A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
Are you living under stress? I realize I don’t know what you are going through. And you don’t know what I’m going through, but guess what? I’m not living under stress. Let me tell you why.
I don’t hold that glass of water in my hand beyond my endurance. I’ve learned to put it down on the table before I am exhausted. Here are some ideas for living a stress free life and avoiding burn out.
1. Commit yourself and your day to God. Ask for His help and for His blessing on your day. Throughout the day as you come up against a seeming impossibility, just cry out to Him, “HELP!” He is right there to give you wisdom to solve the problem and His strength to help you carry the load. As I grow older God’s promise in Isaiah 40:28-31 becomes more precious to me. It’s one of my favorite. Read it, meditate on it and rejoice. It is God’s promise to YOU!
2. Stay ahead on your schedule. It has always been my habit to stay ahead on my schedule. I would never make a good boss, because as my wife says, “I want things done yesterday.” I have known of pastors who begin working on their messages for Sunday on Saturday evening- less then fifteen hours before they are to preach. I don’t know how they stand that kind of pressure. Perhaps they have no stress at all, but I doubt that I would want to sit under their ministry.
I am usually working on messages three to five weeks in advance. Thank God for computers. I can work on different messages throughout the week and can store them and go back to them day after day, changing, rearranging, adding and deleting- all without having to rip a sheet of paper out of my typewriter and starting all over again. That’s the way I did it for years. It’s so much simpler today. The files in my computer sure beat the four door file cabinets, filled with manila folders and stacks of material. By Monday morning each week my message for the following Sunday is finished and almost ready to preach. Oh, sometimes during the week I will make a few minor changes. On a few occasions I have totally rearranged a sermon on Saturday evening, but that is rare. The point I make is that I do not allow anything on my schedule to give me stress.
You see, the thing that brings stress is not the assignment or the responsibility, but it is procrastination and putting off doing what needs to be done. It’s having a deadline fast approaching and not being ready for the event. When you start an assignment early, weeks before it is due, there is no stress at all. Students, if your teacher gives you a term paper to write and it is due in one month or at the end of the semester, get started on it immediately and get it out of the way as quickly as possible. That way you avoid the stress of that unfinished assignment hanging over your head. The longer you hold it unfinished, the heavier it gets.
3. Cast your burden on the Lord. Stress is brought on by trying to carry out an assignment or responsibility that is almost more than you can bear. We’re all called upon to bear our own burdens. Galatians 6:5 Often multiple responsibilities coming together only add to the stress. In such times, I simply lean and rest on Jesus. He supports me and infuses me with His strength to meet the responsibilities. Each night as I prepare for bed, I cast my burden on the Lord, close my eyes and go to sleep. Next morning, after a good night’s sleep, I pick up that burden again and do what I can to carry out the responsibility or complete the assignment.
4. Each morning I make a list of things I must do. I check my calendar and list what needs to be done that day. Then I do what needs to be done and as I finish an assignment I take pleasure in checking it off. Each time I make that check mark, I am relieved of some of the weight that would eventually cause stress.
Here are some of the passages of Scripture that I have learned to lean on in times of great pressure. This is just a sampling of God’s promises scattered throughout the Bible. Read them, memorize them and draw on them when you find yourself under pressure. God will strengthen you, encourage you and keep you from burn-out. I am now 76. By His grace and strength, I’m still going strong in my pastorate and am enjoying some of the best years of my life. Will the burdens grow heavier in the years ahead? I expect they will, but He has promised to sustain me and He will sustain you.
RESTING PILLS Here’s a sampling. Take as needed and meditate on them. No chance of overdosing.
II Chronicles 20:15-22,
Read the Psalms daily to keep your heart in tune with God.
Read Proverbs daily to keep from getting into stressful situations with others.
Isaiah 40:28-31, 41:10-20, 42:1-4, 43:1, 44:3 45:2-3, 46:3-4, 53:5-6, 54:1-17, 55:1-13, 58:3-14, 61:1-3,
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 17:5-8, 18:1-4, 33:3
Matthew 6:25-34, 11:28-30
John 14:1-18, 14:27, 15:1-8, 16:24,
Romans 5:1-5, 6:14, 8:22-39,
I Corinthians 15:50-58,
II Corinthians 1:3-4, 2:14, 12:9
Philippians 4:6-7, 4:19
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Hebrews 4:14-16 James 1:2-12, 5:13-16
I Peter 1:3-8 II Peter 1:2-11 3:8-15
I John 3:1-3 5:11-13
Revelation 21:1-4, 22:17