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Fret Not 5: Fight Stress with S.T.R.E.S.S.

Fret Not Day 5 – Fight Stress with S.T.R.E.S.S.

“Lord, we don’t know what to do.”

It had been the phrase on repeat over here at our house. In the midst of circumstances that were out of our control, coupled with a new surprise fork in the road we never saw coming, we were genuinely without answers. And it was causing a lot of stress.

Interestingly—and providentially, in my opinion—while driving to the city one day, with a Christian radio program playing in the background of my anxious thoughts, the host’s words caught my attention: “Walk us through your stress model. How do you use that in a day-to-day way?” I was all ears. The guest on the show proceeded to share an acronym she developed, using the word STRESS, to help her during times of trouble and tension. 

Based on II Chronicles 20, when Jehoshaphat learned of three allied armies preparing to attack, we can see through the timeline of his story what he did when he didn’t know what to do (vs. 12). When we don’t know what to do, we can do the same:

S – Seek God’s guidance.

In verse three, the very first thing Jehoshaphat did when he heard the news was resolve to seek the Lord. It wasn’t his last resort, but his first. And so should it be ours when we find ourselves perplexed and without answers. Pray for light on the path. Pray for God to reveal His will. Pray for whatever it is we need. Or, when we have no more words to pray, just tell Him, “I don’t know what to do.” Saying the words out loud transfers our dependence from ourselves to the One who knows exactly what to do. 

T – Trust what God tells you to do.

God speaks to us in many ways: through His Word, through others, and sometimes He speaks directly to our soul in the quiet moments we spend with Him. The important thing to do when we have sought Him, and we hear Him direct us, is to obey. Jehoshaphat was told by the Lord, through the prophet Jahaziel, to “go down against them” (vs. 16). To do so must have been terrifying. It might have even made little sense. But he trusted God’s direction, acted on it, and the result was a victory.

R – Remember past victories, even if they weren’t yours.

The Bible repeats the word “remember” over and over again as a way of growing our faith as we face the uncertainty of the future. In verse 7, in his prayer to God, Jehoshaphat recounts to God the victory He won in driving out the inhabitants of the land for his ancestors. In essence, Jehoshaphat was saying, “God, you did it before. You can do it again.” Many of us have experienced God as victorious in the past. Cling to those memories. Claim them for the future. And if you can’t call to mind any in your own life, seek out someone who has experienced victory. Or search the Scriptures for the many victories God won for His people and find comfort and confidence in them.

E – Exalt God above the problem.

Too often our minds become consumed with, and our world revolves around, the seemingly impossible-ness of what is causing us so much stress. By doing so, we elevate the problem over God’s ability; we bring God down to the level of the problem. Instead, we need to make God and His power bigger than the problem. That’s what Jehoshaphat did in his prayer to God: “Power and might are in your hand, and no one can stand against you” (vs. 6). It helps to remember that nothing is too hard for God. 

S – Solicit the prayers and support of others.

Often we struggle in solitude because we fear vulnerability, or we feel shame in our struggle. No question, it takes courage to share what we’re going through. God doesn’t want us to struggle alone. I love the words He gave us in Proverbs 17:17: “…a brother [or sister!] is born for adversity.” That is what a community is all about—to come together to offer support and comfort and to help bear the burdens of one another in times of trial. Jehoshaphat, in his distress, proclaimed a fast for all of Judah, and people “came from all the cities of Judah to seek [the Lord]” (vs. 4). So, invite others in and petition God together.

S – Stand on the promises of God.

Like a rock, God’s promises are sure and strong enough to bear the weight of what is weighing us down. And like God, they will never, ever fail. But it’s important to understand what the promises of God are—and what they are not. They are never that God will always stop bad things from happening, or that things will always turn out the way we want them to. The blessed and beautiful promise from God to Jehoshaphat (vs. 17) is the same promise He offers us when we don’t know what to do and are facing the enemy: “I am with you.” Sometimes it’s hard to feel in our heart what our head knows, but if we continually repeat promises like this one to ourselves, it can grow our faith and give us strength for the heavy and confusing moments of life.

Brothers and sisters, this isn’t a formula that will instantly change our circumstances or eliminate our struggles. Nor is it intended as a prescription to diminish or dismiss the validity and seriousness of mental health issues or anxiety. These points are simply helpful ways to manage our daily stressors and the problems that plague us in this life. They have helped me as I have wrestled with “not knowing what to do.” And I hope, in some way, they can help you too.

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