by Bo Thompson
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed —– incapable of doing anything. That’s why you need to put the glass down.”
Most would read a story like this and nod in agreement. We know that stress and worry are a slow trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. Yet, while agreeing, most feel powerless to do anything about it. People concur that they need to put stress and worry down; they just have no clue regarding how to pry their fingers from the glass.
This is why I love passages like Philippians 4:6-7. Far from just telling us to stop worrying, God gives us a couple of practical steps necessary to put it down. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This passage tells me that I set my glass of worry and stress down by prayer. More specifically, I pry my fingers from the glass when I …
- Pray to God. Remember who you are talking to! … present your requests to God. And the peace of God … in Christ Jesus. The passage assumes that the one praying knows and has a relationship with God. I realize this seems painfully obvious, but it is often overlooked. The first step to dealing with stress is making sure you are in a relationship with God and spending time developing that relationship. It is that relationship that instills a sense of confidence in you that the God who created the heavens and the earth can take care of your problem.
- Pray about everything. Note that the scope of my requests is everything (in every situation). Here’s the interesting thing about this verse to me. We read it to mean when we are anxious the remedy is prayer. But, I think that misses Paul’s point. More than a remedy, Paul talks about prayer as the vaccine.
Notice again the words in every situation. Not just about what is making you anxious … but everything. He is saying that as we cultivate a habit of prayer, as we learn to pray about everything, we’ll find that when anxious times come, we are not anxious. Rather, in prayer we have learned that God is here and He is God and He is trustworthy. No need to worry!
- Pray with confidence. Beautiful words: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds … Your expectation as you pray ought to be that He will fill you with His peace that transcends understanding, and in doing so, stress will be displaced!
So, what is your glass of stress and worry? Is it connected to something on your summer schedule, a job that seems uncertain, finances, too much to do, the future, or a concern about health? You do not have to carry that glass; You can put it down.
Bo Thompson is the senior pastor at Rhea’s Mill Baptist Church since 2009.