Stress. That tiny, five letter word that can turn your world upside down and wreak havoc to your body.
You can probably relate to the problem of stress in your life. It’s no stranger to most of us. Each of us experience crazy, chaotic moments. Emergency visits to the ER with our loved ones, prolonged physical sickness, on-going financial stress, kids wearing our patience thin, misunderstandings with our spouse, church-related issues, or teenagers who make us wonder if God really knew that we could do this thing called “parenting”.
Stress is not pretty, or fun, or completely unavoidable. I don’t know about you, but some days I’ve wished I could simply stay in bed and watch the world go by without me. Until I experienced this actually happen. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather feel well enough to deal with stress than be in bed because of it. I handle stress much differently now than I used to, and it took me quite a long time to understand why.
I’ve been struggling with adrenal fatigue for quite a few years. But I wasn’t forced to actually deal with it and focus on my healing until the past two years. Since then, I’ve interacted with many, many individuals who are struggling in the same way. And I have compassion and empathy for each of them. It can be an extremely difficult and taxing journey.
I used to be a fairly strong person, undaunted by most of life’s challenges. I plunged into the life-threatening circumstances we faced, determined to find answers and healing for our children. I was the “strong mom” the nurses and doctors would allow to stay in the room for procedures because they knew I would be comforting my child rather than “losing it” like some did. Weeks, months…years of our lives were spent in the hospital with our children. But a few years ago, my ability to handle stress changed.
It’s become harder for me to handle much stress. Even stress that doesn’t seem big to others. Tests results have shown that because of the years and years of ongoing stress, my cortisol levels are extremely out of balance and I’m experiencing symptoms because of it.
For instance, I recently was feeling good, but after a rather full week, I suddenly had an episode of extreme dizziness/faintness and low blood pressure that put me flat in bed for over twenty-four hours. With no warning. I’m still trying to find complete healing for my adrenal glands (although I thank God that I’m much better than I was a year ago). We continue to try finding the proper balance of reaching out and ministering to others within proper boundaries.
From a spiritual perspective, I thank God that I’m a stronger person than I was during the years our children were in the hospital. My faith has grown tremendously because of our journey. But physically, I’m seeing the results of the tremendous stress we carried for so many years. During this time, I couldn’t tell how the stress was taking its toll, in spite of my doctor’s warnings.
So, where does God’s grace fit in while we’re dealing with stress? And should true, faith-filled believers ever become stressed out?
You may believe a faith-filled Christian should be able to gracefully handle stress. I agree. (Just as we should be able to always remain grateful.) But I also understand that physical health conditions will affect how well we handle stress. I’m fairly certain we’re more likely to show a bit more compassion to others who are “stressed out” after we personally experience a month-long hospitalization of our spouse or child.
Years ago, doctors would say some individuals would have a “nervous breakdown.” (Some times these issues are caused by spiritual issues, but they can also be caused by physical stress, poor diet and emotional stress.) Our doctor friend told me years ago, “nerves don’t break down, but adrenals do.” Too much stress can be debilitating and even life threatening.
Unfortunately, the “church” is known to be quick to judge and spiritualize someone else’s physical struggles. Especially when it seems to affect them emotionally and mentally. We seem to forget that we are physical, emotional and spiritual beings. Whenever we struggle spiritually, it also affects us emotionally and physically. In the same way, when our issue is physical related, it often affects us emotionally and spiritually. Whenever we struggle in any way, we want understanding and compassion while walking through a dark and painful journey. But then why are we so quick to judge others?
Let’s compare this to our spiritual lives. Romans 6: 14 says that, “…sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” This is talking about a believer living victoriously over sin. Yet, as Christians we still stumble into sin. We struggle with bad attitudes, become angry or fearful. Yes, God’s grace is available. But we will still struggle spiritually until the day we die.
My friend, I could write many blogs simply testifying about how God’s grace has carried us so many times. Every time we share our testimony, the theme of grace is repeatedly shared. However, God’s grace doesn’t necessarily override His law of physics and consequences. If you smoke, you will likely have lung damage. If you continue to overeat, you will probably become obese. If you face lots of ongoing stress—years on end, you will likely struggle with some level of adrenal fatigue.
My husband and I recently met with many different individuals who are intensely struggling with health challenges related to cancer, adrenal fatigue, children with special needs, heart issues and multiple other physical conditions. Many of them didn’t need us to try to help them figure out what was spiritually wrong in their lives. They had already asked God to show them if there was something spiritual that was causing the problem—more than once. But some of them have been deeply hurt because of judgmental “religious” attitudes of others. And it breaks my heart.
Yes, there’s a time and place to help others identify spiritual root issues. And we’ve done that multiple times. But when doing so, they need the assurance that when God brings conviction, it’s always in a gentle voice. And never with accusing condemnation. The church should be much more eager to give a helping hand than a pointing finger.
God’s grace is sufficient to prevent us from developing a victim mentality. Grace enables us to grow spiritually even if we weaken physically. The supernatural grace of God propels us to forgive those who un-lovingly judge us, showing no empathy.
My heart’s cry is that our churches would have greater compassion, less judgement, and more love shown to those who are struggling. Physically, emotionally, or spiritually. We won’t always be able to avoid all stress in our lives, but, in developing a caring heart, may God help us not to be the cause of someone’s else’s.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)