“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
We are now officially in the midst of the holiday season. That period from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. And often with this season comes stress. There is more traffic on the roads, in the stores, and just about everywhere else we go. There doesn’t seem to be enough time for all the demands others place on us or that we place on ourselves.
Stress unfortunately is a part of the holiday season, and it is a part of life.
Not that long ago, stress had many meanings. I still have a 2000 edition of Webster’s Dictionary on my book shelf. It has several definitions under “stress.” The first definition it provides for “stress” is “the importance or significance attached to a thing – example: you stress the importance of good manners.”
Webster’s Dictionary follows the above definition with these two: “placing emphasis on something like speaking louder or playing a note louder in music,” or “placing physical pressure on a body or object.” You have to go down to definition number eight to find “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”
Today most people would think the last definition above is the first and main definition for stress. We typically use the term stress to express the pressure we feel mentally and emotionally. Many physicians and researchers spend their time dealing with stress-related disorders.
One of the most famous medical centers in the world is the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota. People travel there from all over the world when they cannot find a cure for an illness anywhere else. And they have an entire section on their website about stress.
The Mayo Clinic website states common effects of stress on our bodies include headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, and sleep problems. The site also lists effects on our psyches, such as anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability or anger, and sadness or depression. Also listed are ways stress effects our behavior, including overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and social withdrawal.
You can see how any of these are negative, and none would have a positive effect on your life, much less your marriage.
In fact, you’ve probably seen the impact stress has on your marriage, especially during holidays.
So what are we to do? How can we lessen the stress to keep it from ruining our holiday season and harming our marriage?
The Mayo Clinic website offers some suggestions. They have a section entitled “Stress Management.” There you will find solutions to reduce stress including physical activity, relaxation techniques, meditation, Yoga, and Tai chi. There is nothing wrong with most of these. They are certainly better than the ways many people try to relieve stress through means such as alcohol and drugs, both doctor prescribed and self administered.
However, God created us and He created marriage. So if we want to find the best solution for dealing with stress in our marriage or in our lives, we can find it in His Word. These are the best remedies to deal with stress in a way that will strengthen and not harm our marriages. Here are three biblical truths to get you started.
1 – We can’t expect a stress-free life, but we can still have peace in Christ.
John 16:33 says: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
These are Jesus’ own words to His disciples (including us). We can’t expect a stress-free life. We live in a sin-stained, Satan-controlled world that guarantees we will experience stress.
However, God will use stress for our good if we trust in Him and turn to Him when we feel the pressure rising.
Romans 8:28 promises: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And we find many more such promises from God in His Word.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
And Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
So like Jesus said in John 16:33, we can “take heart” when stress comes because God will use it for our good. We must trust Him and hold onto these promises.
2 – Focusing on Christ and following His example will keep us from losing heart.
In 2 Corinthians 4:18, Paul tells us: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
This is the conclusion to Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 4:17 (quoted in #1). We overcome our “light and momentary” stress by fixing our eyes on Jesus.
Paul also teaches this to the Christians at Colossae when he writes in Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
The writer of Hebrews gives the same instruction in Hebrews 12:2-3 when he calls us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Paul writes a similar statement in 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
So keep your eyes, your mind, and your thoughts on Jesus and follow His example and teaching. Then you will survive any stressful situation Satan throws at you. In this you will “not grow weary and lose heart.”
3 – The Lord provides everything we need and is always with us.
Psalm 23:1-6 says: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
God knows we will never live stress free lives. We stress over our jobs, our families, our financial status, and everything else under the sun. This cannot help but have a negative impact on our marriages. That is why He gives us something far more effective than any method or tranquilizer the world offers. He provides His Word.
There is no better stress reliever than Psalm 23. This one promise-filled passage of Scripture is God’s tranquilizer. Take it together as a couple and see how it relieves your stress and blesses your marriage. Of course don’t stop there. Read the other passages we have quoted in this teaching. Find some of your own to study together.
Take God’s prescription regularly, and you’ll find what the world, you, and your marriage are desperately looking for. You’ll have “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Just grab onto the first sentence of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.” It alone will do wonders for your heart and marriage.
Do you feel stressed by the holidays or something else? Then remember that the Lord is your Shepherd who loves you and will take care of every concern you have. Turn your worries over to Him, and allow His peace to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Questions for Discussion
- Read or re-read the teaching together and tell each other what God has spoken to you through it. Make sure to focus on His Word.
- On a scale from one to ten (ten being the highest), what is your stress level right now in the midst of this Christmas season? Are you cruising along at a level one or two? Or are you rushing around at a level nine or even ten? How is it impacting your marriage? Tell each other any specific stress you are experiencing right now.
- Read together each of the three truths above that God gives us. How do any of them or all of them help you relieve the stress in your life? How will you specifically seek to apply them this week to help relieve that stress?
- Pray together and for each other, specifically asking God to help you and your spouse deal with the stress you are experiencing. It will help to pray some of the Scriptures in this lesson.
Next week we will look at another gift from God in His Word that He wants us to have so we can enjoy this Christmas season to the fullest.
Until then may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.