I am three weeks in to the hardest challenge I have ever faced: grad school. I come home every evening so exhausted that I don’t even want to talk to my roommates, much less cook supper. Don’t get me wrong; I know that everyone faces challenges. And I love my program, my classmates, the clients I see for speech therapy—I even love the mental challenge that grad school gives me. But no matter how I view my situation, it’s hard.
All of us face challenges that loom in front of us, scary and insurmountable. You might be starting a new job or coping with the death of a family member. No matter what stressful problem might be ruining your sleep schedule, you and I both have the option to release our tight, insistent grip on our anxieties and give them to the One who can always handle them. As Paul reminded the Philippians, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Here’s the problem: giving our anxieties to God is hard. No matter how many inspirational “don’t worry be happy” quotes we pin on Pinterest, letting go of our stress is complicated and difficult. Letting go requires us to admit that we cannot control everything, and let’s be honest: we want to be the superhumans who can singlehandedly tackle our to-do lists and sort out all our problems. But consider 1 Pet. 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Giving all of our stress to God requires that we humble our all-too-human, “I-can-handle-this” pride. So how do we do it?
Decide to trust God rather than ourselves (Prov. 3:5). The stresses in our lives will never go away, but we can decide to focus on our blessings. Jesus taught that worrying is pointless—it won’t add days to our lives or clothes to our closets, and our focus should not be physical (Mat. 6:25-33). “Therefore,” he taught, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Mat. 6:34).
Put your Problems in Context
Recognize that our challenges are temporary (2 Cor. 4:17). Our problems may seem unsolvable when we are in the middle of them, but they will end. Remember that everyone is facing challenges just like we are.
When stress is overwhelming, take a step back and take a moment to adjust focus. Phil. 4:7-8, the passage immediately following Paul’s admonition to give up our anxieties in prayer, says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” When we give our frustrations to God through prayer and shift our focus from our problems to the needs of others, we can find “a peace that passes all understanding.” Jot down some positive things about your day or find a small act of kindness to do for someone else.
Pray not only that God will help you through your challenge, but also to thank Him for your blessings (Phil. 4:6). If you are having trouble giving up your stress, pray for the humility and trust to let them go.
Remember: you’re not in this alone. Instead of focusing on your overwhelming anxieties, focus on the One who hears your prayers for relief.
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.