Among the top bestsellers this year are coloring books for adults. Apparently, the rage is another technique for people to deal with their stress. One publisher of the books said that “People are stressed and anxious all the time. Coloring is a way to calm down and unwind at the end of the day.”
So we can now add adult coloring books to other stress-relieving activities devised by man, such as meditation, yoga, walking, deep breathing, soft music, essential oils, massage, herbal teas, escapist books, and medications such as sedatives and muscle relaxers, just to name a few.
Some of these can be good at times. It’s not my purpose to bash techniques or activities that attenuate stress. I’ve used some of these myself.
I do wish, however, to point to the deep and powerful resources available to the saints of God. Such resources go far beyond the limited, temporary relief that one can find in the list above. More than mere stress relievers, they transform the burdened heart infusing it with joy, peace, and contentment.
My list is suggestive, not exhaustive. You’ll likely not be surprised by what’s included here.
1. God’s Word. Stress is caused mostly by our thoughts and by the emotions they produce. The Bible provides us with new thoughts of empowerment, hope, faith, and love. A focus upon the eternal plan of God and the redemption that is in Christ completely resets the mind. The twin truths that God is great and good, as the children’s prayer states, change perspective in an instant. Reading the Bible puts God squarely in the center of our attentions. Thinking upon the excellent things of God and practicing them brings his peaceful presence, Philippians 4.8-9. There is no substitute, therefore, for the voracious reading of Scripture.
2. Prayer. The apostle Paul made the connection between prayer and peace clearly.
Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4.6-7 NET
Prayer is not a mere mechanism to bring us peace of mind, but as we deliver our concerns up to God, we discover an unfathomable peace that takes control of our being. In prayer, we relinquish control and give it to God; we submit to the will of God; we acknowledge the wisdom of God; we ask for the power of God; we embrace the goodness of God. Now that’s relief!
3. Communion with the saints. One of the great causes of stress is loneliness. Meaningful relationships fill many personal needs. With like-minded disciples, we find affirmation, direction, definition, and correction. The church is, among other things, a society to confirm our identity and purpose. Together, we are stronger and happier. “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing” 1 Thessalonians 5.11.
4. Service for the benefit of others. Stress usually focuses on the success of, and challenges to, one’s own affairs. Saints have been given the work of shining as lights in a dark world, Matthew 5.16; Philippians 2.15. Their concerns have moved away from themselves toward the spiritual and eternal benefit of others. Now we live for God, 1 Corinthians 8.6, whose will is the salvation of all, 1 Timothy 2.4. Those who live to please themselves, Romans 15.1, and make themselves responsible for their own happiness find life frustrating, upsetting, and stressful. Those who make it their “ambition to please” Christ are content and courageous in every situation, 2 Corinthians 5.9.
Transformation. Christians do not seek mere stress-relievers. They live in the spiritual transformation of the mind where the worries of the world are swept away by the joyous salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. They constantly access the spiritual treasures of God so that the Spirit of peace may rule each day in their hearts and minds.