The New Testament is filled with stressed-out people undergoing various stressful situations. My favourite example is that of Jesus in distress. This verse opens with a very stressed-out Jesus, in fact, overwhelmed by stress. He requests his friends to accompany him:
“Sit here while I pray.”
Taking Peter, James and John along with him, he began to be deeply distressed and troubled .Mark 11:33:
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, he confessed.
“Stay here and keep watch”, he pleaded.
This stress experience that completely overwhelmed Jesus happened in Gethsemane just before he was arrested. He needed to pray, so he took his closest friends, Peter, James and John along with him. He expressed his true feelings acknowledging his struggle to deal with the stress:
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, “Stay here and keep watch”, he pleaded.
Going a little further, he fell to the ground and prayed. When people in distress fall down, overcome by emotions, we understand they are really struggling to cope. This verse reveals a few interesting points about Jesus:
1. Although he was God, he got really stressed and overwhelmed. 2. He was honest with himself and with others.
3. He needed support from his friends and he asked for this support
4. He prayed. He knew he needed a higher power; his father.
This is the model Jesus left us to follow. I’m so glad it was Jesus that went through this and not one of his disciples. This is because we can identify with him without feeling condemned or weak when going through stress or feel like giving up.
However, sometimes as Christians we can be too hard on ourselves or others in an attempt to advocate strength and reject weakness. As much as this is the target, we also need to know that in this life, we are prone to such difficult times and instead of denying reality or isolating ourselves, we should stay in the present, identify the stressors, be honest with people around us and with God in prayer. Sometimes, this is a skill to be learned and I’m aware it is easily said than done. In conclusion, the Bible encourages a collective approach. This involves not just the stressed individual but the Christian community around them. In fact, in true fellowship, people can connect with others through vulnerability and weakness.
Likewise, the Old Testament is also full of stories of stress experiences. An example of one such story is that about angry, thirsty Israelites whom Moses was managing. Managing people has never been easy. It is recorded that they quarrelled with and grumbled against Moses wanting to stone him to give them water to drink. I can only envisage the stress and fear as a crowd of angry, thirsty men shouted at Moses who had no water in the desert to give. Remember, Moses never felt qualified for this role in the first place; it was God who insisted on him taking it. Therefore, their grumbling only justified Moses’ feelings of inadequacy and fear. But Moses had learnt the skill of dealing with intense stress probably from practice. ‘Even this will pass’, I imagine he was hopeful that God would come through again. He cried out to God asking him what to do! God heard him and instructed him, giving him a detailed plan of what and how to get water from a rock. Phew! Moses was glad when it was all over! The point here is that Moses, at a time of immense pressure and distress, called out to God for help. He knew who to call and had hope and confidence that He was well able to help him.
I know sometimes our lives can feel a bit like there is no break from stress, there is problem after problem and it is never-ending. Unfortunately, according to Jesus, stress is here to stay, as long as we are in this world and no one is immune. Nevertheless, we are not without hope. In John 16:33, Jesus promises peace and a cheerful ending, in spite of the stressors. For this reason, we can be intentional, cheer up, stay optimistic, be comforted and have peace while dealing with stress.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation, trials, sorrows, affliction, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.