The word stress is much used in our 21st century vocabulary. It was first used by Dr. Walter B. Cannon who studied and taught in the Department of Physiology at Harvard University, USA. In 1915 he became interested in the physical reactions of his laboratory animals when they felt they were in danger. While studying digestion in his animals, Dr. Cannon noticed that physical changes in the function of the stomach would occur when the animal was frightened or scared. The ‘fight-or-flight’ response, also called the ‘acute stress response’, is an automatic reaction to a potentially dangerous situation. Our brains react quickly to keep us safe by preparing the body for action. The result of these natural reactions produce symptoms, which can negatively affect our bodies and minds.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes one of the definitions of stress as; ‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.’ Whilst the word: ‘stress’, is relatively recent, the realities of its meaning have been part of everyday life since almost the beginning of time. There are many factors that contribute to the stress of human life;
- Painful and difficult physical and mental health conditions,
- Loss and pain caused through
- Traumatic events which shake our world,
- And at the time of writing: an unexpected global pandemic – Covid-19.
A UK-wide survey in 2018, found that almost three quarters of adults (74%) have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.* Whilst doctors might not have had as much physiological and psychological understanding before 1915, they used different words to describe it. ‘Stress’ isn’t a word that appears in the bible, but we read plenty about its companion – ‘troubles’.
Jesus said to His followers in John’s gospel,
“In this world you will have troubles.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”
God’s answer to overcoming human troubles and stress was to send His son Jesus as the Saviour of the world. God promises His Rest that affects our heart, mind and body in our daily lives. Knowing and experiencing God’s REST is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over recent months we have faced some serious stress and trouble through the Coronavirus. I have found myself crying out to God for His help in the challenges we face both personally and globally. Although we may have found that our daily lives have changed pace during this time, I have realised that physical rest doesn’t always equal rest in my heart or mind.
The REST that the psalmist writes about in Psalm 62 is different from our human understanding of the word.
‘I find rest in God; only he can save me.’
The key to finding genuine, and lasting REST, has nothing to do with relaxing on holidays (although they are excellent and important!) True REST is found in God, regardless of what our circumstances may look like at any given moment.
It is interesting to note that in both the words stress and troubles, we can find letters which spell out the word REST. They are hidden in the middle of S-TRES-S and surrounding our TR-OUBL-ES.
I’ve had to do some ‘de constructing’ of the stress and troubles and let God re-order ’His truth in my heart, mind and body. Like working out an anagram, I needed to see the letters from a different perspective. I had to lose two big ‘S’s’ from my stress mindset! He’s turning my S-tres-S into His Rest.
The ‘S’s’ I had to lose from STRESS were my Self and my Striving. I had to surrender my Selfto God again, release my Striving and trust that even in the difficulties and challenges, He was working out His plans and purposes for me.
This is a daily choice to surrender my ‘Self and Striving’ and receive God’s gift of REST in His grace and love.
The last spoken words that Jesus said to His disciples were that:
He will be with us always, until the very end of the age. Matthew 28;18
Whatever stress or trouble we are facing, He is there with us and His promise of REST can be found.
Charlotte Osborn is an evangelist at heart and she’s passionate about sharing the good news of God’s love & hope with the world. She is a speaker & event facilitator who seeks to encourage others to find creative ways to share their own stories.
As a qualified nurse, she runs her own home care business, supporting people through the many changing seasons of their lives. She has 3 fantastic grown up children who she counts as friends and she lives in the beautiful Cotswolds UK with her equally fantastic husband! www.livemovebe.org.uk
This is just one of the articles from the rest issue. Get your copy here.