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).
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.
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.