We live in a stressed out society. According to the American Institute for Stress, About 33% of people report feeling extreme stress, 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health, 73% of people have stress that impacts their mental health, 48% of people have trouble sleeping because of stress, and stress is the leading health concern for people ages 12-18. Can you even wrap your mind around these unsettling numbers?
The statistics are staggering, but we must also remind ourselves that each statistic tells a story. Every percentage point represents thousands of real people just like you. They’re struggling to sleep at night, feeling overwhelmed, and don’t know when relief will come. Truly, the tragedy of anxiety has consumed our world.
The Apostle Paul’s Secret to Overcoming Stress
Paul saw his friends’ pain, trauma, and suffering in Philippi, so he wanted to share how he overcame similar situations. In Philippians 4, he taught them about the power of prayer, gratitude, and a positive perspective. In the letter’s closing, he shared his secret recipe for overcoming stress:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:10-13
With chains bound to his bruised wrists, Paul should have been stressed, discouraged, and anxious. However, he wrote a surprisingly optimistic closing of Philippians to tell his friends how he overcame stress and continued to stand strong. What is his secret recipe for overcoming stress?
Paul proposed a new strategy for anxiety – be content with where you are, what you have, and whom you have become. Paul learned how to be grateful for what he had, which is impressive when you realize how little it was. He used to be a wealthy man, but now he lived in a filthy jail cell. He used to travel the world preaching, but now he was chained to a desk. Paul used to have friends and family, but now he had an armed guard breathing down his neck. How could he seem so happy?
If your happiness depends on where you work, your net worth, and your success, then you are dealing with discontentment. A lack of gratitude remains the perfect breeding ground for stress because it makes us focus on what we perceive as “missing.” Why is that dangerous? Stress blinds us by making us fixate on what we lack instead of what we have.
Paul’s peace was not dependent on what he had. It was dependent on Christ and Christ alone. If he looked at his physical benefits, the inventory would be dismal. Fortunately, he looked at a different source for contentment. He was given the love of Jesus, the acceptance of the Father, the forgiveness of sins, and the confidence of salvation. Simply put, Paul had Jesus, and that was enough.
Most people assume the path to peace is the pursuit of happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happy? The thought is especially captivating in the context of an anxious mind. I’d like to suggest, that there is something more important than happiness though. It’s joy. Happiness is great, but it is based on the word “happen.” Thus, it’s all built around things that happen to us. Joy comes from within. It’s based on what’s happening within us, not around us.
As we recover from stressful thoughts, this proves something powerful for all of us. Joy is found in Jesus. Happiness will come and go, but joy stays. Why? Since Jesus refuses to leave you, joy is always within you.
The closing thought of Paul’s teaching is Philippians 4:13. This mass-quoted verse reads, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Isn’t Paul’s confidence contagious? We can do all things with Jesus on our side.
The context of this verse is often lost when quoted by itself. Paul is talking about our thought lives, stress, and uncovering contentment. Doesn’t that make this phrase all the more encouraging? This verse is a reminder that God can bring you through anything. Paul realized something that all of us should: true contentment isn’t related to your current situation; it’s anchored in Jesus.
Your circumstances are forever changing, but God never changes. Paul could find true peace because his joy didn’t rely on his situation. This passage contains a peaceful promise. You can have complete victory over any circumstance because Jesus will give you the strength to succeed.
12-Minute Video Bible Study About Overcoming Stress From the LFC circles App:
Watch more Bible studies by downloading the free LFC circles App in any app store.
Note: Anxiety is a loaded topic, ranging from manageable anxiousness triggered by stressors to a mental illness needing professional help. For the sake of this blog, we are discussing everyday stress and anxiety, not an anxiety disorder. If you fear you may have an anxiety disorder, then please seek professional support.
Some people need to work through life with the help of Jesus and a doctor. That’s okay. Some people need both prayer and prescriptions. That’s okay too. Some of us can deal with our anxiety and stress with healthy spiritual and physical habits. Others have an actual chemical imbalance within their body where their stress messengers are constantly sending false signals to their brain. They need people on their team to help fight that battle. Anxiety and depression go much further than nervousness and sadness.
For some people, these feelings can be debilitating. If that’s you, please don’t try to fight this alone. Seek support.