Stress is ultimately a spiritual issue that affects your whole life. 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. Ask yourself whether 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 therefore 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).
Physical stress causes your body to automatically respond 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).
[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]