What comes to your mind when you think about stress? Studying for exam week? Getting ready for school or work in the morning while five other people rush around and hog the bathroom? Maybe you think about being called into your boss’s office after a major goof on the job. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes and it affects us differently. Eric can take on copious amounts of stress and still press on (even making it look easy at times) while I get tripped up by comparatively small issues and feel completely paralyzed inside.
Stress may affect everyone differently, but one truth is sure: your stress will affect your relationship.
“Yes, I am overwhelmed, but it is fine. I will keep it to myself.”
“Before I walk inside the house, I will let it all go. I can handle it.”
Stress can come in many forms. It can pour out in fits of verbal venom. Sometimes, stress can cloud our minds and lead us to make questionable decisions. Compounded, consistent stress can display itself as anxiety, depression, or panic attacks. Sometimes stress tempts us to push others away because another question, conversation, or even noise will send us over the edge.
Instead of denying our stress or trying to be a hero by keeping it tucked inside, we can recognize and admit that it affects us so we can mitigate it. God’s Word has a lot to say about anxiety, fear, and stress. Clearly, God knew our propensity to grow anxious, tired, and weary. Look at this beautiful passage… I hope it gives you peace like it gives to me:
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:27-34, ESV)
Let’s take a moment to examine the above passage:
- And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? I appreciate this verse so much because it forces me to stop and consider how much good my worry is doing – for me and for those around me (the answer is it is doing no good). Focusing on my stress causes me to grow more anxious. When I am anxious, I become flustered and cannot think clearly. This verse slows me down and reminds me that my active worry makes my situation worse, not better.
- And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? This passage moves my mind to nature and how much beauty God created, rich with details. Not only did He create a flower, but He created a vast array of flowers. If He puts that much care into nature (for which He did not give His only Son to save), how much more is He committed to caring for His people who were created in His image?
- Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Knowing we serve a God who created everything we need and has the power to provide it to us takes an incredible weight off our shoulders. Time after time, he has proven that we can trust Him.
- “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25, ESV)
- “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” (Genesis 22:14, KJV)
- Jehovah-jireh means “the LORD will provide.”
- He not only provides us with the resources we need, but He also provides peace (Philippians 4:6), joy (Nehemiah 8:10), rest (Matthew 11:28-30), and salvation (Romans 10:9).
- But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. This passage begins by asking us how much good our anxiety will do us in the long run. And winds down by showing us where to turn our attention when we, like Peter, find ourselves sinking. The answer is always: seeking righteousness and the growth of God’s kingdom.
- Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. God is wise that he only reveals our lives to us one day at a time. We do not know what is coming and therefore we only deprive ourselves of today’s joy when we are anxious about tomorrow. All we can do is pray, prepare, and trust God with our futures. And if we did know the future, it would create its own set of worries.
Diminishing the Effects of Stress
Few of us make it through life without going through stressful seasons. Even those who seem the most privileged experience grief and health struggles. We may not be able to keep ourselves from stress completely, but we can prepare for it and lessen the overall damage it causes.
- Recognize. “What I am dealing with right now are the cares of this world. In a year, what I am freaking out about right now will be in the past. This is just temporary stress.”
- Loosen. Loosen your schedule where you can.
- Breathe. Even if for only 60 seconds, go to as quiet a space as possible, and breathe deeply.
- Remember. Remember verses about God’s promise to provide.
- Remind. Remind yourself of all the times God got you through stressful times.
- Turn. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. When we shut out the world around us and focus our attention on our beautiful Savior, everything else fades.
- Cast. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)
Over the years, I have witnessed what soul-crushing stress can do to a person – and, in turn, to a relationship. It sucks the fun out of a couple and replaces tenderness with eye-rolling, careless words, selfishness, and neglect. Before getting married, it is wise for couples to identify their stressors (at least the ones they are currently aware of) and create game plans for minimizing or removing them.
Remember that going into a marriage you are going to be a team. When a dating (or married) person is stressed, it would be weird for the other person to say, “Don’t bring your stress into our relationship! It is affecting our relationship negatively!” Instead, he or she needs to help alleviate the stress, if possible. This might look like taking on the lion’s share of the household chores when the other is working overtime. It may require spending more time teaching and disciplining the children rather than only having fun with them. It may mean showing a mountain of grace when the frazzled spouse is cranky, short-tempered, or distant.
At the end of the day, the only person we have any control over is ourselves. No one else can be responsible for how we respond to the stress in our lives. They can help us work through it, but the buck stops with us. Only we, by God’s grace, can determine how we will let outside influences infiltrate our homes and relationships.
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25, ESV)
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6, ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
Keep breaking free!!!
Is stress negatively affecting your relationship?