Lessen Your Stressin’
Tonight I want to talk to you about how to lesson your stressin’. I want to begin with a story that illustrates in a humorous way the painful reality of stress.
Chirpie the parakeet never saw it coming.
One second he was peacefully perched in his cage, whistling a song, the next second he was sucked in, washed up and blown over. His problem began when his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum. She stuck the nozzle in to suck up the seeds and feathers at the bottom of the cage when the nearby telephone rang. Instinctively, she turned to pick it up. She had barely said hello when, swoosh, Chirpie got sucked in. She gasped, let the phone drop, and switched off the vacuum cleaner. She frantically unzipped the bag and found Chirpie, alive but stunned, covered with heavy gray dust. She grabbed him and rushed to the bathtub, turned on the faucet full blast, and held Chirpie under a torrent of ice-cold water, power washing him clean. Then it dawned on her that Chirpie was soaking wet and shivering. So she did what any compassionate pet owner would do - she grabbed up the hair dryer and blasted him with hot air. Did Chirpie survive? Yes, but he doesn’t sing much anymore. He just sits there and stares a lot. It’s easy to see why. Sucked in, washed up and blown over! It’s enough to steal the song from the strongest of hearts.
Have you ever felt like Chirpie? One minute you’re whistling a tune, minding your own business, and the next the world seems to go crazy, and the stress steals away your song. Stress can do that to you. It can blindside you all of a sudden, or it can build and build until it erupts into rage, or freezes into depression.
There are probably many ways you can deal with stress, but I have discovered one of the best ways to lessen my stressin’ is to turn my attention from myself and my problems and refocus my attention on God. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I turn to God through prayer and His Word. One passage I come back to over and over in stressful times is Psalm 46:1. I think of this verse as kind of prescription for stress. I invite you to look with me at this prescription so maybe it can help you as it has helped me.
These words help me lessen my stressin’ by reminding me first of all
I. GOD IS MY SECURITY. “God is our refuge.”
Ron Hutchcraft writes: There are few words that strike more fear into hearts in Middle America than the word tornado. [One reason] was proven when deadly tornadoes tore through Oklahoma in 1999.
After hearing one of those tornado warnings…in Oklahoma, a mother and her daughter went into a room in their house for safety. It's called a safe room or a strong room, and it's built with concrete reinforced with metal.
[When]the tornado hit that house there was virtually nothing left -- except for one room. The safe room. When it was all clear, the mother and daughter walked out unscathed where virtually everything else had been blown away.
That safe room is a good example of what the word refuge means in this verse. God is our refuge = God is our safe haven, our protection, our shelter from danger. This is surely a precious promise that can lessen our stressin’, as long as we understand what it means.
First, it cannot mean God always protects us from danger. No person in the Bible- not even Jesus- made it through life without having to face danger. The apostle Paul was a man who constantly faced danger because of his relationship with Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:8; 7:5 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.
Sounds like a pretty stressful life, doesn’t it? Yet Paul also describes a sense of security in the midst of all this chaos.
Romans 14:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Paul knows his security doesn’t come from his circumstances, but from Christ. He doesn’t expect God will always keep him safe from every danger, but he is confident God always keeps him safe through every danger.
Romans 8:38-39 38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Lord Jesus also described our security in Him in
John 6:39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.
Pr 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Now tell me: if God is your refuge, if God is your security---if you are in His hands and nobody can snatch you out---if you know God is committed to either delivering you from every danger or taking you through every danger—then what in the world are you stressin’ out about?
The only reason I know is maybe because you’re trying to find your security in something else—your money, your position, your possessions.
If you try to get security from those things or anything else, you will do a lot of stressin’ because those things will fail you. But Christ will never fail you.
When He is your refuge, He will either keep you safe from the tornado or through the tornado. If you are in the safe hands of God no matter what happens, you are secure. Knowing He is your refuge will guarantee to lessen’ your stressin’.
But that’s not all. This psalm goes on to remind us
II. GOD IS MY STRENGTH. “God is our refuge and strength.”
Sooner or later everybody learns they’re not as strong as they think they are.
The young man at the construction site was bragging he was the strongest man there—especially stronger than his older co-workers. Finally one older guy had enough."Why don't you put your money where your mouth is?" he said. "I’ll bet you a week's wages that I can haul something in this wheelbarrow over to that building that you won't be able to wheel back.""You're on, old man," the braggart replied. "Let's see what you got."The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles and said, "All right. Get in."
Some of you are stronger than some people, stronger than many people, stronger than most people, but if you live long enough you discover you’re not strong enough. Life piles us down to the point that we need somebody else to carry us in the wheelbarrow.
That person, this psalm reminds us, is God. God is your strength. Again, this is a precious promise, as long as you understand what it means. 2 things to keep in mind:
God will strengthen you to carry necessary burdens. Just as God will not deliver you from every danger, He also doesn’t take away every burden of life. You and I need burdens to help us grow stronger. Psychologists tell us that even though too much stress can kill us, a certain amount of stress is necessary for good health. People who have no stress at all are probably not doing anything worthwhile; they are not finding any pleasure in accomplishing anything. God made us to make a difference, and that implies a sense of responsibility, and responsibility implies a certain level of stress. God expects us to use the strength we have to carry our necessary burdens.
God has not given you the strength to do everything, but He has promised that if you trust Him, He will strengthen you to do whatever you must do. If you must handle hardship, He will strengthen you with the power to endure; if you have to face grief, He will strengthen you with grace to sustain you. When you are at your weakest, He will give you His strength so you can do what you must do. Paul explains it this way:
2 Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The other side of this coin is this:
God never burdens you with unnecessary burdens. Every burden in your life does not come from God. Some of them we pile on ourselves. God has not promised to give you strength to handle unnecessary burdens.
You cannot work 70 hours and expect God to keep you healthy. You cannot abuse your body with drugs or alcohol and not expect to suffer the consequences. God does not promise to give you the strength to do what you want, or what others expect of you. He gives you the strength to do whatever you must. You must decide not to allow unnecessary stress into your life. You have to decide not to allow your own expectations, nor the expectations of others to burden you down needlessly.
Now tell me: if God is your strength, and He is all-powerful, then what are you stressin’ out about?
Which of the burdens you bear is too heavy for Him to handle? Which task you face is too hard for Him to help you accomplish? Is anything to hard for the Lord? No.
The only reason I can think of for your stressin’ is that you either aren’t relying on God for strength, or else you are shouldering burdens He never called you to carry. Maybe it’s time for you to let go of the burden of worry, or overwork, or perfectionism. I recommend you do what the Bible says and practice
1 Pe 5:7 …casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
God is your strength, if you will rely on Him, and let go of your unnecessary burdens. But finally this verse reminds us that
II. GOD IS MY SAVIOR. “a very present help in trouble.”
I learned a very important lesson when I was much younger and much more foolish.
When I was a 20-something year old youth leader at a church in GA, our church took a group of boys out on a camping trip on the Ohoopee river. We all got out in the river horsing around, and started dunking one another. I grabbed Jerry, a 13 year old boy I thought knew how to swim and took him out in the deep water and dunked him. But he couldn’t swim, and when I realized his calls for help weren’t a joke, I went out to rescue him. I thought I could just go out, grab him, and pull him to shore. But he latched onto me and we both sank. Every time I tried to come up for air, he tried to climb up me, and we both went back down. I wasn’t sure either one of us would make it out of that river alive. Fortunately, one of the older men knew what to do. He made a chain of people, reaching from land to where Jerry and I were, and pull us in.
I learned some very important things that day.
1) Don’t dunk people until after you’ve seen them swim.
2) When you try rescue a drowning person, get behind them and grab them so they won’t be able to drag you down.
3) It’s always good when you’re in too deep to have somebody who will rescue you.
Life gets very stressful when you feel like you’re in too deep. I suppose we all know what it’s like to feel like you’re in over your head in a sea of trouble or heartache. You need somebody to rescue you.
In those times, this psalm reminds us God is a very present help in trouble. The word help= rescuer, Savior. The idea behind this phrase is that when you are overwhelmed by trouble, God is always willing and able to step in and save you.
This theme permeates the Psalms.
Ps 18:16 He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
Ps 40:1-2 1I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. 2He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.
God specializes in rescuing drowning people.
When you realize you are drowning in a sea of sin, with no way to reach the shore, you can call out to Christ in repentance and faith, and He will rescue you and deliver you from your guilt and condemnation.
When you’re drowning in the waters of doubt or fear, call out to Jesus, and He will reach out and rescue you, just as He once stretched out His hand and rescued a fearful doubting disciple named Simon Peter.
Whenever or however trouble comes flooding into your life, the Lord wants us to always remember that no matter how deep you find yourself, you can call on Him and He will rescue you.
Now tell me; if God if your Rescuer in all your times of trouble, then what are you stressin’ out about? There is no trouble so deep He cannot reach you and rescue you.
Ah, but when we get in over our heads, do we call on Him for help? Or do we keep thrashing about, trying to rescue ourselves? It takes humility to admit you need somebody to rescue you. Don’t let your pride drag you down deeper—call out to the Lord, because He truly is a very present Help in trouble.
Ps 34:6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
Will you call on Him to help you?
How many of you have heard of the stress diet?
The Stress Diet
1 piece whole-wheat toast
8 oz. skim milk
4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast
1 cup steamed zucchini
1 Oreo cookie
Rest of the package of Oreo cookies
1 qt. rocky road ice cream
1 jar hot fudge
2 loaves garlic bread
One large mushroom and pepperoni pizza
One large pitcher root beer
3 Milky Ways
Entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the freezer [i]
This diet is similar to a lot of ways you and I handle stress. We use ways that make us feel better, but they really don’t do much to lessen our stressin’
Psalm 46:1 gives us a much better way: remember God is your Security, God is your Strength, God is your Savior. You can trust Him to keep you safe, trust Him to give you His power, trust Him to always be there to rescue you from all your troubles. You and I are truly too blessed to be stressed.
And yet you may be here tonight and you’re so stressed you feel like you could explode. Bring your stress to Jesus. He invites you and I to bring your stress to Him and let Him fulfill His promise in
Mt 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[i]Pamela Pettler, The Joy of Stress Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other