When the topic of stress comes up, it is usually to remind us of how stress can be harmful to our health and overall well-being. You rarely, if ever, hear that stress is part of a meaningful life.
As a Christian leader I use to attend a number of leadership events every year. I would often hear warnings about stress and ways to avoid it. Sometimes it was even presented in ways that caused me to feel ashamed that I was working hard and putting in long hours in the trenches of “pastor-preneuring” the church I had just planted. I never remember anyone explaining that stress actually has an upside. Not all stress is bad stress, and to live with no stress is an unreasonable goal if you want to have a meaningful life. There’s no shame in stepping into stress. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong, and it doesn’t make you less spiritual.
Jesus had stress. In fact, Scripture says He sweated blood, which can happen when our body is reacting to extreme stress.
The disciples had stress. The mission they were on required them to embrace stress.
The heroes of the Bible had stress. The goal was not to have a stress-free life.
Marriage has stress. When two different people (often opposite in personality) decide to do life together, they are committing themselves to a journey that includes its share of stress.
Family has stress. Children are a blessing, but parenting is stress on steroids.
You and I are no different. We will have stress if we have a job, and stress if we don’t have a job. We’ll have stress if we have lots of money or don’t have any money. There’s no such thing as a stress-free life!
In the move The Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa (the meerkat and the warthog) try to convince Simba, a young lion cub, to go after the stress-free life. They called it hakuna matata, which translates from Swahili as “there are no troubles.” It sounded great to young Simba, but the problem was that in the pursuit of hakuna matata, he would miss out on his future. Simba’s father, Mufasa, was king of the Pride Lands, and Simba’s destiny was to take over as the king. In the end he made the choice to give up the pursuit of trouble-free life and embrace the problems and the stress that go along with a life of meaning and purpose.
What’s true in Simba’s story is true in our story. We have absolutely zero chance of living a stress-free life and a meaningful life at the same time.
Jesus taught us that there’s no such thing as a hakuna matata life here on earth: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus is saying, “Trouble is unavoidable in the place that I have assigned to you. I’ve told you these things to give you peace in the trouble-filled, tension-filled places that I’ve assigned you to be.” He’s saying, “My peace, the peace that I can offer, is not limited to peaceful environments and peaceful circumstances. My eace goes with you unto places I’m sending you.”
It always amazes me when I come across people who avoid pressure, because they want to be where God is, and they assume God’s not in the stress. They think God stays in the quiet, calm setting with serene surroundings. That’s like saying God keeps to the quite outdoors and spas. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good idea to go somewhere quiet and peaceful to get recharged. At the same time, we have to get free of the idea that God is only in the quiet places. We need to start seeing Him in the noisy, loud, turbulent, pressure-filled places that He’s assigned us to.
The good stuff happens in the place of pressure. Pressure is where giants like Goliath fall. Pressure is where battles are won. Pressure is where diamonds are formed and babies are born.
The pressure pf problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. While it’s true that sometimes God wants us to leave the tension and go to the peaceful place, He’s actually assigned us and called us to live in the wild. To stay in the streets. To have peace in the place of our assignments. God doesn’t wait for us to leave the pressure cooker and come to Him in the quiet place. God is in the chaotic and tension-filled places, too. He is in the stress, too!
Everything that’s worth something has a price. All progress has opposition and all advancement has adversity. When you find yourself in wild and crazy situations at school, at work, and in your family, you may feel tempted to withdraw or even to run the other way. But before you do, ask yourself, Is this where I’m meant to be? Is this what I’m here to do? Because the place you want to run from is often the place God has assigned you to. If He assigned you to that place, He is with you in that place. Start to see Him there.
God was in Babylon with Daniel and closed the mouths of the lions. God was in Macedonia with Paul and Silas and opened the doors of their jail cell. God puts us in places that are stressful to achieve the work He wants to do in that place. But He doesn’t just send us. He is there with us. God is in the stress.