Signposts Regarding Stress

Road signs give you notice of impending change or danger. Do you get anxious when you have to stop for others? Do you resent having to yield the right-of-way? Do you get impatient when road repairs make you change your speed or detour from the familiar? God’s warning signs often relay the same messages as those obstacles you encounter on the highways. What may seem an unpleasant hindrance to your movement through life may be God’s notice that you are going dangerously fast or that you are driving down the wrong road.


1. Slow down and make the necessary changes for good physical health.

  • Do I eat a balanced and healthy diet?
  • Do I exercise at least three times a week?
  • Do I take at least one day of rest each week?
  • Do I get adequate restful sleep most nights?

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2).

2. Slow down and evaluate your priorities.

  • Make a list of everything you do.
  • Consider other priorities that should be on the list.
  • Number in order of importance.
  • Choose your commitments carefully.
  • Eliminate unnecessary stressful obligations.
  • Don’t accept impossible deadlines.
  • Don’t give in to the pressure of urgency.
  • Tackle only one problem at a time.

“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).

3. Slow down and nourish your spiritual life.

  • Remind yourself daily to, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
  • Open lines of honest communication with God about your concerns, needs and fears.
    Set aside time daily for personal prayer and Scripture meditation.
  • Memorize Scripture that builds assurance of God’s love (Jeremiah 31:3; Psalm 36:7; John 14:21; Romans 8:39).

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)


1. Stop and look at the real reason you are experiencing stress.

  • Do I try to meet my own needs instead of waiting on the Lord?
  • Do I think God cannot get along without me?
  • Do I seek self-worth through proving my adequacy and effectiveness?
  • Am I Spirit-led or people-pressured?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

2. Stop, confess and turn away from any known sin in your life.

  • Do I manipulate or control others?
  • Do I feel envious or jealous of others?
  • Do I express my feelings inappropriately?
  • Do I overreact to criticism?
  • Do I have impure motives?

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).


1. Yield to God’s sovereign control over your circumstances.

  • What is God doing in my circumstances?
  • In what way does God want me to change?
  • How does God want me to respond?
  • Do I have impure motives?

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1).

2. Yield to God your rights and expectations.

  • I yield my right to control my circumstances.
  • I yield my right to be accepted by others.
  • I yield my right to be successful.
  • I yield my right to be heard and understood.
  • I yield my right to be right.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

RESUME SPEED: Resume speed, living in the presence of God.

Dear Lord,

  • I choose to let Christ live His life through me.
  • I choose to live in the present, not worrying about tomorrow.
  • I will refocus my thoughts away from my pressures to Your purposes for allowing this pressure.
  • I choose to have a thankful heart regardless of the pressure I feel.
  • I will call on You, Lord, for wisdom and peace.
  • I will commit to talking less and listening more.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD” (Psalm 89:15).

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1).

[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]

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The Causes of Stress

When there is a problem, looking under the hood of your car isn’t enough. You need to inspect the parts that have received excessive wear and tear. Are you worn and torn by stress? Have you analyzed your own condition? By taking a closer look at Paul’s many experiences, you can check out what circumstances are most likely to cause stress. If the pressures in your life are not being used to press you closer to the Lord, you may be on the way to a blowout!

“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.” (2 Corinthians 11:22–31)

CONFLICT: Paul was met with extreme opposition from others. 2 Corinthians 11:23–24

  • Opposing values of family and friends
  • Unresolved anger in relationships
  • Unrealistic expectations of another person
  • Lack of open communication in relationships

CRISIS: Paul was shipwrecked and often in extreme danger. 2 Corinthians 11:25–26

  • Death of a friend or family member
  • Separation or divorce
  • Severe illness or handicaps
  • Unexpected trauma of any kind

CHANGE: Paul was constantly on the move, often going without sleep. 2 Corinthians 11:26–27

  • Change of environment
  • Change in financial state
  • Change in employment
  • Change in sleeping and health habits

CONDEMNATION: Paul was rejected and betrayed by the Gentiles and by his own people. 2 Corinthians 11:26

  • Rejection by significant people in your life
  • Lack of support from your coworkers
  • Unfaithfulness of a friend
  • False accusations about your character

CONCERNS: Paul carried the daily pressure of concern for the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28

  • Concern for loved ones
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Fear of failure
  • Perfectionism and excessive concern with detail

COMPETITION: Paul chose to boast only in his weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 11:30

  • Base your acceptance on who you are in Christ.
  • See your weaknesses as God’s opportunities.
  • Give up the need to be in control.
  • Rejoice in the success of others.

CONSCIENCE: Paul was secure in his integrity before the Lord. 2 Corinthians 11:31

  • Put God first in all your activities.
  • Allow God to meet your needs.
  • Respond to the needs of others.
  • Repent of sin in your life.

Paul was able to have peace in the midst of terrible stress and suffering, so we must look to see if there is a root cause of our stress.

What do you need to know and believe that will enable you to have success over stress?

  • WRONG BELIEF: “My life is out of control. I feel helpless to cope with all this stress in my life.”
  • RIGHT BELIEF: God has allowed this stress in my life to bless my life and reveal my weaknesses. I am grateful for the pressures that have pressed me closer to Him and caused me to allow Christ to be my strength. “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]

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Four Stages of Stress

It might be helpful to look at the four stages of stress:

Stage 1 – NO LIGHT

  1. Insufficient Stress.
  2. No motivation to move responsibly.
  3. When there is insufficient stress to move responsibly, you will find that the person:
    1. avoids responsibility
    2. has poor relationships
    3. is not productive
    4. has no energy
    5. experiences depression
    6. has no purpose
    7. lacks perspective on life


  1. Positive Stress.
  2. Motivation to move responsibly.
  3. When there is positive stress, you will see that the person:
    1. faces responsibility
    2. has responsible relationships
    3. is productive
    4. is energetic
    5. is enthusiastic
    6. has fulfillment of purpose
    7. has a positive perspective


  1. Negative Stress.
  2. Motivational warning signs to slow down movement.
  3. The warning signs of stress are like the amber lights on a traffic signal: They caution you to be on the alert, to slow down and to be prepared for upcoming change. The physical warning signs of stress can be:
    1. tension headaches
    2. muscle aches
    3. heavy sighing
    4. high blood pressure
    5. ulcers
    6. hyper-alertness
    7. loss of sleep/excessive sleep
    8. lack of concentration
    9. indecisiveness
    10. irritability

Stage 4 – RED LIGHT

  1. Burnout.
  2. Movement is stopped and repair is necessary.
  3. Burnout is certainly not God’s will for us. It may actually mean that we have not processed the stresses of life in a godly way. Instead of living at Stage 2, we become:
    1. overwhelmed by responsibility
    2. withdrawn from relationships
    3. minimally productive
    4. depressed (lack of enthusiasm)
    5. purposeless
    6. without perspective
    7. easily fatigued
    8. lacking the ability to concentrate
    9. indecisive
    10. irritable

If your car begins to clunk and smoke pours from the hood, you would search for the nearest station and a competent mechanic. The first phrase you hear is, “Let’s take a look under the hood.” Unfortunately, many of us may be more concerned about the distressing condition of our car than the condition of our physical bodies. Are you sensitive to the warnings of your emotional engine? Your physical symptoms could register that you’re on the brink of burnout. “A man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones” (Job 33:19).

Checklist for Burnout:

  • I have difficulty relaxing.
  • I have lower back pain.
  • I feel tired and lifeless most of the time.
  • I have frequent severe headaches.
  • I get indigestion often.
  • I often have diarrhea or constipation.
  • I could be getting an ulcer.
  • I have trouble sleeping at night.
  • I grind my teeth at night.
  • I am susceptible to every cold and virus.
  • I have allergies or asthma.
  • I eat and snack excessively.
  • I have lost a lot of weight.
  • I often have cold hands and sweating palms.
  • I have shortness of breath.
  • I have a rapid pulse.
  • I generally feel nervous and unsettled.

No one will experience all these symptoms, but if you checked four or more, you may need to evaluate how you are responding to the pressures in your life. Are you releasing your heavy load to the Lord and allowing His peace to permeate your heart? “A heart at peace gives life to the body” (Proverbs 14:30).

[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]

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Spiritual Implications of Stress

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]

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Scripture to Deal with Stress

People react to pressure much the same way as does any metal that needs to be made useful. Stress can increase your ability to endure, but excessive pressure can break you. Your response to stress is critical. As you submit to God, he will reproduce the life of Christ in you, creating a person who is useful to his kingdom.

Here are some encouraging words from the Bible: “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” which means distress, anguish or affliction in a spiritual or psychological sense.

Due to a famine in Israel, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt in an attempt to buy grain, but as they found themselves in a stressful situation, 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).

[June Hunt, Hope for the Heart, 2008]

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