Paul writes some pretty straightforward words to the Christians at Philippi about how to overcome anxiety.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a problem-free nor a stress-free life. That’s simply not possible. Our bodies were created to deal with stress in a healthy way. But stress that is unhealthy, or unnecessarily prolonged, or not flushed properly from the body becomes anxiety. Anxiety is the culprit responsible for a whole list of bad things!
When we face a stressor, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. The main function of this hormone is to prepare us to fight or flight. Sometimes this looks like over-engaging in problem-solving, and sometimes it looks like complete withdraw from life. Sometimes cortisol leads to sleeplessness and a diminished appetite, and sometimes it makes people sleepy and craving comfort food.
But the bottom line is the fight-or-flight response is very me focused!
The strategies Paul lists for us take the focus off me and put it on God. He especially counsels us to pray to God and to praise God. Between these two healthy responses is something unexpected. He writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
What in the world does gentleness have to do with relieving stress?!
First, let’s consider the motivation: The Lord is near. I think this could mean:
- The Lord’s name is near, as in we are called “Christians” and so we should act in a way that glorifies God.
- The Lord is near to help us.
- The Lord’s return is closing in where we will have to give an account of how we have lived our lives.
Then there is this word gentleness. This word means:
- considerate of others
- patience toward our situation and toward others
- or as The Message says: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.
Cortisol is naturally removed from our physical bodies through rest and exercise. Anxiety is naturally removed from our emotional lives the same way—resting in God’s presence (honk!) and gently and considerately exercising a blessing for someone else.
THE BEST WAY TO DE-STRESS IS TO BLESS!
Don’t let stress win by making you self-centered. Defeat stress and anxiety by praising God and blessings others. And then make that a daily habit!