Managing stress is a popular goal nowadays. Classes teaching how to cope with today's busy lifestyles are numerous, geared to helping people relieve tension, improve productivity, and smooth over life's rough spots.
How can we deal with stress? The ability to anticipate troubling situations and defuse them might be one way. Maybe another would be to pull yourself out of a hole you've dug for yourself because of a quick temper, an error in judgment, or a mighty big blooper. But I would say the best means of handling stress is one many people don't think of. And that's to pray for a life of balance. This is communing with God, to whom we can turn for answers to every problem we face.
Prayer is a help in both good times and bad times. It promises to do everything any stress management technique can do - and much more.
I doubt that anyone ever dealt more effectively with stress than Jesus Christ did. He obviously knew, deep down, that God gives everyone superiority over stressful situations. He proved that God doesn't make frightening situations for His sons and daughters. He showed that the one creator is only good, creating only good. Even though stress and anxiety are sometimes thought useful in motivating us and bringing out potential, they are not good or necessary, because they are not of God.
Think of the stress Jesus could have felt when people looked to him for healing. Once he encountered a leper who pleaded for healing of his dread disease (see Mark 1:40-42). "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean," he said. What did Jesus do? "Moved with compassion," according to the Bible, he "put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean." The account continues, "And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed." There's no record that Jesus was distraught by the prospect of touching the leper or doubtful that he could heal him. Through God, Jesus was free and made others free.
When you or I pray as Jesus taught, we are acknowledging that God created us spiritually rather than materially. This is an important point in achieving control over our lives. We each possess spiritually the perfection that Jesus exemplified; the dominion over every trouble that tries to throw us for a loop. Experiencing discord always involves believing incorrectly that God is not omnipotent - and therefore that harmony is illusory and impermanent.
The woman who discovered Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote about this in "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures": "... let us remember that harmonious and immortal man has existed forever, and is always beyond and above the mortal illusion of any life, substance, and intelligence as existent in matter" (Pg. 302). Jesus healed through this realization.
One night I was driving to a meeting I was in charge of. I'd allowed myself extra driving time because the roads were carrying a lot of holiday traffic. Nevertheless, I soon realized I hadn't allowed enough extra time. As my car crawled down the freeway, I began feeling stressful and anxious. All sorts of "what if" questions distracted me, alternating with thoughts of self-condemnation about my lack of foresight.
Then I turned to prayer, attempting to understand that God had a plan for me, and that it didn't include being anxious about any situation. Finally the traffic thinned out. But then I drove into a pea-soup fog! Nevertheless, I grew calmer by remembering that God was guiding me; He loved me. The stress I was feeling began to melt when the fact hit home that the good power of God was present in this situation. I arrived in time for the meeting - and in a good frame of mind. I feel that my trust in God's control over me is what pulled that one off.
No situation can cause us to feel stressed, when we really understand that God is all-powerful and that we are never separate from His influence.
The work of righteousness
shall be peace; and the effect
of righteousness quietness
and assurance for ever.