In the February Dad’s Corner, I shared that we can welcome stressful times so we can learn how to rest and not be stressed. Last week I had the opportunity to embrace those words. By the end of one particular day, I was so exhausted from the stress, I couldn’t wait to go to bed. It hadn’t been the restful, growing experience that I desired.
The situation that day involved demanding work with significant confrontation. I am trying very hard to learn how to remain calm inside when in a difficult and tense environment. Unfortunately, I have a long way to go. Following the meeting, I was exhausted because of the inner pressure and anxiety I had experienced.
I know I’m not alone in having days with stress “opportunities.” Most dads (and moms) will encounter situations where stress is likely every day in various degrees. In some cities, simply driving to work can be very stressful. Is that just the way it is, living in fast-paced America? But what about the dad who farms? Would he ever have a reason to be stressed in a peaceful, country setting? Might there be days when it seems like all his equipment is breaking down and times when the weather is ruining his crops? What about the dad whose child is deathly ill, or the dad who is out of a job while the bills are piling up?
Look at how even the world defines stress. One definition from Merriam-Webster OnLine calls stress “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” That seems to depict clearly what I was experiencing. The definition described stress as a factor in causing disease.
The world knows what stress is, but it can’t offer any solutions other than what comes in a needle, a bottle, or a prescription. The world cannot offer real peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
The word peace means quietness and rest. If I had been experiencing the peace of Jesus, I wouldn’t have been exhausted by the end of the day. Because I wasn’t resting in the Lord and trusting Him to work out the difficulties, I had nothing left for my family that evening. I was spent as a result of my work. It wasn’t a good kind of exhaustion like that which comes from hard physical work. Instead, my exhaustion was due to the negative emotional turmoil going on inside me. It was a needless waste of energy.
Stress is akin to worry, and worry is sin. When I was in that meeting, I was thinking about how what was being discussed impacted our company. I had to carefully weigh my words when responding to questions. I didn’t like it at all. “Let not your heart be troubled” is in the imperative mood. It is a command of Jesus that we are not to be troubled. That means it is a choice, and if we choose to be troubled, then it is sin. I was thinking more about how I was going to deal with the circumstances at hand than I was about the resources of my Lord Jesus. As a result, I was extremely stressed, and I was sinning.
I was also demonstrating my lack of faith at that point. As I have shared previously, we have seen Jesus work mightily in our business projects, time and time again. Who was I trusting in to deal with the situation? Myself. When I trust in myself I have great reason to be worried and stressed. Through the years, I’ve learned that the closer I’m drawn to Jesus, the more it takes to stress me.
In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 we read, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” Before I was saved, I went to a rock concert while I was temporarily stationed in Germany. There was a throng of people waiting for the iron gates to be opened to the concert. People kept crowding in toward those gates in anticipation of being let in. The press became so heavy that my friend and I literally picked our feet up one time and were held in place. Word passed by us that the people next to the iron fence in front were being injured by being pushed so hard against the fence. The pressure exerted by the crowd is what the Greek word thlibo means and is translated as “troubled” in verse eight. The difficulties of life can exert such pressure that we feel as if we are being crushed when we reject the peace of Jesus.
In the midst of the concert crowd, I had a very helpless and trapped feeling, as it was virtually impossible to be able to free myself from the midst of the press. If someone had fallen down (which I doubt they could have), it would have been impossible to get back up. That feeling is pictured in the Greek word apereo, which is translated as “perplexed.” No matter how good one’s reason for wanting to get out of there, it didn’t matter. There was absolutely nothing that we could have done.
I wonder if that isn’t what many dads frequently feel. They see themselves trapped in a difficult situation without hope of escape. Is there a solution? “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Do you have stress induced by problems of the flesh? “Infirmities” refers to difficulties such as disease, sickness, and human weakness. “Reproaches” refers to bad treatment by others. “Necessities” refers to being in need. “Persecutions” refers to what our enemies may do to us. Finally, if the other words missed something, “distresses” completes the package, referring to calamities and anguish. Paul didn’t say he simply endured these things. He said he would gladly glory in them.
I doubt any of us will ever “arrive” when it comes to eliminating all stress from our lives, but may we be committed to treating it as sin and not accepting it in our lives. May we treat it as an enemy of our peace and something that robs us of our ability to bless and enjoy our families. Any time we allow something into our lives that Jesus speaks against, there will be consequences. When stress is a part of our lives, we can expect anxiety and physical difficulties. We demonstrate to those around us that our Lord Jesus is unable to deal with the problems of our life. We shout that our faith is insufficient to trust in our sovereign Lord being able to manage our life.
Failing to rest in my Savior last week was a good reminder of my need for greater trust and rest. Therefore, I was determined to cast all my cares on Him this week when I had a similar opportunity. May my family have a daddy who is trusting in his Lord in a very real way and being at peace and at rest even after a difficult day. Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
(Since this article was written, Steve now has a book for men, Redeeming the Time which is a practical resource to help men lead their families and manage their time. Steve’s book offers hope and encouragement.)