Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was asked to define obscenity, and he famously said, “I know it when I see it.” The same thing could be said about stress. You may not be able to define stress, but you know it when you feel it, don’t you? Ulcers, high blood pressure, migraines, certain strokes, even cancer are just some of the symptoms of our stressed-out society. And don’t make the mistake of thinking Christians are exempt from stress. I once heard of a television preacher who asked his electronic congregation to send in the number one problem they were dealing with in life, and at the top of the list was stress.
Jesus offers us this word of promise in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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.” Now please don’t misunderstand: Jesus wasn’t saying that because you’re a Christian, you are exempt from stress–nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus promised you are going to have problems in the world. In John 16:33, He said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus was not saying we can live in this world without problems, but He said there is a way to live above our problems. We can choose relaxation over stress.
It is important to differentiate between two kinds of stress. There is a healthy kind of stress. In the world of mechanics, the word “stress” refers to the loadbearing ability of certain metals, and for some metals, stress can strengthen that metal. The same thing is true for us. A certain amount of stress can strengthen us. Studies have shown that short bursts of stress can affect our pituitary gland and release a substance called beta-endorphin, which can help our immune system. Short bursts of stress are okay, but prolonged stress can be harmful. What are the hazards of prolonged stress? Stress that’s not dealt with can raise our cholesterol, which causes heart disease, weakens our immune system, and can lead to cancer. There are also emotional effects of stress. Prolonged stress raises the level of cortisol in our bodies that can lead to chronic depression. And there are spiritual effects of stress. Now, again, some stress can be spiritually beneficial to us. I think that is what James had in mind when he wrote in James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Just as a certain amount of stress can strengthen a metal, a certain amount of stress can strengthen us spiritually. Stress can have a positive impact on our spiritual lives, but it can also have a negative impact if we allow it to drive us away from God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Choosing Relaxation over Stress” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.
Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964) at 197 (Stewart, J., concurring).
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.