Relief From Stress—Presently and Permanently
WHAT answers would you get if you took a general survey, asking: “Will damaging stress ever be fully eliminated?”
Based on what they have experienced, or on what experts predict for the future, most would likely answer that harmful stress will always be with us.
A few, though, might blithely say that things will turn out fine, that man will solve the problems and eliminate damaging stress.
That view may, however, reflect an ineffective effort to cope with stress. Regarding this, Professor Irving Janis commented: “Another defective coping pattern [is], ‘defensive avoidance,’ which involves seeking relief from emotional tensions by engaging in wishful thinking.”—The New York Times, Sunday, May 18, 1980.
A sad thing is that many persons who are trying to cope with stress overlook realities that would help them to cope. These realities can help you to gain relief from stress and give you a solid basis for expecting permanent relief in the future.
A Universal Reality
Dr. Hans Selye, one of the giants in the study of stress, wrote: “No sensitive person can look at the sky on a cloudless night without asking himself where the stars came from, where they go, and what keeps the universe in order. The same questions arise when we look at the internal universe within the human body.”—The Stress of Life.
Have you taken the time to reflect on the marvels of the human body or thoughtfully to gaze at the stars? Doing so can be an important step in your coping with present stresses. Selye adds: “The capacity to contemplate . . . the harmonious elegance in Nature’s manifestations, is one of the most satisfactory experiences of which man is capable. . . . Looking at something infinitely greater than our conscious selves makes all our daily troubles appear to shrink by comparison. There is an equanimity and a peace of mind which can be achieved only through contact with the sublime.”
Centuries ago the poet-king David did what this expert on stress now recommends. Then David uttered this fundamental truth: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.”—Ps. 19:1.
David recognized what millions of thinking persons since then have concluded also: A basic reality of the universe is that God, the Creator of the universe and of man, exists. Compared with Him and his handiwork, we humans are insignificant. David said of God: ‘When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind?’—Ps. 8:3, 4.
Hence, when you realize that stress is—or might be—a problem for you, you should reflect more deeply on the existence of God, on the enormity of his works and concerns, and on your standing before him. You thus will not be employing ‘defensive avoidance’ but will be gaining perspective before the facts, universal realities.
It Works Now and Will Work
Your recognizing God will in many ways help you to cope with stress.
For one thing, it will increase your regard for his counsel in the Bible. From David’s own experience and what he saw with others, he could say: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.”—Ps. 19:7.
God’s counsel includes advice to avoid such things as adultery, pre-marital sex, drunkenness, stealing and lying. Persons who engage in those things often do so for pleasure, to ‘make life easier’ or to avoid some embarrassment. Yet, evidence shows that they usually have, as a direct or an indirect result, more stress—from a troubled conscience, from the ill will generated in others or even from health problems caused by their course. Conversely, following God’s advice means that a person avoids all such resulting stress, as well as promotes peace of mind and happiness.
Around the earth there are millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses who can testify that this has been so with them. Of course, no one today can have a totally stress-free life. But practicing true Christianity certainly has helped them. This agrees with what Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. . . . You will find refreshment [not stress] for your souls. For my yoke is [not stressful, but] kindly.”—Matt. 11:28-30.
There is another reason why present stress will decline as you draw closer to God. Your life will have more direction. You will see where you are headed, being committed to pleasing him. “Stress Without Distress” mentions:
History has repeatedly proved that “those who believed in the infallibility of their God or in their particular code of conduct were relatively well-balanced and happy, . . . Faith gave men direction, the basis for commitment, self-discipline, and work that is indispensable to prevent abnormal chaotic behavior.”—Pp. 2, 3.
Furthermore, in having this wholesome commitment to the Creator and his principles, you can be part of a congregation of happy Christians. Those in the Christian congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are pleased to accept and work with all who want to please God. They are willing to show others how applying Bible counsel is practical today and works to reduce harmful stress.
They sincerely try to practice love, in line with Jesus’ meaningful words: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) As you, through studying the Scriptures and being around loving Christians, learn to love and help other people, stress will diminish. Others will find that you are a more likable person. You will have fewer conflicts with your fellowmen, whose goodwill and respect you will have earned.—Matt. 5:40-48; Luke 6:38.
Nor is this help in coping with stress limited to the present; it also looks to the future. The volume “Religious Movements in Contemporary America” points out: “In their own congregational life Witnesses form a genuine community of trust and acceptance. . . . The Jehovah’s Witnesses offer [one] an alternative life strategy that gives its adherents a way to find identity and self-respect, a community of acceptance, and hope for the future.”
Permanent Relief from Stress
The Creator is the solid basis for having hope for the future. In his reliable Word he promises that he is going to intervene in human affairs, doing so in a way that will allow for permanent relief from harmful stress. Consider some of what God promises:
◆ Illness and death, which now cause so much stress, will be replaced with good health and long life.—Rev. 21:4.
◆ As a result of honest, healthful work, humans will have an abundance of food and life’s necessities.—Ps. 72:16.
◆ War will end, to be followed by peace and security.—Mic. 4:3, 4.
◆ All humans will practice the loving interest in others that is a mark of true Christianity.—John 13:35.
This is no dream. Looking forward to it is not a case of ‘defensive avoidance’ of stress. It is what the Creator of the universe promises. If it appeals to you, you should learn more about it by studying the Bible along with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
However, life under those conditions will not be dull or boring. On occasion your heart will still beat fast. You will become excited and alert for activity. But such will be normal and healthy responses to thrilling, happy events or emotions. What a delightful contrast that will be to the extreme, prolonged and harmful stress that we must cope with today!
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LOVE, HATE AND STRESS
In a “Reader’s Digest” interview, Dr. Hans Selye remarked: “The two great emotions that cause the absence or presence of stress are love and hate. The Bible makes this point over and over again. The message is that if we don’t somehow modify our built-in selfishness, we arouse fear and hostility in other people—not a very favorable environment in which to exist! Conversely, the more we modify that self-centeredness, the more we can persuade people to love us rather than hate us, the safer we are, and the less stress we have to endure.”