When the stresses of life come in, what do you do to escape?
It might seem presumptuous to assume that all seek to escape stress, but I have found this is what most tend to do. This has been true of my life.
I remember seeking various stress outlets at different points in my life. As a teenager, I turned to video games and watching sports. Whenever stress came in, I almost simultaneously turned on the TV to play Madden or distract my mind with the latest on ESPN.
But stress was still there. It clung to me.
When I went to college, I would seek to divert my stress-filled moments by engaging in activities with friends. This included, campouts, hiking, off-roading, skiing, eating large amounts of food, hot-tubbing, and my favorite—saunas. Yes, I lived in the land of long snowy, dark winters; the home of the North American Fins; the great north country of Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Say yah to da U.P. eh?). There were simply so many new and exciting activities in which I could spend my time that stress was sort of pushed to the side because I was always looking forward to the next fun event.
But stress was still there. It didn’t leave because I was distracted. It waited for me.
After getting married, starting my first “career job,” and having my first child, stress continued to build in my life. My stress seemed to result from struggling to fulfill lofty responsibilities such as: providing financially for my family; ensuring my wife and son had the emotional, physical, and spiritual care they needed; and, sustaining my own emotional, physical, spiritual nourishment. The stresses that came as a result of learning to manage these new duties led me to work and sleep more. Working my job became my release; sleeping was my escape.
But stress was still there. I could not escape. Stress thickened and tightened its grip.
Most recently, my wife and I experienced some traumatic circumstances in our lives, and I could literally feel stress grasping my physical body and my spirit. It held on tightly, not willing to let go. I sought relief through food, sleep, exercise, activities, sports, and work. None of this proved effective. I thought, maybe I just need to study the Bible more and pray harder. Although this helped and was very good for me, stress still gripped me tightly. My desire to open the Bible and pray decreased. But I continued on and came to Philippians 4:7, which says:
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I realized that I did not need to divert my mind or distract myself with activities. I did not need to try harder. I needed to believe.
I needed to believe that God really is who He says He is. I needed to trust that He is Almighty and Sovereign. I needed to remember that He actually is with me, and He will not leave.
God not only provides peace, He is Peace.
I needed to remember that God is not in the business of taking me out of rough and challenging circumstances, but He leads me through. And it is “the peace of God” that guards, protects, comforts, and secures me through hardships.
There is a reason Philippians 4:7 describes God’s peace as “surpassing all understanding.” God’s peace simply doesn’t make sense. However, this is not the case for the hurt, pain, and stress of troubling circumstances. The groaning, complaining, grumbling, and depression which occurs through these seemingly impossible situations seems logical. But peace? No. It seems inconceivable to experience peace in the midst of trials.
But this is where God directs us in His Word. He leads us to Himself. He shows us Peace.
God does not offer false hopes of removing painful circumstances or transporting us to utopia.
But He promises that His peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. He promises to protect and defend us. He promises to set up an army of angels to surround us so that our hearts and minds may find rest, which might lead us to experience joy in Him—even through the pains and trials of a broken, dark, sinful world.
And it is this peace and joy that will keep and sustain us. Not only so, but it will also launch us—like a rocket—into hope that we might be able to worship God and serve others through our struggles.
What is the stress in your life?
Know that God is with you.
Ask Him for His peace.
Claim the peace that guards your heart and mind.
And finally, walk in peace, as you trust Him; and, may you experience eternal joy and hope in Christ Jesus.