By mercy and faithfulness, peace is made with the Lord.
By the fear of the Lord, evil is avoided.
When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:6-7 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 16:1-15 GW)
Stress—continuous and sustained—is unhealthy. This is well-documented and verified through life experience. Unhealthy stress can be emotional, mental, or physical—sometimes it’s all three at once. Stress can be self-induced but also beyond a person’s control.
Some common advice today is—focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control. This is echoed by gifted athletes and business leaders alike. If only it were that easy!
People in war-torn nations and refugees seeking safety from war and oppression are in situations way beyond their control. Still, they look for ways to create a sense of normality and safety in whatever way they can.
Those of us in less desperate conditions may have a lot more freedom and opportunity to exert control over stress in our lives. Yet, too often we add stress rather than lessen it. This is unnecessary stress we choose to live under daily—often by default.
Think about what causes stress in your life. Now, consider how things might be different without certain stresses and what that would mean for you.
What do you have control over? What can you do about it?
Even when we focus on what we can control, it’s usually external things—what we do with our time, how we do our work, who we spend time with, and so on.
Not all unhealthy stress can be relieved by changing things outside of us. Why? Because we tend to bring unhealthy stress on ourselves.
This is where we need to consider what we worry about and why we do. Such things are often called first-world concerns—what we think we need and what we want are easily confused.
What if unhealthy stress can be relieved in a simpler and better way?
Think internal rather external. Think surrender rather than control. Yes, surrender.
When everything depends on us—our ability, our strength, our efforts—it’s a never-ending strain that produces and adds its own stress.
When we trust in the Lord—the way a young child trusts her parents—we learn to surrender and submit our worries and concerns to the Lord. This reduces our stress.
But how do we go about this in everyday life and within environments and situations where we are not in control?
We can choose how we respond rather than react to situations and people we encounter in a given day. We can extend mercy where our tendency is to be judgmental and harsh. We can remain faithful when dealing with inequity and unfairness.
When we choose to be peacemakers, God extends peace to us, as well as through us. When we choose the path of godly fear and integrity, we’ll avoid the evil others encounter.
And here’s the best part—God will extend His peace in our life so that even those who seem to be enemies will be at peace with us. This is a peace and a way of life guaranteed to reduce stress!
We can choose how we respond rather than react and choose the path of godly fear and integrity instead of the path everyone else follows. As we extend mercy and peace to others, we’ll experience God’s peace and freedom from unnecessary stress in our life.
Begin each day in surrender to the Lord, asking Him to help you show mercy to others and for strength to be faithful in the midst of difficult and unfaithful times. Pursue peace with God and ask for His wisdom to navigate each day.
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