The last few weeks have kept me extremely busy as I prepared to end one season of life and begin on another wild journey. Being far more busy than I anticipated has kept me from writing blogs consistently. And being the perfectionist that I am, that bothered me a lot. BUT, I’m back, friends! And have reached a place where I can healthily maneuver the stressors of life to write about, well, maneuvering the stressors of life.
After taking a few days of doing nothing but sun bathing poolside to recalibrate I considered all that has been weighing me down. That led me to take a walk and listen to a podcast on success where the speaker, Ray Zinn, was talking about how he became an entrepreneurial millionaire, or more specifically, how he managed the stress of his life to build a business of that stature. He said something that has stuck with me. He said, “Stress is okay if it’s held right. Think about pre-stressed concrete. Builders take rebar and put it under extreme stress before concrete is ever put on top of it. They do this because once the rebar is cured it can hold things together longer and hold a greater load. So being under stress is actually good as long as you can handle it. A certain amount of stress is necessary. You have to be willing to push yourself or you can’t actually succeed at much. As they say, ‘No pain, no gain.'”
His point –> stress makes you stronger.
I’ve grown up in a world where so much of the time you hear people trying to avoid stress or hearing about the woes and dangers of stress. That drives many people, myself included at times, to run from anything that wears you down or stresses you out. We end up seeking a life of ease and pleasure, that is ultimately non-existent, and (if ever found) not that exhilarating or satisfying.
God made us to work, conquer, push and challenge ourselves and not settle for the status quo or run at the slightest hint of pressure. I mean, how many people do you read about in Scripture that led status quo lives? And the facts are, a life destined for greatness is going to come with stress. If you think the Christian life, or any life worth living, is going to come without it you’re wrong. That’s where Ray Zinn’s piece of life advice is so right on when he says, “Stress is okay if it’s held right.” We’ve got to learn how to hold our stress. As millennials this can be tough because so much of life we are still figuring out. Some of us had effortless upbringings and others of us have only known struggle. We may or may not have watched adults handle stress well as we grew up, and now we’re left to make our peace with this beast. Don’t be like some millennials I’ve met who just flat out refuse to manage or even experience stress and their lives are characterized by laziness or the ones who’s idea of managing it is to get on drugs or other coping mechanisms.
Handling our own stress in this generation takes time. The nice thing about being a Christian millennial is that we have a secret weapon to handle stress known as Holy Spirit, and He’s pretty radical. He lightens the load quite a bit. He won’t remove all stress from our life, but He will empower us with what we need to conquer instead of cower. If you live a life avoiding all forms of stress to begin with, you never get to see HIM lighten that load or do the impossible before you and through you.
Stress, held right, makes you stronger in every way. It makes your spiritual life grow because stress causes you to cry out for God’s direction and He moves in ways you never could which causes your faith to enlarge. It makes your mental life grow because you begin to creatively register what you’re actually capable of. It causes your emotional life to stabilize because the joy and pride acquired from overcoming the impossible only propels you forward. And it even causes your physical life to improve because of all the dancing you’ll do when you see yourself succeed! #corny
We need to flip our perspective on stress and stop seeing it as an enemy and more of an ally. It cannot be avoided so we need to learn to see it as something that we can handle and use to our advantage. For example, I’ve begun to see that the failed romantic relationships of my past and the incredible stress that put my life under has actually worked to make me stronger. I will now be able to love my future spouse with so much more grace, fervency, mercy, and adoration because of how my love had been tested in the past. Like rebar in pre-stressed concrete, we carry our final load best because of all the stress we endured before it was ever poured on us. Seeing things from this perspective makes me thankful for the life I’ve led rather than cynical.
Ask Holy Spirit to begin to teach you how to manage your stress. Ask Him to show you where your human limits are and how to give Him what you cannot carry. Allow stress into your life but allow it under your terms. It is your ally, not your enemy. You may even find that you actually do your best work under highest stress. A life lived with well managed stress will compel you forward until what used to look like huge mountains of impossibility now look like tiny mole hills that you smash under the strength gained from trials. And later, you can help pull people out of their fear of stress to live a life of powerful rest. Stress can give more than it takes, it’s just a matter of perspective and spiritual empowerment.
Just remember, always let God work with you. In your weakness He is strong. You won’t get stronger trying to do everything on your own, all you’ll do is burn out. Who benefits in that situation?