One word which can easily be associated with the modern age is stress. If you go back to pre-industrial times, it was not a term in use. It was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as ‘the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change’. Today, it refers to ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’. It is also used by engineers to refer to ‘pressure or tension exerted on a material object’ and is useful to work out breaking points such as those used in construction. London’s Tower Bridge opened in 1894 and is a complex feat of engineering, allowing for stresses that constantly change, responding to different loads and weather patterns. It works as a combined drawbridge (bascule) and suspension bridge relying on ingenious hydraulics to lift each side weighing over 1000 tons in five minutes. Ten workmen died during its construction. Many people die today through health problems associated with stress.
One report indicates stress to be a serious worldwide problem with these broad statistics ( https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/stress-statistics/) :
- 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress
- 77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health
- 48 percent of people have trouble sleeping because of stress
- 73 percent of people have stress that impacts their mental health
The likelihood is that you may have suffered stress of some kind and will in the future. Whilst stress has many causes such as work, finance, health and responsibilities, it appears to manifest when there is some kind of overload. In the same way as increased tension on an already strained steel cable leads to fracture, an overloaded human will also reach breaking point. When a person’s limited time, physical strength or inner resources are overstretched, breakdown is inevitable. Tell-tale symptoms can be irritability, fatigue, low moods, worry and headaches. If not dealt with, these can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety and even suicide. Pills may help but the real cure is to reduce or eliminate the source of stress.
- ‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another’ – William James
- ‘I do enjoy exercise, not because I am an exercise junkie but because it's terrific stress release’ – Tony Abbott
- ‘The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence’ – Norman Vincent Peale
- ‘Getting stress out of your life takes more than prayer alone. You must take action to make changes and stop doing whatever is causing the stress. You can learn to calm down in the way you handle things – Joyce Meyer
As you consider your life, do you recognise the things that give you stress? How are you coping? In your ‘stress-assessment’, are there things that you need to do to reduce or eliminate the causes? Not only will stress affect your own sense of wellbeing but it has potential to damage or destroy your relationships and normal functioning. Even Christians suffer stress as they tend to be diligent, committed, seeking to live up to the expectations of others and have high self-expectations. Take a deep breath and make some adjustments.
- ‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well’ – Psalm 139:14
- ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands for ever’ – Isaiah 40:6-8
- ‘Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken’ – Psalm 62:5-6
- ‘This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls”’ – Jeremiah 6:16
- ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ – Matthew 11:28-29
The Lord himself knows our weakness and gives us grace to strengthen us. Although ‘stress’ is not a word you will find in the bible, you can see God’s loving care for biblical characters under stress. Some examples include Elijah feeling all alone, Job in his mourning, David in the betrayal of his son, Jonathan with his volatile father, overworked Moses and outnumbered Gideon. Consider the Lord Jesus our Saviour in Gethsemane. Such was his anguish as he asked his Father to ‘take the cup’ from him that his sweat was ‘like drops of blood’. An angel was sent to minister to him as he knelt in prayer. Receiving strength, he was able to continue.
When ships need to pass under Tower Bridge, with all the due stresses taken into account, the bascule design enables both sides to lift up through the extra strength of hydraulics. As you take time to consider the stresses in your life, maybe it is time to recalibrate, receive extra strength and get some of your heavy loads lifted. Life is not meant to be a burden but for us to life it to the full and to the glory of God.
TAGS – heavy, overwhelmed, sinking, failure, loss, grief, continue