Stress. Worry. Anxiety. We have all experienced it. We have all succumbed to it. “Dr. Liz I’m so stressed.” “I get so anxious about ______.” “I’m worried about my __________ (job, school, kids, spouse).” “This stress is killing me.” I recently taught a workshop about how stress literally is killing you by trapping you in the stress response and destroying your hormones. And it needs to STOP.
So how do we stress less? We aren’t going to change jobs, exchange our kids, change our spouse, prevent all disasters and stop time from moving so fast. So what do we do instead? Simply stated, anxiety is worry over something that may never even happen! And if it does happen (you lose your job, you separate from your spouse, your kids get mixed up with the wrong friends, you get a bad diagnosis from the doctor, or your plane goes down)…. Why live through it TWICE?? Have you ever thought about that?
I can tell you I have recently. The things you worry over or are anxious over are usually out of our own control, so why do we stress about it? Here is an example. I’ve been married a little over two years. Marriage is a scary thing in our world. A woman is trusting her life to a man, to take care of her and provide for her. In our culture marriage (even Christian marriages) are NOT thought to be an image of God’s relationship with the church, with a mission to bring more people to Christ. They are people-centered. They are couple-centered. So when two people join together (who are sinful in nature) it is “natural” to have fears and doubts.
So if I entered into my marriage not trusting that Mark is going to be loving, or faithful, or take care of me through thick and thin, what do you think will happen over time? I have watched this happen over and over in others’ marriages. The man is stressed because he is not making enough money to save the for kids’ college fund, the wife sees him starting to miss dinner because he’s picking up more hours at work, she becomes anxious that he is having an affair, she begins to meet him with demands at the door instead of a smile and a kiss, he feels disrespected (because he is busting his tail to set up financial security for the family), he reacts in an unloving way because he feels disrespected, and the wife feels him becoming more distant, supporting her assumption that he must be being unfaithful. You can see where this story is going. The couple drifts apart, and perhaps they stick it out for the kids, or they find someone else more “suited” for them since the love has disappeared from their relationship.
This pattern doesn’t just happen in marriage. I could be describing you, but I could also be describing a different area of your life. Your family, your job, your health. You have the power to create your future with the thoughts you are thinking. If you let stress and worry dominate your life, you can create the exact scenario you are worrying about.
Recently I read Francis Chan’s definition of stress and worry. It hit hard. “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives are brief… and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed.”
Ouch, right? I read that and thought of all the things I worry about… my bills, my office, my relationship, my bank account, my family, my, my, my. When you sit down and think about it with an eternal perspective and ask yourself, “Am I trusting God fully with all aspects of my life?” you may realize that you are not. And that’s when you will find freedom. I found freedom in an understanding of my health and knowing that God created me to heal and function at 100%, I just need to remove any interference. I found freedom in an understanding that God created marriage and he will do the work of making two into one, but we have to remove any interference (make sure we are both centered on Him). There are many ways I found freedom and my challenge to you is to do the same. God works all things for the good of those who love him, and in the world we live in, we need to embrace that.
I’d like to make some reading recommendations for those of you who may be struggling in different areas of your life. For those of you who are struggling in your marriage, hands down the best marriage book I’ve read so far (and we’ve read a loooot) is Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerich. A few other relationship-must-reads are 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (they have editions for marriage, single life and parenting), Wild at Heart (for the men) and Captivating (for the women) written by John and Stasi Eldridge. For those of you struggling with purpose or meaning in your life, read The Cause Within You by Matthew Barnett. Everyone should read the Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, it will change the way you manager your schedule, your life, your finances and your success. Finally, for those of you who are contemplating a relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time, or just have a lot of questions that have been poorly answered for you in the past, (or if you just want to further your relationship with him) some of the books that have helped to change my mind about WHO Jesus is are Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge and Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick. These books have literally changed the way I live my life. I want the same for you!