There is a story in the Bible about Elijah in I Kings 19:1-26 where you see some universal symptoms of stress. The issue in his life was one of intense pressure from stress – stress that can lead to distress. You might think that some story about a bearded, robe-wearing prophet living on the other side of the world three thousand years ago has nothing to do with your modern-day stress.
The life of Elijah shows you that stress was not invented in the last twenty or thirty years. The reality is that the problems that produce stress are universal, they just manifest themselves in different situations and circumstances. Elijah's life also shows some timeless principles that you can apply to overcome stress in your life.
REST YOUR BODY
The first principle is this: to overcome stress you need to rest your body. Elijah had expended a great deal of energy fighting for God. We read that in the desert, “he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. After he rested, an angel touched him and awakened him and told him to get up and eat.” In other words, Elijah did not just fall asleep, God allowed him to relax so that he could sleep. Out in the middle of the desert Elijah found a cake of bread and a jar of water. Where did that cake of bread and jar of water come from? God provided it. God wants to provide for you. He wants you to rest. He wants you to replenish yourself. Overcoming stress begins with resting.
RELEASE YOUR FRUSTRATIONS
Another insight we find in Elijah's story is that to cope with stress you need to release your frustrations. Look at what Elijah did. Elijah poured his heart out to God. “I have been zealous,” he told God. “I have been working hard for you.” Then he went to tell God how alone he felt: “I am the only one left. Everybody else has deserted you. I am the only one.” You need to release your frustrations and pour out your heart to God. Holding in your frustrations will only make you sick. Frustrations build and will then manifest themselves in some other unexpected way.
REFOCUS ON GOD
A third way to cope with stress is this: refocus on God. The Scripture tells us that the Lord spoke to Elijah and said: “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord. Then a great wind blew and an earthquake shook the mountain. Then after all the violence, there was the gentle voice, the whisper of God's voice.” God was getting Elijah focused back on Him.
Sometimes in the midst of the busyness of life with its stress and burdens and pressures, you lose your focus. You need to refocus on God. When you put your focus on God, you see the power of God and the grace of God. When you can get your focus back on God and His greatness, His love for you, His care for you, then your focus is right. When you are out of focus, not focused on God, then stress can build up.
Refocusing on God will help you develop a proper perspective on your problems so that you attack the problem and not the people. Stress is a part of life, distress is not. Relieve the distress so that you can have a positive impact on your world.
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