I’ve taken a bit of mental inventory of what our upcoming move with Village Missions entails. In so doing, it has come to my attention that there are several items we will be dealing with that tend to show up on lists of “most stress producing events” or “life changes that are most stressful” or something along those lines.
Need a recap? We’re expecting a baby. We’re moving to a new location. I’ll be beginning a new job. The only thing we’re missing from the list of most stress producing is a death of a family member – for the record, I’m not asking for that to happen.
Now, add to that list some of the “lesser” items that could be stress producing: continuing to raise prayer and financial support, the physical act of boxing everything up and getting it ready to move (by the way, if you are local to us and have boxes to spare, we’ll be glad to take them), getting all the baby gear down from the attic (which was done a little over a week ago, thanks to my nimble sons!), beginning our farewell process to friends, the list goes on.
Here is what I say to all of that: none of those things are stressful. Not a one. Even from the list of “major life change events” none of them are stressful. If you are the curious one, you might say, “oh, Carl, how are those things not stressful?” Thanks for asking, but brace yourself for my response.
I do not claim perfection, and I do not claim skill, but I will say that I endeavor to live and think critically and biblically. As such, I choose to operate under words and categories that are found in the preciously preserved pages of Scripture. When it comes to “stress” in the way it is most often used in our culture, here is what I find: in my two favorite Bible translations, the ESV and NASB, the word never occurs. In the two versions I like and respect, but are not my favorites, the word never occurs. In a translation I do not like, the word occurs just once, in Titus 3:8, which says “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” That’s it. That’s the only time the word stress is used, and if you re-read it, it is very clear that the meaning of the word in that context has nothing to do with the modern understanding of, and attempt to manage, stress.
What does all of that mean? If I am facing “stress” my best help is Scripture. If I go to Scripture, and if I cannot find “stress” then what hope do I have? None! Sure, you could debate that I’m splitting hairs, or there is nuance with language, etc. But what I’m appealing to is using the words and categories that are actually in Scripture. So, while Scripture says nothing about stress, it says plenty about: trials, tribulations, fear, anxiety, worry, responsibility and more. What then is my response? How am I to think?
What would appear to be my responsibility is to first rightly diagnose, according to Scripture, what my problem is. Using a (biblically speaking) nothing word like stress is not at all helpful, and I will find no prescription in Scripture to address my problems.
Second, I need to be honest. Am I being fearful or anxious? Am I in the midst of a trial? Am I facing the responsibility before me? Once I settle that, I can find hope in the Bible to help me.
So, here is where I am at. I am not fearful, but I will confess to a degree of anxiety – not a debilitating form of it, but enough that I ask questions of my self like: will I serve the people of the church and community well? Will my influence be gospel saturated enough to lead people to greater depths in their spiritual walk? Will we be able to get everything done that we want/need to get done prior to our move? What will challenges or opportunities will we face when we arrive?
This is where the Bible comes in and proves itself to be so faithful to us. Romans 8:28-29 says:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
All things. Not some things, not a few things, all things. All means all. So, each of these things are designed by God to make me more like Christ. Rather than recoil from all that we are facing, or to seek ways to avoid whatever amount of effort or discomfort these things will bring, I should instead embrace them and praise God for them. He has divinely and uniquely (and dare I say graciously) brought them into my life that I might become more and more like His Son. I welcome them, knowing that they are designed for my benefit, and to equip me to serve and benefit others.
Am I stressed out? No way. Though my flesh is weak, I’m eager to face that which God has intended to be for my benefit, to make me more like His Son, and to keep me as close to Him as possible. I may wilt, I may even fail. But I will not be stressed out!