Today we conclude our 4-part series by Russell Semon with what may be the most important question:
Part 1: What is Stress?
Part 2: How does your body respond to Stress? (Physiology)
Part 3: What role does your mind play in responding to Stress? (Belief / Perception)
Part 4: Is it possible to live a Stress-Free life?
As we’ve done throughout the series, you can win a free Cerny Smith (stress) Assessment worth $200 by leaving a comment on this post. If you’ve never heard about the CSA, learn more here. On to today’s article!
Is that really your goal? You see, identifying the correct goal is important in counseling, it’s important in life. If you removed all stress from your life, have you thought about how you’d grow or mature beyond where you are right now? Have you ever grown without being challenged to try something new or unfamiliar? If you actually found yourself in a life-threatening situation, wouldn’t it be to your advantage to have a physiological response that increased your awareness and performance?
There are benefits to manageable levels of stress.
So, maybe the question, the goal, isn’t how to live a stress-free life (which is good, because stress is inevitable), but maybe the goal is to develop your resilience, sufficient to meet the challenges of each day. Resilience is our ability to bend but not break, bounce back, and even grow in response to life challenges, aka stressors. Our bodies are designed to respond to stress physiologically. When the weight or burdens we face exceed our capacity to hold or endure them we have choices. When the temperature around us increases, we don’t have to wait until we reach our boiling point. Our perspective can impact our physiological responses and the choices we make.
Paul faced stress in his life, and he made choices. His perspective and his beliefs strengthened him in his response. When Paul addressed the Philippians (4:13), he told them that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. In context, Paul had been telling the Philippians that he had been hungry and well-fed, he had known what it was like to not have his needs met and to have an abundance. He learned that whatever his circumstances, he could be content. Paul would likely have scored high on a stress inventory, but he also would have scored high on a resiliency scale. In his address to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:8,9), Paul provides a great example of his resilience when he said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Do you hear bend but not break, bounce back, and even grow, in his message? I do.
So, you may be thinking, Paul sets a really high bar for a lot of us. But the point is that how he lived, how he faced the challenges in life, wasn’t in his own strength. In fact, he told the Philippians (2:13-15), “…it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Paul wasn’t living a life that isn’t available to us, he was a living example of how we can live lives of fulfillment, when we follow Christ. I think Psalms 23 offers one of the best visual images of the life available to us as we follow, “The Lord who is my Shepherd.”
With the Lord as my shepherd,
- He provides all I need,
- He makes me rest and gives me peace,
- He restores my soul,
- He guides me along the right path even in my most challenging times,
- He calms my fears,
- He comforts me,
- He protects me,
- He fills my cup to running over,
- Goodness and Mercy follow me all my days,
- I have hope in eternity!
When my needs are met, when I’m rested and my soul is restored, when I am not fearful, even in the face of the most challenging time in my life, with the Lord as my shepherd, I may bend, but I won’t break. It will be easier to bounce back and even grow in response to life challenges that show up as stress. You may not be able to live a stress-free life, but as you live following the Lord as your shepherd, the words of the psalm can become a picture of your life.
My prayer for you is that as you follow the Lord, you will experience,
—His Grace as sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9),
—His Mercies as new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24), and
—That the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds (Phil 4:7).
Thank you so much for your time and attention, I pray that you found the information in this series to be helpful, and that you were encouraged as you seek to live and minister as God has called you. If you’re curious how the stress you’re facing compares with your resiliency, as we have done on the other four posts in this series, leave a comment and five of you will be drawn to win a Cerny Smith Assessment and a follow-up video call with me. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world!