Stress, as experienced by most women in America, is a recipe for disaster. But what are you supposed to do when the stress in your life can’t be removed? Is there any hope of living life stress and anxiety free or at least a way to deal with it?
The answer is yes!
Currently, mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is the solution of choice for dealing with and avoiding the damages of chronic stress.
Today we’ll compare the mindfulness approach to stress reduction with what God’s Word says about stress.
Before reading, spend time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern how God wants you to handle the chronic stress in your life.
Here’s a PDF with the scriptures and questions from today’s post. How to Mindfully Reduce Stress with God’s Word
To learn more about mindfulness in comparison to God’s Word go back and read our first mindfulness post – Mindfulness & Christianity ~ Do they mix?
What is Stress?
One of Webster’s definitions for stress is “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation”.
It allows us to respond to any and everything life throws our way.
The catch is…everyone responds to life’s curveballs differently.
Approximately 70% of Americans now report being under chronic stress and most are struggling to successfully mitigate the stress they’re under.
If you’re like most Americans then your body, the Holy Spirit’s dwelling place, is likely experiencing physical and mental tension – maybe even disease – due to chronic stress.
Stress & Your Body
Short-term stress is a good thing that allows your body to respond to an immediate and urgent need.
Your heart begins to race, your breath quickens and your muscles tense, ready for action.
God designed this to happen so you could run for your life or save another life.
When stress becomes chronic your body, God’s temple, is under attack.
Your GI tract slows down, stomach acid begins to bubble up, and digesting food becomes more difficult.
Your immune system weakens and, unable to fend off bacteria, viruses, and mutant cells, sickness and disease become commonplace.
As stress persists your liver produces excess glucose (to provide fuel for the attack you’re under), blood sugar begins to rise and soon diabetes is added to the list of stressors.
This list goes on and on …
- altered hormones,
- decreased libido,
- persistent headaches,
- fertility problems,
- high blood pressure,
- heart disease…
You get the picture.
Women of God, God’s beautiful and perfectly created dwelling places, shouldn’t be suffering the effects of chronic stress but…what are we to do?
Let’s take a look at modern mindfulness and the Word of God to answer that question.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
MBSRs approach to handling chronic stress and anxiety is usually done in a group format and involves
- mindful meditation,
- mindful yoga, and
- body scanning.
Body scanning is a guided meditation, used to relieve tension, that focuses on different parts of your body and how they feel at that moment.
Things could be okay but remember, modern mindfulness practices are rooted in Buddhism. The meditation and mindfulness is all focused on “observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad”. Zen Buddhism believes that all humans are “Buddhas” and the focus of a person’s mindfulness is to “discover that truth for themselves”.
Done to determine what God’s truth is and to align our thoughts with His.
Jesus, in John 14:6 says
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
and in John 8:31b-32 Jesus tells us
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- Do you believe you can find all answers and truth in God’s Word?
- Why or why not?
- If Jesus is truth and abiding in Him allows us to “know the truth” could a mindful approach that teaches us that “we’re the source of all truth” be right?
- Why or why not?
The Effects of Mindfulness
MBSRs effects on stress and anxiety are convincing. Science has shown that mindful approaches to lowering and resolving chronic stress work.
Spending 8+ weeks doing mindfulness meditation, yoga and body scanning
- lowers cortisol levels and blood pressure,
- improves immune markers, and
- lowers inflammation.
In addition to these objective biomarkers people report subjective improvements such as “a richer more vital sense of life because active mindfulness replaces unconscious reactiveness” and the ability to take “effective actions in the world” and a “greater sense of control”.
That’s pretty convincing.
In the world of scientific validity and proof, MBSR ticks all the “it works” boxes.
I firmly believe the answer is YES!
So, let’s explore what God says we’re to do about stress and anxiety and how we’re to handle it. Ready?
Handling Stress God's Way
Before we begin I want to clarify something. Handling stress God’s way hasn’t been scientifically studied.
Research scientists need money to study things and so most research is only done on things that are able to produce a profit.
The only one who profits when you handle stress God’s way are you and the people around you.
Just because there’s no science doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
As Christians we’re told to trust and have faith. If God put it in His Word we can know that we know that we know that it’s true.
Our God is a God who keeps His promises and loves His children oh so very well.
Put these next four steps into practice over the coming weeks and know that God will show Himself strong on your behalf.
Hand it All Over
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
The first part of handling stress God’s way involves giving it to Him. This is difficult though.
Human tendency is to go to God in prayer, tell Him our struggles, ask Him for help, say amen and then immediately pick the struggles back up again.
Casting means to “throw away or get rid of”.
When God says to cast “all your anxieties on Him” you need to envision taking everything that’s causing you stress, anxiety, and worry and forcefully throwing it away from you and onto God.
Imagine taking all your stressors, loading them into the barrel of a gun, aiming the gun at God, and firing that stress bullet at God’s heart.
Don’t worry – He can take it. He actually wants you to fire that bullet.
Psalm 55:22 also says to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
- What stress, anxiety, and worries do you need to cast on the Lord?
Take a minute and write them all down and then humbly go to the Lord in prayer and fire that bullet.
In order to leave those stressors with the Lord you’ll also need to pray without ceasing.
Prayerfully Pursue God's Truth
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
The instructions in this scripture are very similar to the one above but it goes a step further by telling us how we’re to go about living anxiety free.
Prayer is your way of talking with God and supplication involves humbly and zealously asking Him to do something.
So cast your bullet full of stressors onto the Lord, zealously and humbly beg Him to handle them, and then thank Him for what you haven’t seen but know He’ll do.
God’s Word says that when you do this the “peace of God”, a peace that makes no sense at all, will “guard your heart and mind”.
- Would you take a moment and do as Philippians 4 instructs and could you make this a part of every day?
If so, write when you’ll do it and then make a note of how your heart and mind feels after you’ve finished praying.
In the coming weeks we’ll explore “praying without ceasing”.
The next step in living free from chronic stress involves time in God’s Word.
Meditate on God's Word
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
This passage provides a ton of direction when thinking about how to deal with stress. Here blessed means “all that is supposed to constitute real happiness”.
Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as “prosperity, good fortune, or a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
This passage tells us that happiness is found when we:
- “Walk not in the counsel of the wicked” – This means we’re not getting our instructions on how to live from anything but “the law of the Lord”. Modern mindfulness practices say we ascertain truth from self. I’d challenge you, as a woman of God, to question whether or not following a self-help tool grounded in Buddhism wouldn’t be “walking in the counsel of the wicked”.
- “Nor stands in the way of sinners” – This word picture indicates standing in the middle of a pathway walked by those who don’t follow Christ. It describes a man or woman purposely waiting for sinners because they’re desiring to partake in their lifestyle. This isn’t saying we can’t associate with sinners – that’s unavoidable. It’s saying we shouldn’t desire to be part of all they’re saying and doing.
Instead of walking with the wicked or standing in their path, we’re to spend our time meditating on the “law of the Lord“.
When we fill our hearts and minds with God’s Word we will know the truth, the truth will set us free, and we’ll find true happiness.
Happiness that’s both meaningful and purposeful.
- How might meditating on God’s Word help free you from anything that causes you stress, anxiety, or worry?
Worship the One Who Holds You
Worshiping the Lord involves singing, sharing testimonies of God’s goodness with others, and choosing to live our lives sacrificially.
This last means of worship is what’s described in Romans 12:1-2. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
God wants us to worship Him by
- laying aside our own desires,
- putting our energy and resources at His disposal, and
- trusting Him to guide us through every step of our lives.
You and I can trust that God wants what’s best for us.
Worship that will result in a renewed mind and the ability to recognize God’s will.
- Would you lay aside your fears and begin worshiping the Lord?
- Would you thank Him for all He’s led you through up until this point and all He’ll continue to do?
Now that you’ve handed your stress, anxiety, and worry over to the Lord, spent time pursuing Him in prayer, meditated on His Word, and worshiping Him, isn’t it remarkable how much better you feel?
If stress is something you’ve struggled with for some time, make these four steps a part of each day. They don’t all have to be done at once, just do them.
You could start your day by meditating on God’s Word and then worship Him while making your way to work.
Handing stress, anxiety, and worry over to the Lord should be something you do as soon as it starts to show it’s ugly little head.
Pursuing God in prayer could be part of handing stress over, worshiping the Lord, or meditating on His Word. After all, the Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (more on that in the coming weeks).
If you’d like more Bible verses on each of the topics we discussed today, click on the links below.
If you have any questions about what you read today or feel you may be struggling with anxiety or depression that you can’t tackle, please reach out to your pastor. They should be able to assist or point you to a trusted Christian counselor.
If you don’t have a pastor Sarah and I are always willing to help. You can reach us here.
Know that we pray for you each and every day and are believing God will set you free from the pain of stress, anxiety, and worry.
Until next time…
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10