by Tracie Miles via Proverbs 31 Ministries
By the time I returned home from traveling on business, I could feel the weight of stress and anxiety gripping my heart.
During my six-hour road trip, I had made the mistake of tuning in to radio news channels rather than music to keep me occupied and awake. Countless news stories, one after the other, each personified the brokenness of our world. Stories of abuse, mass shootings, disaster, political corruption, pandemics, business closings, people hurting, and more fell upon my heart and mind like an avalanche of heavy rocks.
This overdose of negative news, on top of the already stressful situations I was dealing with in my own life, left my head spinning with anxiety-filled thoughts and emotions. I wasn’t surprised when I felt a tightness forming in my chest and an ache in my stomach — a sure sign the toxicity of stress was threatening to squirm its way into my spirit. Yet again.
A few years earlier, I had experienced the dangerous toll that a stressed-out, anxiety-riddled lifestyle takes on our minds and bodies. Therefore, I knew I needed to grab the reins of my thoughts and emotions and steer them in a different direction to intentionally focus on the peace available through Jesus instead.
This gift of peace, which is our only rescue from toxic stress, can be summed up in one verse, John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
In John 16, Jesus is warning His disciples that life is about to get stressful. He encourages them not to abandon their faith and to remember He will always be with them. Jesus was trying to explain His upcoming crucifixion and assure them that, although He would be leaving them, He would also be returning. But the disciples were confused and concerned.
So, in verse 33, He reassures them that, no matter what happens in their earthly life, they can always remain peaceful in Him.
Just like the disciples, we, too, can quickly allow the uncertainties and troubles of life to steal God’s peace from our hearts, setting ourselves on a path to chronic stress and anxiety, which is unhealthy for us mentally, emotionally and even physically. Despite the fact that the word “stress” is not mentioned in the Bible, Jesus addressed it nonetheless.
He referred to this disease of stress consistently through synonyms such as anxiety, worry, troubles, fears, burdens, anguish, dismay, strain, trials, tribulations and adversity, just to name a few. Jesus spoke of heartache, fears, frustrations and betrayal — the sadness of deceit, the pull of temptation, and the devastation of sin. He tells of difficult circumstances taking place in governments, churches, relationships, marriages, families, communities and the world as a whole. But Jesus also voices encouragement for dealing with the stressors of life.
Despite the differences between biblical times and the 21st century, the presence of stress and our need for Jesus is the same. Jesus understood life would always be stressful, and His promise of peace is applicable no matter what century we live in. His Word is our only source of true, lasting peace and relief when we feel stressed out, depleted and stretched too thin.
Maybe you have tried every stress relief tactic known to humankind, to no avail. That’s because none of the stress management options of our world can hold a candle to the real and permanent stress relief found only in Jesus.
If you have been searching for a peace and serenity that seems completely out of reach, maybe you have simply been searching in all the wrong places. Stress is an outward indication of an inner situation — a situation of a heart that needs the peace of Jesus.