Where to Turn and Where Not to Turn in Times of Stress

file000863438520To be alive is to experience stress, sometimes more and sometimes less. In the workday world it seems to be “more” for many people and industries these days, not the least in healthcare, and I think about that a lot. Recently, several social media posts on dealing with stress caught my eye. Their common advice was to turn inward – that is, we should each dig down to find our inner reserves of strength, or inner “warrior,” or inner “divinity.” Essentially they argued that all our answers are inside of us, we just need to realize it, to connect with ourselves.

It sounds nice, who wouldn’t like to have all their answers at hand? But we Christians know that it’s not true. Scripture makes it clear that we are inadequate to the task of managing life by ourselves. (Any honest and thoughtful person who has reached middle age should be able to vouch for the truth of this from his or her own experience.) Not that we are not blessed with many capabilities and competencies, but rather that ordinary life will regularly bring us to the limits of those God-given skills and talents, and, therefore, we need help from outside of ourselves.

Sure, we can “turn in” to a certain extent. We do often have an inner strength that we have not fully tapped and can turn to in challenging situations. Realizing that and “manning up” may be part of a helpful response. But too much focus on finding solutions on the inside may prevent us from turning outward, causing us to isolate ourselves, feeling alone and struggling alone with our problems.   That’s a bad idea.

We need to be ready to turn outward and share our struggles. The old saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” is true in my experience. Merely disclosing my issues to a trusted friend helps my stress level immediately, and then I often get helpful insight or advice. By design, God’s design, people need people. Stay connected with others. Help them and let them help you

By God’s design we also need him. He is the creator and sustainer of all things; our minute-to-minute existence depends on him. And creation is complicated. Who can understand it? Not us! But we know that God loves us and hears our prayers, and that in all things he is working for the good of those who love him. So in our struggles let’s be sure to turn upward to ask for his help and submit to his will.

Be thoughtful as you read the self-help posts (including this one) on LinkedIn or Facebook. Like the ancient Bereans, test all that you read or hear against the teaching of God and a mature Christian worldview. You probably have inner reserves of strength, perhaps it might even be okay to speak metaphorically of your “inner warrior,” but you absolutely do not have an “inner divinity” or “divine self” at your control. You are not God; you are not part of God, God is not part of you, and looking for your “inner divinity” is to turn your back on the one, true God. Don’t do that.

___________________________________

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5