Good News for Stressed People

If you’re stressed out, raise your hand.

My hand is raised, and I know I’m not alone. Millions of Americans—Christians included—would say the same. I often don’t know stress is affecting me; I’m usually fine one moment, and crying the next. And as much as I want to blame stress, making myself a victim of its pressures, I know I need to take a deeper look at my heart.

What’s at the root of our stress, beneath the circumstances that seem to cause it? And how does God’s Word speak to our struggle with it?

Moses’ Heavy Burden

Moses found himself in a difficult position after the Exodus. God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, bringing them miraculously through the Red Sea and into freedom. Moses and the people had beheld God’s great glory and power in the destruction of their enemies and the provision of divine rescue. They saw him do what they could never do for themselves.

After crossing the waters, the people continued to see God provide, as he sent manna to nourish their hungry bodies and water from a rock to quench their thirst. God also provided wisdom and justice for the Israelites through Moses, who would “judge the people…from morning till evening” (Exodus 18:13). But there was a problem—

When Moses’ father-in-law [Jethro] saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” (v. 14)

Jethro was concerned for Moses, and rightfully so. The Bible doesn’t tell us that Moses was “stressed out,” per say, but there were either indications of this, or Jethro had the foresight to see the coming effects of what Moses was doing.

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” (vv. 17-18)

Wearing Ourselves Out

Do you resonate with this account? Perhaps your intentions are good, but you’re wearing yourself out because you’ve taken on too much and not asked for help. Or perhaps you’re obeying God by simply doing what he’s asked of you, but circumstances have become heavy with tension, complications, or hardship.

Like Moses, we’ve seen God’s great works throughout biblical history; more than Moses, we’ve beheld God’s greatest work in delivering us from sin and death through Christ. Yet, like Moses, we may be carrying heavy burdens, unable “to do it alone.”

Jethro’s response to Moses reveals three important truths about stress that we should take to heart:

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Is the Word of God a Quick Fix?

When you come to God’s Word, are you looking for a “quick fix”?

I was struck by the following quotation, as I read through one of Pastor Colin’s sermons from the radio series The Anatomy of Faith:

God may be saying to you, “Instead of looking for a quick fix to the problems in your life, you need to establish a regular pattern of receiving my Word with faith, so that it will bear long-term fruit that you have not been bearing in years.” You never know what God is going to say to you, but you know he is going to say it through his Word. (Colin Smith)

This statement is striking because it pegs our human tendency to view God’s Word as a “quick fix.” I’ll bet that I’m not alone in wanting to hear God speak truth into my heart. But I’ll also bet that many of us tend to be drawn to Scripture thinking we need an instant solution for our troubles, rather than nourishing, consistent sustenance for our souls.

In effect, the Word of God becomes a means to an end, and—I admit—it’s usually a selfish end! Deliver me from circumstantial trouble. Show me the next step I should take in my own carefully crafted plans. Make sense for me of this enigmatic reality that makes up God’s sovereignty.

God’s Word can easily become information for our brains, rather than nourishment for our souls. Instead of genuinely loving and craving the Word, we can use the Word for selfish gain, hoping that it will give us a way out of worldly troubles and suffering.

Scripture becomes a “quick fix.”

So how can we learn to love God’s Word increasingly more every day? How can we avoid looking to Scripture as a mere “quick fix”? I think there are three key points in Pastor Colin’s statement above that will help us see how we can—only by God’s grace—grow in loving the Word:

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Your Work Matters

Today’s article is pulled from the archives in honor of Labor Day.


For the past six weeks, I’ve been engaged in a leadership course for The Orchard Network, focusing on doctrine, life and skills according to the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our second session last week was on work. That’s right. Work. That thing we find ourselves occupied with for the majority of our days, weeks, months and years. That labor we put forth when we’re not at home, being social (though work can be social!), serving in church, or interacting elsewhere.

The session was simply titled “Work Matters.”

Work must be significant because of the amount of time and energy it demands. By its very nature it should make us curious as to why it’s so all-encompassing, and how we can make the most of it.

I will seek to respond to our three “homework” questions, while also phrasing them for you, so that you can equally get thinking about the work God has you doing.

The three questions are:

How can I reflect in my work that I’m made in the image of God?

Where are you creating and inventing?

My work as a Content Strategist and Manager is extremely creative–literally! I’m constantly designing graphics, writing, brainstorming ideas and content, planning marketing campaigns, and dreaming about how things could look on the web.

While it’s quite easy for me to see how my work is creative, I’d imagine some of you reading this are scratching your heads. Perhaps you don’t feel like your work is creative at all. But any time you innovate and find a new way to make a process more effective, whether its teaching your children obedience in a fresh way or helping a customer determine the most delicious combination for their dinner order, you are exercising the creativity of the Creator. If this isn’t clear to you right now, ask God to help you see where you are bearing his image in this way.

Where are you bringing what was once formless into order?

Because my job did not exist prior to my hiring, everything was new at first. There was a boatload of vision to dive into, a job description to understand and expound upon, and a never-before-established pattern of work to execute every week. And what I’ve come to realize is that no two weeks look the same, so God is giving me the chance to consistently bring tasks and projects into order.

What about you? How are you bringing what was once formless into order through your work? Another way to think about this is, “What problems are you solving?”

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When Satan Demands to Have You

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you…”

Jesus spoke these sobering words to Peter before going to his death. And what a terrifying thought!—to be had by the evil one, to be under his dominion and rule and a prisoner to his deathly purposes. Jesus continued,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Yes, this exchange would’ve been sobering for Peter—how should it impact us? Equally sobering is Satan’s active work to make this a reality for as many people as he can—and especially for Christians. If you’re a believer, what the enemy wants is to fail your faith. He wants to have you: eternally defeated, estranged from God, condemned for eternity—

But Jesus promises he won’t let you go.

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A Three-Part Formula for Fear

Israel refused to enter the land.

After years of wandering in the wilderness, and after freedom from slavery in Egypt, God’s people should’ve been thrilled to draw ever nearer to the land flowing with milk and honey, the land God had promised them. Finally to be home! Finally to be settled.

Instead, they were afraid. Between them and the promised land stood the Amorites, an enemy God commanded them to defeat, and promised they would defeat, with his help. The Israelites couldn’t see a vibrant, good land for their possession, but only the obstacles. Nor would they take God’s words to heart: “Do not fear or be dismayed.” I will be with you.

In looking at Deuteronomy 1, where Moses recounts the story to his people, we see a three-part formula for fear that’s most likely at the root of our fears today.

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10 Ways Disappointment Can Strengthen Your Faith

Disappointment exercises our faith.

Like a good resistance band, it pushes back at us, putting on the pressure and testing our endurance. We can either succumb to its force or return the push. We can give way to what disappointment naturally produces—discontentment and doubt—or we can let it grow us.

We can let it stretch and strengthen our faith.

When Disappointment Comes

I’ve felt disappointed lately. In a few realms, the resistance band has gone to work, exercising my faith in Jesus:

  • When a situation is blurred in confusion (push), do I trust his perfect knowledge and wisdom (pull)?
  • If an outcome isn’t what I’d hoped it would be (push), will I receive God’s will or get angry (pull)?
  • If God takes away a good gift (push), do I demand an explanation, or submit to him what I may not understand (pull)?

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When You’re in the Pit

Joseph had dreams. Big, God-given dreams about ruling over his family, being exalted to a high position of respect and power. Dreams that made his brothers angry and jealous.

So they tossed him in a pit.

Genesis 37:24 tells us the pit was empty and without water, as Joseph went from dreams to the depths. His circumstances changed in an instant, and would for years to come. I wonder how often he thought about his dreams. Was God lying? Did he perceive things wrong? Or did the dreams stand, regardless of what he could (or couldn’t) see?

When we’re in the pit, we wonder the same. No, we may not dream literal dreams like Joseph did, but we have “our dreams,” don’t we? We dream of the pleasant vacation away from routine, the career track to success and comfort, the prospering marriage, and the pursuit of a generally happy life.

These are our dreams, but are they God’s dreams for us?

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God Is Good, So Fight the Lies

A sneaking suspicion lingers in my heart. It never ceases to lie to me: “God isn’t good,” it says. “Wouldn’t you be healthy if he was?”

It often masks itself in other lies:

  • “What did you do to cause this pain?”
  • “You must not have learned your lesson yet.”
  • “Why doesn’t that person ever suffer? Why do you always seem to?”

The suspicion arises freshly when my body hurts in new or different ways. In the pain, it tempts me, fooling me into believing that maybe, just maybe, God isn’t as good as I thought—not in the moment at least.

Not toward me.

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6 Great Books to Read at the Start of the New Year

What would it look like for you to know Christ in 2017?

Resolutions toward physical fitness, habit changes, and life goals are commonplace in any given December, and when placed under God’s ultimate control, these are good pursuits. But there’s a better pursuit, the Bible tells us, one that takes to heart—well, our hearts.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

To prioritize growth in godliness for the purpose of knowing God is every Christian’s job, whether at the start of a new year or the dawn of each new day. Morning by morning, as we wake up with breath in our lungs, we’re beckoned to spend our moments on the greatest pursuit in existence: to know Jesus more intimately and to become like him.

One way to move toward this goal? Read great books. Not just any Christian books—great books. Books bursting with true, theological riches. Pages plumbing the depths of the gospel of Jesus. Titles trumpeting the value of holiness, the perfection of God’s Word, and the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sinners stumbling their way to glory. Turn the pages and treasure the paragraphs of great books that will spur you on to know Christ and grow in godliness.

The Bible comes first. Great books follow. Here are six I’d recommend you read this new year…

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When God Feels Far Away

It seems to be one of the most common experiences of the Christian life. God feels far away, like he is hiding himself, or at least withholding his reviving presence. We feel destitute, spiritually dry, and desperate for a sense that he is still there, still listening, still caring. But we can’t seem to eke out a prayer because even our prayers feel empty, and they seem to return to us with an echo of defeat.

Where are you, Lord? Can you hear me? Why are you hiding yourself from me? I am your child, so why, Father, does it feel like you are ignoring my cries? How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will I seek you, only to find that the silence remains? I am languishing, O Lord. Do not delay, O my God…

If this sounds like the cry of your heart today, be comforted that you are not experiencing anything new or abnormal. You are in the same boat as your brothers and sisters in the Lord, as your forefathers, as a multitude of other Christians who have gone before you and who now walk beside you. There is some comfort in this reality.

But it cannot fully cradle our fragile hearts because feeling far from God can be a frightening experience.

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