the obstacles he faced , he would be with Christ and would have fulfilled his life goal. A purpose for living is essential for stabilizing and guiding one through life's stress. The only right purpose for living is Christ. 6. Paul had an eternal perspective. Romans 5:18,21 In many places we are told that our present, brief afflictions are working an eternal weight of glory . We live in the preface of eternal life. No matter what stress may be encountered now, it will be brief and productive when seen from eternity's perspective . When we get discouraged, we feel as though our stress will only become heavier and never end. While this is a powerful feeling, it is not the true state of affairs . Stress may be handled much more effectively when seen for what it is - a temporary challenge which will soon pass. 7 . Prayer is essential for overcoming stress. While Paul's books are filled with the evidences of his prayers , the most vivid example of the centrality of prayer in a stressful life is provided by our Lord Jesus Christ. He frequently isolated Himself from all but his Father to whom He prayed at length . Likewise , God is our strength and our refuge . He raises up stressors and He casts them down . He gives us the wisdom and power to avoid them or overcome them . Certainly , the ultimate example of prayer in preparing one for stress is our Lord's prayer in Gethsemane . Undoubtedly, if we isolate ourselves from God, our Wisdom and Strength, by failing to pray, we shall be controlled and defeated by our stressors . The stress reduction techniques described in so many books can be valuable. Do look at them. But, as you learn them and practice them, remember to do so only in the light of biblical perspectives . Dr. Charles D. Dolph is assistant professor of psychology at Cedarville College . An alumnus of Cedarville College , he received his Ph.D . from Georgia State University and is a licensed psychologist. 9