Health is a tri-part matter.
Spirit, soul and body.
While not all physical illness is due to a chronically unhealthy spirit or soul, the latter will eventually lead to the former.
I believe the Bible speaks to this when it says that bitterness and sorrow dry up the bones.
But brittle bones are not the only chronic illness we face when our spirits and souls are unhealthy, just as bitterness and sorrow are not the only illnesses of the spirit and soul that affect our bodies.
Western culture has become a driven and stressful culture.
From the time we’re in grade school, we wake up early, go to school, go to sports practice, stay up late doing home work, and have extra-curriculars on weekends. Gone are the days when during summer kids played ball, went on long walks and daydreamed, because now kids go from one camp to another and are kept busy to “avoid boredom” – as if boredom is somehow bad.
This chronically busy lifestyle is carried over into adulthood. 40 hour work-weeks are the minimum now as our careers demand more and more of us. We feel the pull between family and career, and the pressure of the power-couple to have it all: a happy family, a successful career, a good salary, a luxury home; all while appearing rested, contented and in control.
But is that possible?
The more I talk with people, the more I hear about how chronically stressed they are; burned out, tired, frustrated, driven, and weighed down by their own expectations and expectations others have placed upon them.
They are always doing, but never actually getting anywhere.
It’s like the ancient form of torture when the master would make the slave move a pile of rocks from one place to another one day, and then next day have them move them back; constantly moving them back and forth to break their spirit.
Sometimes I wonder if the enemy is breaking our spirit with so much pressure to do without a goal or purpose.
Or perhaps an unclear goal or purpose.
This where where I have been for a long time.
I have written at length about my perfectionism and driven nature; as well as my battle to dial down the stress in my life, and the health challenges I’ve faced as a result of the years of stress, bitterness, and sorrow I’ve carried.
For the past month or so I have faced some new health challenges. We are still uncertain as to what they are. At first I thought it was lactose intolerance, then I supposed leaky gut – something I still haven’t ruled out. But after nearly every meal I have a lot of stomach and back pain – sometimes joint pain and headaches.
I am going in for some testing this week to hopefully determine what the problem is.
As I’ve written before, I also battle adrenal fatigue; and while I’m getting better, the road to recovery is long and arduous.
And do you know the root of it?
Chronic stress is a killer.
Some stress is good. There is the stress that motivates us to do necessary tasks that require energy our bodies might not otherwise give. Life is filled with moments of stress that are unavoidable. I’m not talking about this kind of stress. I’m talking about the constant, day-in and day-out, month after month, year after year of stress that we needlessly place upon ourselves.
Many times we carry around a heavy weight of stress without even realizing it. Or maybe we do, but we look around at everyone else who is also stressed out and assume that its just the way life is.
Or – sometimes we hear the judgmental words shouted at us: “Martha over there has far more stress than you, and she is still able to function. Why can’t you?”
So without taking into account the fact that:
a) Every person has a load limit and
b) The damaging effects of stress aren’t always visible right away
we take on more than we were meant to bear, and then wonder why our health starts to slowly fade on us.
We then further beat ourselves up with the verse that God will not give us more than we can handle. But the question is: Did God give this burden to you, or did you give it to yourself?
But God didn’t make us for this!
He didn’t create us to bear such heavy burdens! Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
When we really learn about Jesus, we will understand that
a) He is gentle. He will not pile on us until we can barely walk under the heavy load of stress we carry
b) He is humble in heart. He doesn’t compare our load limit with those around us. His humility gives us room to be stronger or weaker.
c) He gives our souls rest!
d) His burden is not heavy – it is light!!
Do you understand that? Really understand that?
When we learn at the feet of Jesus, we will realize that don’t need to bear the burden of stress any longer.
What is chronic stress and where does it come from?
- Lack of faith in God or trust in people– assuming we have to do it all or it wont get done.
- Insecurity and perfectionism – assuming that if we don’t fulfill our own or others’ expectations, we’ll lose our reputation.
- A need for control – an inability to let go of the controls, assuming that when we do chaos will occur, this is the result of our lack of faith in God.
- Fear – this can be linked to anything. All fear results in stress.
And the root of all four of these, and any other things you feel you can add to the list, is pride.
Pride – our chronic desire to be in control, and our fear of not having it!
Chronic stress comes from:
- Over-commitment – our inability to say no.
- Expectations – personal expectations and others’ expectations of us, of which we cannot seem to let go.
- A need to please – an inability to allow ourselves or others to be disappointed when we say no or do not fulfill an expectation.
- A failure to plan– whether due to lack of time or organizational skills.
But all of these can be overcome.
While I’m now bearing the consequences of years chronic stress, I have learned to destress my life. Yes, there are still stressful moments: commitments I forgot I made, kids that extra-rowdy, a sick husband, our home renovations. These are normal life! What I’ve relieved myself from are the four things I mentioned above.
And during the month of December I want to share with you how you can live a stress-less life, too. Then in January we’ll look at how, free from stress, we can begin moving toward the dream and purpose God has planned for us!
I can tell you that after years of dragging myself out of bed to various jobs I didn’t like and that didn’t move me toward the purpose God planned for me, I now wake up with excitement and anticipation for my day. I know – beyond any shadow of a doubt – that I am right at the very center of God’s purpose for my life.
I am less stressed, more contented, and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been!
And I want to share with you how I’ve come to this place in my life.
I hope you’ll join me each Monday for this two-part series.