How do I cope with stress in my life? Part 5

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 As we continue this series on ways to cope with stress in our lives, we have emphasised the importance of appropriate thinking about everything that is going on around us (see video in part 4).

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We have shown how our perception of what is happening to us is at least as important as what is actually going on (part 1). We have also looked at some ways we can handle stress in our lives (part 2) and challenged some of the myths that surround our thinking around stress (part 3).

But the other important consideration is what to do when we really do feel stuck. We have in a previous post looked at the Law of Navigation, but what I am talking about is when you really do feel stuck and are at the end of your resources! I am convinced that everyone, even atheists, when things get tough instinctively feels the need to pray. A deep connection with God during the time leading to my own spiritual awakening was pivotal in helping me come through a period of depression in my own life in my late teens. (There is a 15 minute video on that here).

The issue is that while modern approaches to stress are helpful in encouraging better balance in life, dealing with negative thoughts, exercise and relaxation, which we have look at previously, they seem to ignore the importance of getting to the foundation of the why and how we live our lives a certain way in the first place. In a sense they don’t challenge our thinking. Rarely are we encouraged in our modern lives to think about the big questions, that is: Where are we from? Where are we going? What is the meaning of my life?

A helpful prayer that I have seen pinned up on many walls in NHS hospitals and homes is:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

While I have thought it helpful, I have often felt that it has somehow been insufficient. Yes it is helpful to know what I am responsible for and what I can do something about, but so often I lack wisdom to know what I should or should not do!

I was pleasantly surprised then a few years later to learn that there is much more depth to the prayer. It continues on what this wisdom is about:

….Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace
Taking as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that you will make all things right,
If I surrender to your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with you forever in the next.
Amen

I have found it very helpful to make this a prayer in thinking through the challenges I am facing and looking to Christ’s life as the example to follow when life does not seem to be going the way I want. It boils down to trusting someone else knowing the future much better than I do and who loves and cares for me more than I love and care for myself.

This also ties up with one of my favourite quotes from Tim Keller that, “In Christ our bad things turn out for good, our good things can never be lost and the best is yet to come. The confidence to say that comes from understanding the implications of the resurrection.

(We discussed more about wisdom and emotional intelligence in previous blog posts you can access here. Also I talk about my own personal experience of dealing with a mildly stressful situation in  a post entitled “7 Lessons from a Passport.” as  well as the subject of spiritual maturity.)

What are your thoughts on the spiritual side of coping with stress in life?

How does your faith (or absence of any stated faith for that matter) help or hinder your coping with stress?

Feel free to give your comments and thoughts.

6 thoughts on “How do I cope with stress in my life? Part 5”

  1. I recently caught half way through a film I’d seen before “the pursuit of happy-ness” starring Will Smith. There’s a part in the film when he’s in the church with his son singing when he’s at absolute rock bottom. The words are “Lord don’t move that mountain, give me the strength to climb it”. Those words really hit me for some reason. We can pointlessly keep wishing for God to protect us from earthly problems (which will never stop until we die) (and I’ve realised it’s pointless to blame him for bad things) or we can take a step in faith & try to trust god to help us through it & hopefully give us “double for our trouble” as the world-famous Joyce Meyer puts it.

  2. I have been reminded of the poem which says, i asked for strength & God gave me difficulties to make me strong so & so.three questions in the article Where are we from? Where are we going? What is the meaning of my life? these questions always bring back on the track.

    1. Thank you Honey Paul for your comments.
      The whole poem you refer to is as follows. When I was a medical student I had a poster of it on my bedroom wall:
      I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
      I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
      I asked for health that I might do greater things.
      I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
      I asked for riches that I might be happy.
      I was given poverty that I might be wise.
      I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
      I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
      I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
      I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
      I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
      Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
      I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

      Also your 3 questions are truly the deep questions of life and put everything else in perspective.

  3. These larger questions have often interested me and they always serve as a compass whenever there are choices to be made. A fundamental technique in any problem solving involves looking for the root cause, rather than fixing the superficial damage on top. The real reasons may be more subtle and I find that it can take some time for me to grasp a better understanding of what is going on. That said, it is always time well spent when deciding whether or not to change tack!

    1. Thank you Austen. Your helpful comments raises some deeper issues.
      They reminds me of a quote by Henry David Thoreau who, in referring to the wider problems of the world said:
      “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.”
      So it really is time well spent deciding whether trying to fix superficial damage is causing more problems because I am not getting to the root cause!

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