I just got back from vacation so you would think I am stress-free. Judy and I spent a few days in the mountains Tennessee and several days on the beaches of Florida. I wore shorts everyday and never set an alarm clock the entire two weeks. We ate when and whatever we wanted. No stress?
I felt the stress of driving through pouring rain in the mountains of Kentucky. Windshield wipers going as fast as they would go but not fast enough. I felt the stress of finding a motel in downtown Gatlinburg during the busiest time of day. If felt the stress of trying to find how to get tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. If felt the stress of finding the right parking place so I could go to the beach. And of course I felt the stress of spending money. I even began to feel the stress of realizing that my vacation would soon be over. Stress can ruin the best of times.
Stress isn’t really about difficult circumstances. It is about our feeling and emotions about any situation. Stress is pressure and sometimes you feel pressure when none is present. It’s like thinking you are late for an event and realize you’re actually early. And sometimes you feel nothing when the world around you is pressing in. It’s like a child sitting in the back seat of the car watching Veggie Tales DVD while dad is in the front seat driving through crazy traffic.
I want to look at a Bible character who was stressed out. He was running on empty and ran out of emotional gas. He took it to the limit. But God met Him and filled his tank.
He was Elijah. He was a very courageous man that called fire down from Heaven. But soon after he found himself empty. So I want to look in this blog at some of the things that caused his stress. Then in a later post I will look at what God did for him.
To get the background, you will need to read this amazing story in 1 Kings 19 in the Bible.
There were four sources of stress in Elijah’s life. We can also find them in our life.
Elijah had an amazing victory on Mount Carmel. He called fire down from Heaven and destroyed hundreds of false prophets. In moments he was a big success. He was on a spiritual high and maybe thought since all the false prophets were dead, Jezebel was next. Little did he realize that the worst was yet to come.
Failure certainly has stress. But stress is also part of victory. Victory has its own unique stress. As stressful as gaining a victory is, maintaining a victorious life can be even more. What it takes to get to the top of the mountain is not what it takes to stay on top. The most vulnerable point in your life is right after you’ve experienced a great victory.
Jezebel flew into a rage and demanded his death. Her threats overrode his faith and he ran. He lost his confidence. Elijah should have laughed at her ‘gods’ since he just exposed their lack of power. But fear is not rational. His focus shifted from God to the problem. Instead of praying like he did on the mountain, he ran a full day’s journey into the wilderness to hide.
Remember this, the only hold the devil has on you is fear. He can’t harm you because the blood of Christ protects you. But he can make us afraid. When we run because of fear we will run right into stress. That’s what happened to Elijah. If you run from fear, you will be running your entire life because there is always something you that will be fearful.
Elijah was tired, exhuasted, burned out, and fearful. He was running on empty. He had nothing left to give. On top of all his problems, he was all alone. He left his servant in Judah, and went a full day’s journey by himself. He was all alone and felt the stress of loneliness.
One of the great dangers of stress is you turn inward, away from others. When we’re hurting, we withdraw. Instead of reaching out, we pull into our shells. And then we wonder why we feel so alone. We think no one understands so we don’t share our stress with others.
Elijah ran and fell under a tree. He felt so bad he wanted to die. He let himself feel like the victim. ‘Poor me.’ He thought he had to be better than ‘his fathers.’ But nobody expected him to be better than anyone else. He set his own standard and when he didn’t match it, self pity set in.
The problem with throwing a pity party for yourself is you’re the only one invited. Sometimes self-pity looks like humility. We feel like a failure and want to quit. The stress of failure is too much. But self-pity is really pride in disguise. Even if we’ve failed, God still wants to use us for a greater purpose.
What are some things that cause you stress? Your stressors might be real or imaginary. They may seem more than you can bear. But through Christ, you can handle any stress that comes in your life. He is more than enough to strengthen you.