College students are probably the most stressed out people in the universe, but I don’t have to tell you all that. Everyone knows someone who is so high strung and stressed out that they always seem to be on the verge of a mental breakdown. And if you don’t know someone like that, then you’re the someone like that. With stress proving to be such a serious problem for our age group, we should try to understand a biblical perspective on it
First, let’s clarify what stress is. Stress is not the same as being busy. Some of the most calm and content people have been the busiest. Busy-ness does not always equal stress. Stress is a prolonged feeling of anxiety or panic caused by a workload that we perceive as insurmountable. We use language like “this week is hell” and “I’m drowning in work.” We use language of suffering and torment to describe our workload, which makes no sense because we are created as image bearers of God to find joy in our work. Ecclesiastes 2:24 says that “a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This, I see, is from the hand of God.”
We are created to find joy in our work, and our work has been given to us “from the hand of God,” and God is the author of life, so why would he give us something that is “hell” and “drowning?”
Stress is a destructive perspective on the work we’ve been given.
In preparing this post, I couldn’t think of a more grounding text in the bible to answer this question than in Exodus 20, the ten commandments. One of the commandments is that we are supposed to sabbath, or rest, from our work. Most of us never take a day off, and the stress keeps piling up. The reason we never rest is because we think that if we stop, our lives will crumble. By resting, we are admitting that we aren’t in control and no matter how hard we work, we can do nothing without Christ.
There’s a girl in one of my classes who told me today that she’s had three hours of sleep per night for the last five nights. Thinking about that a bit more, I realized that an amount of stress that severe is really just rebellion against God. God created us to be weak creatures who need sleep. By refusing his design and deciding that we have too much work to do, we are waging war against God’s desire for us to find our strength in Him.
In Ecclesiastes 12:13, Solomon writer that the whole duty of man is to fear God and obey his commandments. Stress is counterproductive to this. If our only purpose is to fear God and obey his commands, then stress is unhelpful. This is hysterically ironic. We stress out because we have a bunch of work to do, and stressing out is against God’s commandments, and the only work we actually have to do is to obey His commandments.
So what’s the answer to stress? I mean, no one chooses stress so even if we realize it’s wrong and unhelpful, what do we do about it? I think a great place to start is reminding yourself of John 15:5 where Jesus says “apart from me you can do nothing.” If we keep that in mind in the midst of our work, the world won’t feel like it crumbles if we fail, because Jesus holds all things together, not us.