Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was “Pressed” with everyday concerns.
“I will have two orders of chicken, a hamburger, and french fries,” I said to the voice on the phone.
“All right,” the voice responded, “But it will take about half an hour, we are kinda busy now.”
Deciding it was worth the wait, I tried to make good use of the half hour. When I drove up to the drive-in window, I immediately understood why they were so busy. Three large busses were parked in the back. Young men in uniforms were everywhere. It was an invasion of service men moving from one place to another and, they were having a stop-over for a meal. Still the most vivid scene came when I got out of the car. The people working inside were moving at an unbelievable pace. They seemed to be frantic. Suffering was on the face of some of the help.
Is this not an analogy of modem living? Pressure seems to be a principal characteristic of our time. Our jobs, our families, outside activities, and a thousand other responsibilities stand in line, impatiently waiting for us. Apparently we do not dare slow down for a minute. Yet, do we dare keep going as we are?
According to doctors and researchers, stress can produce some very harmful effects, both physical and emotional. The heart and nervous system are particularly vulnerable. There are people occupying hospital beds with all sorts of maladies that stem from their difficulty in handling pressure.
Anxiety-filled people can easily pass on their stress to those around them, says Dr. Robert Amstadter, medical director of the Center for Psychological Growth and Development in Tustin, California.
Stress can have equally devastating effects on young and old alike. Often it brings out the worst in young and older people. One of two things usually happens. They may panic, the youngsters may have irrational fears, which make matters worse, or they may become depressed. Many turn to escape mechanisms that can do more harm than good. Many parents give their children mild forms of tranquillizers and give themselves more powerful ones. All this is dangerous, when youth and adults depend on pills. The most effective way of handling stress is Jesus’ way. Superficially, Jesus’ life may seem irrelevant to our modern-day pressures. After all, is not this a radically different world than what it was two thousand years ago? True, but it would be hard to conceive of anyone facing more pressure than Jesus did.
JESUS POSSESSED AN INNER CALMNESS IN EVERY SITUATION. EVEN WHEN HE WAS CAPTURED BY HIS ENEMIES IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, HE WAS THE CALMEST PERSON THERE.
The Bible describes how the crowds continually “pressed” around Jesus and His disciples (see Luke 8:42). Many of these people had needs. They were desperately wanting Jesus to take care of them. Some had severe physical problems. Others cried out for spiritual help. The enemies of Jesus were continually causing stress in Jesus’ life. They tried to trick Him with loaded questions, false accusations and other devices they could to discredit Him. Ultimately they sought ways to kill Him.
Another group was interested in using Jesus politically. After all, a man who could perform miracles could very easily destroy the yoke of Romanism that held down the children of Israel. Jesus keenly felt the pressure from them to further their aims.
Jesus faced great pressure from spiritual sources. Satan’s temptations were as real to Him as they are to us. Jesus knew that His Father expected Him to be the Lamb of God. He knew that His work here on earth was not an entirely enviable task. It meant sacrifices to give His body as the true sacrifice. His life shows us today how we should act under stress. It helps to know how Jesus handled pressure, just as it helps us to know what He said and how He loved.
One day, in the life of Jesus, He asked the disciples to take Him across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been speaking to the people from the ship and now He went in to the hinder part of the ship and relaxed and fell asleep. And there arose a “great storm and the waves beat into the ship so that the ship was being filled with water.” Jesus was in the hinder part of the ship “asleep on a pillow.” The disciples had to wake up Jesus. They were in stress and believed they would drown. “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves. There was a great calm. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Why are ye so fearful?” Why are the disciples so full of stress? “They feared exceedingly.” In other words they all were full of pressure. They thought they had reached the end of their lives. And Jesus was so calm. He asked the disciples, “how is it that ye have no faith?” (See Mark 4:35-41). “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). It is faith that will remove pressure and stress.
One thing that should be learned from the life of Jesus is that He never panicked. In spite of the great demands placed upon Him, He refused to do so. Jesus possessed an inner calmness in every situation. Even when He was captured by His enemies in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was the calmest person there. His disciples were panicky. His captors were unsure of themselves. Even Judas hesitated to kiss Jesus. Think about it. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus was never in a hurry. There were so many things Jesus knew that needed to be done, yet he had to accept the limitations of one living in the flesh. He did one thing at a time. There are often several different directions that one should be going. But getting in a hurry can be self defeating, as well. The person who tries to run faster than his legs can carry him will end up falling all over himself.
Just as Jesus refused to panic, He refused the route of escape as a response to His pressure. At the very outset of His ministry, He entered into a head on confrontation with Satan, the tempter. From there, a needy and sinful world was awaiting Him. When He knew He must journey to Jerusalem, which meant almost certain death, He turned toward that city and strode ahead of the disciples (Mark 10:32). Even as He considered the prospect of death, He prayed, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
Escape is no solution to stress. Inevitably, it causes pressure to increase. This is not to say that a rest cannot be helpful. Jesus took time to rest. There is a certain point, however, when resting turns into escaping. Once our need for rest has been satisfied, responsibilities must be faced once again. Jesus’ practice of getting away to pray was vastly different from an escape. Some common escapes are drugs, alcohol, or just ignoring matters. The trouble with this is that they do not do anything about solving their problems. They are only temporary in their effects. Moreover, if one depends too heavily on them, he becomes helpless in the face of reality.
Prayer on the other hand, leads to renewal. When Jesus prayed, He returned to His responsibilities with new strength and vitality. He prayed and it made Him better prepared to face the pressure or stress. Jesus gave prayer a high priority. Even when He was being pressed upon by the many demands of the people, He took time to pray. His example shows us that the benefits to be gained through prayer adequately compensate for the time spent. There are at least three positive results from prayer that helped Jesus handle stress.
First, prayer gave Jesus confidence. There were times when He had every reason to feel discouraged. Few people really understood Him. Even His own disciples had difficulty in comprehending Jesus’ purpose. How could His mission be fulfilled when so much was working against Him? Prayer renewed His confidence. In His moments alone with His Father, Jesus obtained a surer grasp of who He was. He was the Son of God. We should receive the same assurance. We are children of God also. God was using His Son, Jesus, and He wants to use you, His son and daughter, too. This is His plan and His purpose on earth until His Son returns again.
Second, prayer also furnished Jesus with perspective. It helped Him to “see it as it is.” Trivial things can sometimes appear more important than they really are. Inconsequential matters posed no threat to Jesus’ vision--what really mattered. Communion with God helped Him keep things in proper form.
The third benefit Jesus gained from prayer was healing. Doctors claim the mental strain is harder on us than physical strain. Furthermore, mental strain affects the body. For Jesus, prayer must have been a time of letting go before His Father. The strains and stresses could ease. In God’s healing presence, He found rest and satisfaction.
Jesus’ prayer life was an integral part to His relationship with His Father. Everyone’s prayer life must also be centered on God our heavenly Father. That relationship between you and the Father in Heaven is the key to your ability to handle stress. Because of Christ’s absolute trust in His Father, He was able to live a pressure-filled life without panicking or giving in to depression. This is a must for all of us. Trust in God. We all must have an affirmative response to the will of God. It is thus compounded of belief and trust, with an attitude that we completely rely upon our Father. Jesus could have been overcome--but He overcame. Jesus said that what He did we should do also. “...and this is the victory that overcometh the world...” (I John 5:4).
From “The Advocate of Truth”. November 22, 2010.
The Church of God - Publishing House - Salem, West Virginia