Sometimes I’m tempted to question if it’s even possible to enjoy God’s peace in our stressful world. According to a recent study at Carnegie Mellon University we’re significantly more stressed now than we were 25 years ago. And though we face increasing demands and stresses of all kinds, living in God’s peace is possible. In fact, we’re promised ‘perfect peace,’ but it doesn’t just happen—there are conditions. We read in Isaiah, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.*”
Like a lot of us, I’ve lived a fairly stressful life. I’ve not always enjoyed that promised peace, but I have given it a lot of thought. And I’ve often complained to God about this, asking Him to show me how to live in His peace. Below are some tips I’ve found helpful. They’re really common sense, but sometimes a reminder helps.
- Take time early each day to focus on God and His promises. Ask Him to help you trust Him with each challenge you’ll face.
- Stop when you feel stressed and reflect on your life—look at the big picture. (This seems counterintuitive when you’re busy or in a hurry, but stress results in tunnel vision and narrows your perspective.)
- Exercise regularly—it relieves tension. Asking a friend to exercise with you will provide accountability and make it more fun.
- Get adequate rest and sleep at night.
- Don’t go it alone—surround yourself with positive and supportive people who’ll pray for you and share their ‘been-there-done-that wisdom.’ Talk difficult issues over with a trusted friend.
- Take time out for yourself—meditate on Scripture, journal your thoughts, pray or go for a walk and observe nature—the trees and flowers, listen to the birds, watch the ever-changing cloud formations. Spend time with people—get to know and encourage others.
- Cultivate gratitude. Turn your attention to things that have gone well and thank God. Make a list of things you’re grateful for.
- Plan time for fun—laughter is good medicine. Taking time to relax and play isn’t a luxury.
- Instead of watching the news, read or listen to inspiring, uplifting books.
- See stressful situations as opportunities to learn. Stop, step back and think about ways you could benefit from them. Velcro® and Post-It® notes were invented as solutions to frustrating problems.
- Take five-minute vacations—stop work or what you’re doing for five minutes, relax, breathe deeply and refocus your thoughts on God and His love for you. This can refresh your mind and you’ll return to the task at hand with new clarity.
- Watch out for negative thoughts and words, and counter them quickly with a positive, truthful spin.
Stress is generally a reaction to events, and we get to choose how we respond. List the things that cause you stress and ask yourself if eliminating, or at least minimizing, each of these stressors is even within your control. If it is, think about possible solutions and make note of how you’ll handle them differently in the future. If the stressor is beyond your control—you just can’t do anything about it—remind yourself that getting upset over it is a waste of your energy and will lead to more stress. Then let it go—give it to God.
It really is possible to enjoy God’s peace in our stressful world. It does take effort and energy, but it’s so worthwhile.
I’d love to hear what you do to help alleviate your stress. Leave a comment below.
*Isaiah 26:3-4, New Living Translation