Biblical view and definition of stress

Although I could not find biblical references using the word ‘stress’, it is evident that the Bible addresses stress using other terminologies including: distress, adversity, disaster, tribulations, ordeals, suffering etc.

From a research point of view, stress is defined as ‘the harmful reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them’, a state of physical, psychological or social flaw which makes individuals feel unable to bridge the gap between the requirements and the expectations placed on them. ‘A mismatch of what one is capable of doing and what one is expected to do’ (Cooper 1998). However, the Christian meaning of the word stress differs from the worldly definition. This is because the appraisal of events differs. It has been suggested that stress, be individually defined and understood with reference to both the individual and his environment by (Marshall & Cooper 1981). In agreement, (Holroyd & Lazarus 1982) insist that the actual experience of stress is highly personal and dependent on one’s subjective appraisal of events. Arguably, stress means different things to different people and their way of managing it, is subjective and dependent on the person.

Contrary to this belief, the bible states that the Christian is only exposed to as much pressure as they can cope with dependence on God and his power other than our own. They are also enabled to deal with all stress and problems that come their way. Hence the response of all Christians is the same “capable” despite the stressor type or the size of the stressor. As it were, the most stressful seasons in our lives reach the summit, the moment we realize we can’t do it all. Hence, the experience and management of the stress for Christians are fully dependent on God rather than the individual.

Therefore, it is important to note that mediating stress requires us to take a good look at ourselves, identify our stressors and commit them to God in full trust other than losing our breath in anxiety and fear.

Notably, the concept of individually defining or understanding life’s experiences is well displayed in the New Testament when Jesus asked his disciples:

“Who do people say I am?”

The disciples gave some answers including Elisha, John the Baptist, Jeremiah etc. Then Jesus further interrogated them:

“But who do you yourselves say that I am ?”

Jesus knew that their personal understanding of who he was would determine how they lived their lives after he was gone. Similarly, the personal understanding and belief of the Christian, will determine how they define and manage stress. Arguably, our position, view and approach to the stress will determine how we manage it. If we look at stress from God’s view and perspective, we will manage it in His way. On the contrary, if we view stress from our own platform, we will manage it according to our own view, feelings and strength. Therefore, let us strive to start from God’s perspective; it’s where the power is. Without His power, it’s too hard to rise up and overcome stress.

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