Dealing With Stress Like Jesus Did
Stress is a major issue in our times. It is a measure of our adaptability. Stress demands that we cope with what has arisen.
It is seen in the business man running late for his ferry. He parks his car, dashes down onto the jetty only to see the boat a couple of metres from the jetty. He sprints, flies into the air and crash lands on the deck with his brief case metres away. As he looks up, one of the crew says: “If you had just waited a few more seconds, we’d have arrived and moored at the jetty.”
There is good stress and bad stress. Good stress just helps to kick-start you into the day. Do you have the need for exercise? This is called eustress. The opposite is distress.
It’s like the husband who arrived home from work exhausted. He said, “Dear I am worn out. Please don’t give me any bad news. Only good stuff will help me.”
She replied, “Well the good news is, that only one of your three children broke their arm today.”
I almost caused a little stress for my organist the other week, when I gave her a song number I forgot to mention that we were using another book. So up until the final minutes before the service she was puzzled how and why I was going to sing ‘God Save the Queen’.
Stress – eustress and distress. There was a lot of distress in the boat and indeed on that boat in Mark 4. Would it handle the storm? Sea of Galilee storms could be life-threatening. It must have been very impressive because these were seasoned sailors and they were alarmed.
How much more the non-sailors on board – Matthew the former tax collector, Nathaniel the scholar, Judas the treasurer (no doubt the leading intercessors on board).
There is nothing like a heavy sea to encourage spiritual growth and the rediscovery of intercessory prayer.
Last Tuesday was the birthday of a man whose life was changed because of the Mark 4 storm. During one of John Wesley’s several Atlantic crossings, a frighteningly fierce story broke out; pitching and tossing the ship about like a bathtub toy. While Wesley and others clung to their bunks and hid their heads, a community of Moravians travelling to their new homeland calmly gathered to hold their daily worship service and sing praises to God. Watching these Moravians, so apparently unperturbed by the howling winds and crashing waves, Wesley realised he was witnessing a truly water-proof faith. From that moment on, John Wesley prayed that God would give him the ability to likewise ride out life’s storms with as much confidence. And he did.
Our problem is that Jesus sometimes seems not to be interested in what is happening. We’d like to know more clearly the Lord’s leading in dealing with major problems. I was once at a church where the local council had their eye on the church site. They offered no concession like moving the road alignment further north so we could keep our kerb side parking. They were trying to pressure us to leave. We were left thinking, ‘Lord are you sleeping through is? We need your wisdom.’ When we think this, we need to look more closely at the Scriptures.
In verse 36 it says, ‘Leaving the crowd behind they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.’ What a peculiar phrase, ‘just as he was’ is. It is a once off in the New Testament.
He had been travelling, healing, praying and was exhausted, so they took him on board, just like he was. He was weary, in need of rest. Jesus was just as human as you or I. So he rests. He knows that his Father is over all things even as he sleeps. He knows his purpose was not to be drowned at sea
And the disciples should know this too.
The Father’s plans are for Jesus to rise from the dead and turn an apparent defeat on the cross, into a victory over sin and death. So he sleeps. He sleeps in faith.
Do you need that kind of faith?
A troubled minister once received a message from the Lord as his 3 a.m. insomnia dogged him. The message was, “You sleep, I’ll stay awake and worry.”
What made those Moravians so peaceful in the face of the tempest? It was the same trait that the disciples so woefully lacked in today’s gospel text – an unquenchable trust in Jesus Christ. After stretching out his arms and stilling the storm, Jesus turned to his companions and chastised them. By cowardly crying out to Jesus in fear, they had revealed the shallowness of their faith, as we do with the things we face, like council crises. Although they had been specially chosen as Jesus’ fellow travellers on this journey, like our first stressed man, they missed the boat.
The Lord is always present in His silences. Your prayer life might be dry. You may have struggled with the Scriptures and not been into it the way you know you should. You may have prayed for that family member relentlessly.
And Jesus seems asleep all through it. He teaches, ‘Have faith even when I seem to be ignoring what is going on, from Palestine to that work meeting, I have it under control. I know what is happening to you of little faith. Let me be stressed for you, you relax in me. I’ll watch the waves, let me steer you through them.’
What might be causing you stress at this time?
It’s hard to relax if your home has been burgled, true? If your car has been stolen, or your operation been deferred three months by the Army. There are external storms but sometimes there are other storms, storms within us.
Victor Hugo wrote a story called Ninety Three. It tells of a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the frightened sailors heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this new noise came from a cannon, part of the ship’s cargo, that had broken loose. It was moving back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact. Knowing that it could cause the ship to sink, two brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of shipwreck from the cannon was greater than the fury of the story.
That is like human life. Storms of life may blow about us, but it is not these exterior storms that pose the gravest danger. The furious storm outside may be overwhelming, but what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our lives.
Our only hope lies in conquering with Jesus’ help.
By George Robert Iles