A Biblical Approach To Stress Management

There are two interrelated aspects to stress management. The first is to find some device that can bring about relaxation and the second is to identify and change the behaviors that are creating the stress. Since all hypnotherapists understand the relaxation potential of hypnosis and know that it can provide the person with immediate relaxation and relief even after just one visit, I shall limit this paper to the second aspect of stress management, behavior modification.

There is this old Saying, “That if you continue to do what you are doing now, you’re going to get what you are getting now. If you don’t like what you’re getting, THEN CHANGE.” When I faced the moment when I knew that if I was ever to control my own stress I would have to change my present behavior, I found that I faced a dilemma. I didn’t know what behaviors I had to change and if you don’t know what’s broken, then how can you fur it?

The behavior modification areas that I will discuss in this paper are those that helped me to better handle my own stress for the past 25 years and have also been quite helpful to my clients for the past 20 years.

First it is important to understand that the three greatest stressors in life are CIRCUMSTANCES, EVENTS AND PEOPLE. Of these three stressors your circumstances are the only ones over which you have some control. If you don’t like where you live, move: you don’t like your car, trade it in; if you don’t like your spouse, get a divorce; if you don’t like the color of your hair, color it; if your nose is too long, shorten it; if you don’t like your kids, when they’re not looking…run away. However, there are certain circumstances over which you don’t have any control and when you encounter these uncontrollable circumstances there is an increase in the stress level. Think about how much time you’ve spent trying to do anything about circumstances. It takes a great deal of time, energy and aggravation, and in the final analysis the particular circumstance still remains the same. Therefore, there is a rule for dealing with a circumstance: IF YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, DO IT. IF YOU CAN’T, LET IT GO.

The next great stresser is events. Events are stressful because they occur when you least expect them and there is no way you can prepare yourself for the event. For example, you receive a letter from IRS that you made a mistake on your income tax return and that you owe them an additional $1500. This is an event Over which you have no control and if you become upset and stressed, the result is still the same- you have to send them an additional $1500.

The last stresser is people. If you don’t know by now that you can’t control people then you must be living on a different planet, in a different galaxy with a different belief system. Once you understand that you can’t control people and you stop trying, then you will find that you can lower your stress level. Knowing that you can’t control these three stressors and accepting the fact that the only power you have to deal with them is the way you react, will give you a great feeling of freedom.
During the past 25 years, as I have learned to cope with my stressful circumstances, events and people in my life, I have identified a number of behaviors that seem to have helped me and my clients to react to stress in a more positive way. They are as follows:

  1. Learn to live in the present moment. Now is all that there is. The past is gone, it will never ever change. The past is the cemetery of dead events and some of these dead events will exert control over you through your continued resentment. Stop worrying about the future. Most of what you worry about never happens and those that did should be proof that worry really doesn’t accomplish anything.
  2. Life is much easier to live when you understand that perfection is a concept, not part of reality. Perfectionists spend so much time and energy trying to make sure everything they do is perfect and then are frustrated when they realize that no matter how perfect things are, they could always be better. It’s much less stressful when the perfectionist accepts the fact that what he does in each moment is the best that he/she can do in that particular moment.
  3. Most people don’t understand the feelings of inferiority they have are not uniquely theirs. It’s a universal feeling most human beings experience as they live their lives on the planet Earth. Many people delude themselves by believing that when they have more money and more power that will shed those inferior feelings. However, when they finally have more money and more power, much to their disappointment, those feeling of inferiority are still there. When you understand that most people have those feelings of inferiority, then you can put them on the back shelf, forget them and go on and live your life.
  4. Most people don’t have a guide or a frame of reference in which to live their lives. I have discovered that when my clients and I make a commitment to live life within the framework of LOVE, then it becomes much easier to deal with people. The definition of LOVE that I use is as follows- love is patience, kindness, understanding, forgiveness and honesty. It’s important to note that LOVE is all of the five characteristics. Not 4 out of 5, 3 out of 5, but 5 out of 5. Once you begin to live your life within this framework it is important that you extend love to others as well as to yourself. It seems that the most difficult assignment I give to many of my clients is to learn to love themselves with their talents and shortcomings.
  5. Most people are searching for happiness and when they find it they are frustrated when it doesn’t last. When you understand that happiness is just one of the many states of mind that human beings experience as they live their lives, then you can put happiness into its proper perspective. Actually the only people who are happy 365 days a year 24 hours a day are in crazy houses. It took me quite a few years to realize what I was really looking for. It was so obvious that I really overlooked it. What I had been searching for all these years was a feeling of inner peace. That’s right, inner peace. What added to my confusion was that I looked for inner peace in the wrong place- the material world in which I lived. It’s not there. The circumstances, events and people in my life made conditions in my life difficult and not peaceful. When I finally understood that you can only find inner peace in the spiritual world, it wasn’t long before I began to feel peaceful as I developed my spiritually. Some have found their inner peace within framework of organized religion. Others have had to search elsewhere. I have also discovered that if a person is in a particular form of spiritually and it doesn’t give him/her a feeling of peacefulness, then there could be two things wrong. First the person is not giving it their best shot or secondly, they’re in the wrong place. Usually the person knows which one it is.

Very briefly, these are the behaviors that I work on with stress management clients. In closing I would like to state there are many paths available to teach a person how to deal with the stress in his/her life.
Therefore, in no way do I wish to imply that this is the only way or the best way. It’s just one way that has worked for me personally and professionally.

Biblical References: Present Moment Living: So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time. “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around”. My counsel is: Don’t worry about things:food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat-they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food-for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him then they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothes? Look at the birds! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today, gone tomorrow, won’t He more surely care for you, O men of little faith?

So don’t worry about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. MATTHEW 6

Don’t worry about anything. Instead , pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. PHILIPPIANS 4

Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a town, stay there a year and open a profitable business.” How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog now you see it; soon it is gone. JAMES 4

Perfection: Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results. JAMES 4

Living within The Framework of Love. Don’t criticize and speak evil about each other, dear brothers. If you do, you will be fighting against God’s law of loving one another, declaring it is wrong. But your job is not to decide whether this law is right or wrong, but to obey it. Only he who made the law can judge among us. He alone decides to save us or destroy. So what right do you have to judge or criticize others? JAMES 4

But concerning the pure brotherly love that there should be among God’s people, I don’t need to say very much, I’m sure! For God Himself is teaching you to love one another. Indeed your love is already strong toward all the Christians brothers throughout your whole nation. Even so, dear friends, we beg you to love them more and more. This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and doing your own work. 1 THESSALONIANS 4

Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of heart which comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of His body. And always be thankful. COLOSSIANS 3

If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him or steal from him. And you won’t sin with his wife or want what is his, or do anything else the Ten Commandments say is wrong. All ten are wrapped up in this one, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it fully satisfies all God’s requirements. It is the only law you need. ROMANS 3

And now I want to urgently remind you, dear friends, of the old rule God gave us right from the beginning, that Christians should love one another. If we love God, we will do whatever He tells us to. And He has told us from the very first to love each other. 2 JOHN 1

So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband-obeying, praising and honoring him. EPHESIANS 5

We know how much God loves us because we have felt His love and because we believe Him when He tells us that He loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living with him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face Him with confidence and joy, because He loves us and we love Him too.

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly. His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us. So you see, our love for Him comes as a result of His loving us first.

If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God Himself has said that one must love not only God, but his brother too. 1 JOHN 4

One day an expert on Moses’ laws came to test Jesus’ orthodoxy by asking him this question: “Teacher, what does a man need to do to live in heaven?” Jesus replied, “What does Moses’ law say about it?” “It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”
“Right!” Jesus told him.” Do this and you shall live!” LUKE 10

One of the teachers of religion who was standing there listening to the discussion realized that Jesus had answered well. So he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The one that says, Hear, O Israel!” The Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.

The second is; You must love others as much as yourself. No other commandments are greater than these. The teacher of religion replied, “Sir you have spoken a true word in saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is far more important to love Him with all my heart and understanding and strength, and to love others as myself, than to offer all kinds of sacrifices on the altar of the Temple.” MARK 12

One of them, a lawyer, spoke up; “Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. All other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others. MATTHEW 22

Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—For God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God, but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too. For though we have never yet seen God, when we love each other God lives in us and his love within us grows ever stronger. And he has put his only Holy Spirit into our hearts as a proof to us that we are living with him and he with us. And furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now tell all the world that God sent his Son to be their Savior. Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is the Son of God has God living in him, and he is living with God.

We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy, because he loves us and we love him too.

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.

If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother who is right there in front of him, so how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God Himself has said that one must love not only God, but his brother too. 1 JOHN 4

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever. There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 CORINTHIANS 13

Listen, all of you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you; implore God’s blessing on those who hurt you.
If someone slaps you on one cheek, let him slap the other too! If someone demands your coat, give him your shirt, besides. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you don’t worry about getting them back. Treat others as you want them to treat you.
Do you think you deserve credit for merely loving those who love you? Even the godless do that! And if you do good only to those who do you good—is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that ? Even the most wicked will lend to their own kind for full return!
Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned about the fact that they won’t repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God: for He is kind to the unthankful and to those who are very wicked. LUKE 6

Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me ? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all ? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose. PHILIPPIANS 2

Let love be your greatest aim; nevertheless, ask also for the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives, and especially the gift of prophecy, being able to preach the messages of God. l CORINTHIANS 14

Definition of Love
Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. All the special gifts and powers from god will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. 1 CORINTHIANS 13

And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen His glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father. JOHN 1

Continue to love each other with true brotherly love. Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Don’t forget about those in jail. Suffer with them as though you were there yourself. Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, for you know what they are going through. HEBREWS 13

I BEG YOU—I, a prisoner here in jail for serving the Lord—to live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessing as these. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit, and so be at peace with one another. EPHESIANS 4

Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.
Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves. If you’re angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly, for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil.
If anyone is stealing he must stop it and begin using those hands of his for honest work so he can give to others in need. Don’t use bad language. Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing.
Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live. Remember, He is the one who marks you present on that day when salvation from sin will be complete.
Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ. EPHESIANS 4

May God who gives patience, steadiness and encouragement help you live in complete harmony with each other-each with the attitude of Christ toward the other. And then all of us can praise the Lord together with one voice, giving glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ROMANS 15

Well then, Shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness? ROMANS 15

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