The Key to Remaining at Peace & Overcoming Stress in Your Life
It is a common belief that we need to reduce stress in our lives in order to have a healthy, peaceful life. And yet at the same time, we are filled with admiration and awe as we view movies or read books recounting the exhilarating tales of heroes who overcame insurmountable obstacles in extremely stressful circumstances. It is wise to avoid unnecessary pressures, but identifying pressure as the reason that we cannot have peace or health directly contradicts what Jesus says about stress in our lives.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” The Greek word translated as tribulation means pressure. Jesus is saying that this world will bring us pressure. He doesn’t suggest that we avoid the pressures of life; rather He says that “in Him” we can remain in peace and we can find the courage to overcome the pressures that this world brings.
In our ministry to people through Love After Marriage (LAM) and Single Life Workshops (SLW), we are learning more and more to direct people to ask the Holy Spirit to give them answers to their struggles. During our LAM workshops, we have couples ask the Holy Spirit what He wants for them in their sexual relationship. We typically find this to be one of the most stressful exercises for many couples. Recently a couple came to me in a panic at this point in the workshop saying, “We can’t do this!” I asked, “Have you prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to speak to you?” They persisted, “We can’t do this! We don’t even know if we have ever had normal sex! Neither of us even wants to have sex!” So I persisted, “Have you given the Lord a chance to speak to you? I want you to give Him the first opportunity to speak. You will be so much better off if you can work out your marriage with Him instead of me.” They agreed to go together and pray and wait on the Lord. After 15-20 minutes, I went to them to see if they had heard anything from the Lord. They had heard and agreed to do what the Lord spoke to them. I then prayed for the couple that God would work through their willingness to obey, that He would heal their sexual relationship, and bless their marriage. The next day they told me that they had made a connection emotionally and physically like they had never experienced before in their marriage. They learned a very important lesson. They could receive help directly from the Holy Spirit and look to Him for answers.
Many people wonder why their friendships go very well, but they have constant struggles in their marriage. There is a reason for this. The stresses and pressures that come from a vow to live in a committed, lifelong relationship are much greater than the pressures from a friendship where the investment into the relationship is much lower. I am not suggesting that it is better for a couple to live together without making a marriage vow. That is the kind of conclusion we come to when we buy into the deception that avoiding stress and pressure is the key to a happy life. Being faithful to trust the Lord through the stresses and pressures of life is one of the main ways that we develop strength to successfully and peacefully handle more challenges.
Lori and I were married before we had our first “fight.” It was also the first time that my deep feelings of affection, tenderness and love towards her seemed to vanish. This scared me and left me wondering if the feelings would ever come back. The feelings did come back fully as we worked through our argument and reconciled. Having been married for 36 years, if something comes between Lori and me now that make me feel emotionally separated, I have confidence that it will be a temporary condition until we are able to work through our conflict and then come back together. Often our connection is even stronger after working out our problems and gaining understanding of each other. I could not have this confidence without our history of resolving conflicts.
How well will we be prepared for the pressures and stresses of life if we simply try to avoid stress? How well will we be prepared for the demands of relationship and ultimately, marriage and family, if we treat all stress as bad and we make it our goal to avoid as much stress as possible? Where will we acquire the mental and emotional strength to face danger, fear and difficulty if we do all we can to circumvent these life experiences? Jesus offered us the wonderful privilege of being in Him as the key to remaining at peace and overcoming the stress and evil that comes to us through our life experiences. He actually wants to be a source of strength to us right in the middle of the hardest times in our lives. Will you let Him add His strength to yours to teach you to overcome as He did?
by Barry Byrne