When You’re Drowning In Stress

by Michael J. Klassen

Ever feel like this?Over the last 6 weeks, the Klassen household has been dogpaddling in chaos. We’re in the middle of a house remodel in three stages. As I write, I’m sitting on my couch in our living room, facing bookshelves from my office and, leaning against it, a mattress from one of our bedrooms. Lining the fireplace is a pile of miscellaneous books and papers from my home office, which I affectionately consider my sanctuary, safe haven, and man cave, all in one. I miss it.

The summer weather finally arrived here in Colorado, albeit three weeks late, so the windows are open. But alas, two homes directly across the street are in various stages of construction, so the din of bulldozers and smell of exhaust do whatever they can to offend my senses.

And did I mention the new Golden Retriever puppy we just adopted, coinciding with the remodel? Bella is four months old and full of unrelenting energy, chewing, mischief, and distraction.

By day I try to work efficiently and by night Kelley and I wile away our extra time painting walls, ripping out carpet, or moving furniture from one temporary location to another.

Not to mention the four women in our house—two of whom are 14 year olds. If we’re dogpaddling in chaos, then I’m drowning in a sea of estrogen. Broadway should commission a screenplay based on the four Klassen women because drama is definitely on stage.

Sometimes I think I’m on the verge of losing my mind.

Every day Kelley and I remind ourselves, “When the remodel is finished, it’ll be worth it.” But in the meantime, we’re just trying to hold it together.

Without a doubt, you’ve faced overwhelming situations. They might not involve home remodels and 14-year-old drama queens, but they could be just as stressful or even worse:

A difficult boss at work
A troubled marriage
Terminal illness
Deep sadness or depression

And, if you’re like me, you want to scream…or at least take a long vacation.

The Good News (Or Is It Bad News?) About Stress

Jesus was about to walk the long, lonely road to the cross. In his final moments with his disciples, they broke bread, he washed their feet, and then left his final words. With just a few moments remaining, Jesus began speaking very directly to his closest friends. No more figurative speech, they needed straight talk.

Then he explained, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone” (John 16:32)

Jesus reassured them that he would be okay because his Father was with them, but then he gave them a strange promise:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Did you catch that?

Jesus promised that they would have trouble. The Greek word for “trouble” means “suffering” or “persecution.” Chaos, stress, grief, misunderstanding, unemployment–none would be averted by even his closest friends.

Stress Is Part Of The Job Description

In the movie Private Benjamin, Judy Benjamin is a young, distraught high society widow. In her grief she happens upon an army recruiter who promises a career of fun, adventure, and exotic travel. Benjamin, played by Goldie Hawn, enthusiastically enlists. But after finding herself immersed in the stress of boot camp, she confronts her commanding officer.

“I think they sent me to the wrong place,” Private Benjamin confides. “See, I did join the army, but I joined a ‘different’ army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms.”

When we’re drowning in a sea of sorrow or stress or conflict, how often do we tell God, “Excuse me! I think I landed in the wrong faith. See, I became a follower of Christ, but I followed a ‘different’ Christ. I followed a Christ who guarantees good health, provision, and stress-free living. I didn’t sign up for this!”

Yet Jesus issued us a promise: As long as we’re living in this world, we’re going to experience suffering, pain, sickness, sorrow, sadness, hardship, poverty.

Feeling hopeful?

You Can’t Overcome The Stress On Your Own

The good news is, Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our trouble. He concluded his remarks with these important words:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He didn’t say, “You can do it! You can overcome the world. Just take the bull by the horns, believe in yourself, and will your way through it.”

Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”

It’s interesting that he spoke in past tense—“have overcome,” not “will overcome”—because the cross still stood before him.

You can’t will your way through trouble. You can’t overcome. But Jesus can and he has.

So where does that leave us?

Jesus offers us the invitation to draw close to him, to abide in him. In this same conversation with his disciples, he called them to abide, remain, in him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Apart from him, we can do nothing.

Trouble may be unavoidable, but as we press in to Christ, as we immerse ourselves in knowing him and communing with him, we can experience true peace.

Regardless of the chaos that may be reigning in your house.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “When You’re Drowning In Stress

  1. John Moyer

    There’s a cute little wooden sign hanging in the kitchen of a church, not far from here in the foothills west of Denver. It states “put on your big girl pants and deal with your problems!” So what’s that mean? In the midst of choas and uncertainty, grow up, get serious, dig down deep and solve the issue? Maybe look at the problem with wise counsel, stop whining and move on. It seems so trite.
    I have been attending that church where the big girl pants sign hangs in the kitchen. It’s been thru a split, new pastoring, fiscal woes, now facing huge debt issues with dwindling attendance and miniscule giving. The leadership is doing as best they can (I guess) in working out a solution. The uncertainty is chaotic and very unsettling, the worse kind of change.
    Jesus won’t abandon the church in turmoil but it’s so hard to stand by and watch the ship burn and sink.
    Do I sit tight, hang in there and get pants in a wad, or at my age, seek another church community?
    My wise counsel says…move on to another church!

    • Georgie-ann

      Dear Dr. John,…I’ve laughed at similar “big girl” signs that I’ve come across in recent years — some things ARE funny, even if a little bit “skewed off the mark.” It seems actually appropriately aimed at some of the modern “teen age drama queens” that our society has spawned — “precocious little girls” in big grown-up bodies? — who are resisting actual maturity. With not too many great “popular” examples to lead and inspire them, who can blame them??

      Well, I certainly DON’T want to “get into” THAT issue very much(!), only to say that I think that the sign’s message is some kind of point-of-view “fall-out” resulting from the feminist movement, and as such is both partial (and misleading) in insight and sad — after the first inclination to laugh. It is sad that girls are under a kind of pressure to “deal with” life, things, as if they should be able to DO it, handle it, all on their own as a “BIG girl.”

      All I know is, I never could! I’d rather see some kind of acknowledgement that we need to surrender our “independent, opinionated” selves to God, and hope for deliverance from this “power” feminist thingy that’s been going on — it could bring about “a whole new world!”

  2. And I know the person who placed the sign in the church kitchen.

    Wish I could give you “wise” counsel, which would probably be contrary to what other people say. In John 16, Jesus said the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth. I know it probably sounds trite, but the Spirit is already telling you what to do.

    Thanks for your insights, John.

  3. Georgie-ann

    Matthew 11:28-30

    28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and LEARN from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    Christ has come to help us bear our burdens. Only in cartoons or via visual “special effects” in films do we really “imagine” that we can escape and supersede earthly “laws” like gravity and time and effort and elbow grease and fatigue and,…stress. Often our eyes and imaginations have become conditioned to be “bigger than our stomachs,” or pocketbooks, or energy levels, or whatever. Sometimes we feel we’ve “gotten in over our heads,” or way overextended ourselves!

    There are Christians whose cultural traditions hearken from “days of yore,” and very often — in contrast to our prolific times — they emphasize Simplicity, Peace, Patience, virtues perhaps “learned” from Christ. But it does happen that even their own youngsters may find them to be Very Boring, or busy moderns will fail to gel with their quiet, unpretentious (but enforced, disciplined) tempo.

    As we get older, having attempted to climb many an earthly mountain, and sometimes feeling “en route” that our stamina just might be about to “give out,” never to return, we learn to appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that God is able to renew within us, the wisdom to rest and regroup, the satisfaction of “extreme goals” accomplished, and the indelible memories of times spent working together on those “impossible” projects!

    But ultimately, the “status quo” will probably start looking “just fine” again — “thank you very much!” Given enough time and “water over the dam,” Simplicity, Peace, and Patience will inevitably bubble back up to the surface as big winners in the virtues department. It’s always “Sweet” to go visit Grandma’s house — to a youngster’s eyes, the dated wallpaper and furnishings recall and remind of the truth of the “ancient history” of days gone by, accompanied by those warm cookies coming from the oven, and eternal love.

    God understands all the stages and needs of our lives. He walks with us through it all, giving us strength, wisdom, insight, purpose, endurance, heart — we never have enough of these things “on our own” to supply all the demands that will face us.

    Lamentations 3:21-26

    21 “But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation:

    22 “It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.

    23 “They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

    24 “The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.

    25 “The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word].

    26 “It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.”

  4. Mike

    Michael
    Your post reminds me of a recent conversation about the absolute essentials of our Christian faith. “Jesus is Lord” was the earliest declaration of faith but when a fuller statement was penned, The Apostles’ Creed, it states more fully some facts about Jesus, God and The Church’s faith. Have you noticed that in it there is not one mention of any act or teaching of Jesus? Nothing is there about his ethic or sermons, the things that many folks claim to find fascinating about Jesus ( our President for one). What the creed states is that Jesus, God’s ONLY son, “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. The third day he arose again from the dead and ascended into Heaven.” Now he is judge between living and dead.
    The critical facts about Jesus pertain to who he is. The risen Lord.
    In the midst of chaos about what we should believe and do, in church or in chaotic life it is easy to forget the foundation.
    Presently I am preparing, after 5 weeks of water, for installation of interior drainage of our basement. We are in a mess! I can relate! But the entire house is in danger from water if we don’t go through the mess and work and discomfort and inconvenience and expense of time and money and frustration of moving absolutely everything away from the walls or out entirely so they can make dust of our floor with a jackhammer.
    Do our home situations have any similarity to the condition of our churches or our nation? It seems to me that very few are willing to exert the effort or to agree to any compromise that would stem a growing deterioration.
    As Christians we should be more aware of this as part of life since Jesus warned us.
    Thanks for your reminder of what Jesus said.
    Mike

  5. Georgie-ann

    Dear Lord God,

    For all those who love you and your Word and your Holy Spirit, and who are finding themselves severely challenged by the extremes happening in the environment(s) in which they live, I pray and ask you for a blessing upon them that will strengthen their faith, lift up their arms, and bring guidance and direction and correction and help to them in the needs that they are facing. Have mercy on the innocent. As to the spiritual needs of our distracted, deteriorating, and philosophically malignant hedonistic nation, in denial of and disregarding the importance of its great heritage in you, I ask for forgiveness and for repentance. Have mercy on your people, Lord. Open our eyes. Increase our understanding. Increase our faith and our respect. Forgive us, Lord. Heal us, Lord. In Jesus’ Holy Name, we pray.

    Amen.

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