Updated: Sep 10, 2020
In the language of physics, stress is a term used by engineers to describe both the external force applied to a material and the internal strength required to resist the pressure. These combined stresses will cause the material to change size and shape. For example, a metal like iron will have a yield point at which outside pressure increases the density of the metal, making it stronger. But when the strain exceeds its load bearing capacity, a failure point is reached and the metal breaks. When a blacksmith heats and hammers a horseshoe, he not only shapes the metal but also increases its strength.
Stress is external pressure that causes physical, mental or emotional strain. "A large truck puts a lot of stress on the old wooden bridge."
Stress is internal resistance in response to outside pressure. "The stress in my lower back was brought on by lifting heavy boxes."
Stress is negative pressure that results in distress, danger or destruction. "The stress from many harsh winters destroyed the fruit trees in our backyard."
Stress is positive pressure that results in motivation and movement. "The stress of having to support a family caused the young man to seek a better job."
How Is Scripture Used to Deal with Stress?
You will react to pressure much the same way as does any metal that needs to be made useful. Stress can increase your ability to endure. However, excessive pressure can break you. God, knowing you intimately, does not allow pressure beyond what you can bear. But your response is critical. As you submit to the hands of the Master Craftsman, God will reproduce the life of Christ in you, creating a tool worthy of His use.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Distress is a word used more than 100 times in the Bible to describe negative stress. It most often pictures the negative result that pressure and pain can have on the heart. The Old Testament Hebrew word tsarah is taken from the root word meaning "tightness." It means distress, anguish or affliction in a spiritual or psychological sense.
Because of the famine in Israel, Joseph's brothers traveled to Egypt in an attempt to buy grain. But as they found themselves in a stressful predicament, they reflected on what they had done to Joseph many years before."We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that's why this distress has come upon us." (Genesis 42:21)
What Are Spiritual Implications of Stress?
Stress is ultimately a spiritual issue that affects your whole life. The pressure is not the perpetrator. Your reaction to pressure is what reveals your understanding of God's ways. You can allow pressure to come between you and the Lord, or you can allow pressure to press you closer to the Lord. Evaluate your mental, emotional and physical response to the pressures that produce stress in your life.
Mental stress is a result of how you think about or interpret events. If you dwell on losing your job, you will feel stress. If you dwell on God's faithfulness to provide, He will replace your stress with His peace.Do you have a positive or negative outlook? If you dwell on negative thoughts, you can turn almost anything, even good circumstances, into stress. This is why God wants you to meditate on what is pure and good.
"If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.... And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9)
Emotional stress is the result of how you process your thoughts. If you think bitter thoughts, you will feel bitter emotions. If you think forgiving thoughts, you will feel forgiveness in your heart.Although feelings need to be recognized and acknowledged, they are basically a product of your thinking, and they can be controlled. Emotional immaturity makes you a prisoner to your feelings and keeps you chained to undue stress.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)
Your physical body automatically responds to external pressure. If you dwell on your difficulties, you can develop fatigue. If you trust God for His timing, He provides you peace.Even medical science has its own special definition of stress, which threads mental and emotional reactions to the central nervous system. As other physiological systems begin to activate in order to meet the external demands in life, if the pressure is not dealt with in a healthy way, you become susceptible to a variety of physical problems. God reveals in Proverbs that by keeping His words in your heart, you can avoid many of the consequences of stress."
Keep them [God's words of wisdom] within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body." (Proverbs 4:21-22)
Jesus lived among the disciples to reveal how life is lived in the strength of an intimate relationship with God. Throughout the most difficult hours of His life, Jesus modeled the perfect response to stress. Now that He lives within you, He wants to be your source of calm in stressful situations.
Crisis of the Cross
"He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.'" (Mark 14:33-34)
"How did Jesus mentally process the situation He was facing?"Although Jesus knew He was about to be arrested and would face death, He acknowledged His Father's sovereignty and put His trust in God's ultimate control over the situation."'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you.'" (Mark 14:36)
"How did Jesus outwardly express His emotions?"Jesus honestly expressed His feelings through prayer. He admitted His great desire to avoid death by asking His Father to remove the cross from His life. Yet, His heart remained submissive to His heavenly Father's will."He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.'" (Luke 22:41-42)
"Did Jesus have a physical reaction to the trauma He experienced?"Suffering physical torment as a result of His agony, Jesus perspired profusely! "Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:44)The choice of Jesus to submit His will to that of His Father brings a significantly deeper meaning to His "Crisis of the Cross." His willingness to die to His own desire reveals the true nature of God's love. Every crisis will carry a challenging choice. You can choose to persevere and be changed (because of love for God and for others), or you can choose to seek a way of escape.
"How can I know what love truly is?""This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)