I have known for a long time that the Bible is the answer to almost every problem that one has – perhaps not for every minute detailed situation but certainly for every problem of a general nature. However, I was amazed to realize this past week [that would have been the last week of November 1996] how specifically it speaks to the problem of stress management.
If I had asked you what the Bible says about stress and its management I think you probably would quote the 23rd Psalm. That psalm, with its references to green pastures, quiet water, and fearing no evil, certainly has a calming influence in most situations. But I have come to realize that the Bible has more specific and practical things to say about stress management.
This came about very clearly this past week [of November 1996]: For 30 or 40 years I have lived with a heart condition that the doctors refer to as “Premature Ventricular Contractions” or PVCs – a benign condition that the doctors have always assured me is not serious and will not affect how long I live.
However, for the past three weeks [of 11/96] I have been under so much stress trying to respond to the needs of my boss on the one hand while still trying to accomplish some much-needed things around the house that I thought I was having a heart attack. [At that time I was working about 10 hours a day and at least six days a week as a computer programmer for a small new company.]
And this past week [11/96, again] I began to think that these PVCs had become so frequent as to interfere with the amount of blood that the heart was able to pump and that perhaps I wasn’t imagining the problem.
Last week [you guessed it] things finally reached the point where I said to the Lord “I am ready to come home. Take me tonight, if that is your will.”
Well, that obviously was not His will, for the next morning He reminded me that I wasn’t ready to go home because I had never signed the Living Will that Dorian had been trying to get me to sign for over a year. As soon as I realized that, I signed the documents and mailed copies to my three sons.
But, in talking to the Lord about this, I realized that I was not following His timetable, and I was not allowing him to teach me some things that I needed to be taught. This came to me as I was praying and thinking about I Cor. 10-13, where Paul says “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” First Peter 2:9 echoes this when he writes: “The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials”.
I have always interpreted Paul’s statement in the broad sense to apply not just to temptation but to situations such as the one I was experiencing, where the Devil was obviously having a lot of fun trying to upset me to the point of renouncing my faith in God.
Thinking of these passages made me realize that I had not turned this problem completely over to the Lord: I had been going to Him with parts of the problem and asking for solutions to individual pieces instead of turning the whole mess over to Him.
But as soon as I said “I give up. I can’t take this any more. Lord, please help me” the Lord intervened and began to take charge of the entire situation. And I felt very much like Peter did when the angel woke him up in prison and told him to get up, and immediately Peter’s chains fell off (Acts 12:7). I felt as though mine had fallen off. The Lord was impressing on me the need to take charge of the situation myself and not allow myself to be pulled in two different directions by two opposing forces.
And in thinking about this relief, I was reminded of one of my favorite passages — Rom. 8:28, which reads “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”.
Usually, when I can’t figure out why bad things seem to be happening to me, I ask the Lord for patience in trying to understand what it is that He is trying to teach me, and I am often surprised by the frequency with which I get some kind of an answer not too long after that.
Now, you can say “Well that is all very well but how can I get God to talk to me as specifically as that?” I think there are many ways in which the Lord communicates with us, besides the visions and voices from heaven of which the Old Testament prophets wrote.
One way is found in I Kings 19:12: Elijah had been fleeing from the wrath of Jezebel, who was trying to have him murdered for his part in the killing of the false prophets of Baal. You remember Elijah had hid in a cave on Mt. Horeb, and the Lord told him to go outside the cave for He, the Lord, was about to pass by. What followed that was a violent windstorm that shattered the rocks, and then an earthquake that shattered everything else, and then a devastating fire that consumed the debris. But Elijah didn’t find the Lord in any of these supernatural manifestations. It wasn’t until these awesome spectacles had passed that Elijah did indeed find the Lord – after they were over, when he heard a gentle whisper, or, as the King James version puts it, “a still small voice”.
I find that the Lord speaks to me quite often when I am quietly praying. My mind will wander a little, and I will begin to think about a problem or a situation, and as I ponder it I realize that my thoughts seem to be coming up with answers: I am thinking of something to try that I haven’t tried before, or I am realizing that Jesus undoubtedly would have handled the situation differently, so what would He do now?
I also believe in open and shut doors. By that I mean that if I try to do something and keep finding one unexpected obstacle after another to what I am trying to do, I begin to wonder if I am being led by the Lord or if this is His way of telling me that I haven’t perceived His will in this situation – because too many doors seem to be closed. On the other hand, at other times when I am trying to do something, everything just falls into place beautifully – doors just seem to open magically – and then I can be sure that the Lord is leading me.
I think a knowledge of the Bible is absolutely essential to understanding God’s will for our lives, but I think that we find that the Lord utilizes this knowledge of the Bible when we pray earnestly to Him. It is in these quiet times when He can impress on our hearts and minds the thoughts that He would have us think and the actions that He wants us to take. And I certainly found this to be the case, once again this past week [when?…yes, but even now].
— Louis G. Stang, Jr.