What thoughts go through your mind as you hear the word stress? Chances are that it brings up memories and specific times from your life with little effort. You may even be feeling stressed at this very moment! Some amount of stress in our lives can be a good thing. Stress can spur us on towards change, as it is motivation for us to find relief.
It is when stress becomes distress that our outlook changes. What happens when our stress turns into suffering? In a research study that Rosmarin, Krumrei, and Andersson (2009) performed, they found that those who practiced both “general religiousness” and “religious practices” were more likely to have lower levels of distress (i.e. worry, anxiety, depression). They also came to the conclusion that these practices of religion within both Jewish and Christian communities acted as a buffer against the impact of such suffering. The study also resulted in the conclusion that positive religious core beliefs such as trust in God that He is active in the world today, that He has the ultimate power over the universe, and that He is merciful, brought about lowered levels of worry, anxiety, and depression. However, negative religious beliefs such as mistrust in God, the belief that God ignores us, and that God is not in control, the distress levels were heightened. While the participants may have had periods in their lives that are marked by suffering, the study demonstrated that faith and religious practices allowed for some amount of relief during those times.
So what does this mean when we feel stress? Carver (1997) found that people cope with stress in different ways, such as denial, humor, seeking emotional support, venting, turning to drugs or alcohol, distracting themselves through whatever means they can find, just to name a few. Rosmarin et al. (2009) saw that participants, in their times of stress, turned to God and placed their trust in Him. It was through prayer, attending religious services and reading religious literature, such as Scripture, that they found strength. These individuals in the study had hope in spite of their circumstances.
When you are stressed, or to the point that you are suffering, where do you find yourself naturally turning for relief? What are/will you rely on to make it through when stressful moments crop up on you? As Romans 5:1-11 and Isaiah 40 promise, Christians have hope even in our times that are stressful or even have reached a point of suffering. Even though there are those difficult moments in our life, they can be used for good. Stress does not have to overrun your life so that it turns to despair. Instead, Christians have the reassurance that it is in such moments that the Lord can teach and mold us into what he intended when we were created.
Carver, C. (1997). You want to measure coping but your protocol's too long: consider the brief cope. International Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 4(1), 92.
Rosmarin, D. H., Krumrei, E. J., & Andersson, G. (2009). Religion as a predictor of psychological distress in two religious communities. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 38(1), 54-64. doi:10.1080/16506070802477222