This week, I had planned to share how God is leading me out of a very dark place, but something came up that I felt lead to address.
When a Christian reveals that she is stressed, some of her Christian friends will try to console her by saying to just have faith-as if belief in God will always fix the problem.
Stress isn’t always a matter of belief and God doesn’t always fix a problem you have. Many people are never healed; Paul was never healed. And anxiety isn’t always because of worry. It’s sometimes the sheer stress of having to deal with the natural consequences of trials in your life, especially when there are many issues going on at once. This is compounded when multiple struggles have gone on for a long time and even further by health conditions that put stress on the body and hormone changes that cause you to cry at toilet paper commercials.
My pastor has been going through Job for a while now and the theme of each week has been how Job’s friends, though they meant well, actually hurt Job because they gave uninformed opinions based not on scripture but on their own ideas of what Job was going through and what would fix his problems. They actually did Job the most good just by being with him at the beginning of their visit–allowing Job to grieve. Often the most help you can be to someone who is going through struggles (especially when there are multiple chronic struggles) is to be there for them, listen to them, hug them, pray for them, pray with them, and try to understand.
Stress isn’t the same thing as worry. You can worry about something without being stressed about it. A man can worry that his job isn’t secure prompting him to prepare a backup plan thus alleviating the cause of stress a job loss can inflict.
And worry isn’t a sin. It doesn’t mean you don’t have faith or aren’t Heaven bound. Mother Teresa worried that she wasn’t good enough. All human type creatures worry even the ones who attempt to appear pious refusing to admit that they worry.
Lastly, just because you trip, doesn’t mean you fall. Trials produce worry and stress. The Bible is filled with good people who stumbled. We are human. God knows we will stumble during struggles. But that doesn’t mean we’ve given up on God. Worry doesn’t cancel our reservation to eternal peace. That’s why God tells us to lean on Him. That’s what fellowship is for. That’s why there is prayer, both on our own and collectively.
Stress isn’t the same as unbelief. Anyone can go through a temporary trial and not get to the point of stress. Those of us who have chronic, long-term issues know all too well how time can erode your strength. And those of us with chronic illness know that having other chronic issues pile up on top of you, while already struggling with chronic illness for years, can cause tremendous stress on the body as well as the mind.
Further, it is naïve to think that worry or stress will simply (and immediately) go away when a declaration of a belief that God is in control is made. If the source of stress is still being dealt with, if there is a physiological reason why stress is manifesting in the body, and even if the stress is all in one’s head, this is a process much like the grieving process. It takes time to master. It seems only those of us who struggle with it truly understand.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” -Romans 8:26
Next week I’ll share how God is beginning to lead me out of that very dark place.