Cumulative Stress…

A Modern-day and Ancient Concern

Note: During the next few weeks, my schedule will be tight, and as a result, life promises to be filled with a fair amount of stress. The stress isn’t bad, but stress is stress! As I thought about my situation and about how writing blog posts fit into the mix, I decided to re-run portions of a series of posts I wrote a year ago about stress, using the Old Testament prophet Elijah’s experience to illustrate.

The world in which we live is filled with much stress! During the past few weeks, the news has blared reports of devastating fires, hurricanes, floods and horrific mass murders. Disaster looms with the threat of rogue governments possessing nuclear capabilities. These, on top of personal stress related to family, finances, friends and faith, are the essence of ‘cumulative stress.’ [1]

Reviewing time-tested, God-designed stress management seems timely. I hope the truths in these posts will speak to you

     Following a recent blog post on ‘soul care,’ a reader wrote, “I’ve experienced so many frustrations in “2016” that, at times, left me questioning why do these things happen to good people…However, in my daily prayers (morning and night), I decided one day that all of this is “beyond my control” and I’m going to “submit” and put it into God’s hands and continue to have faith…I have to honestly tell you, from that day, the problems are still here, but I feel less frustrated and more at peace with God and others.”

     In spite of my friend’s difficult situation, strength much greater than hers brings peace.

     Every day I talk with people dealing with what stress management “experts” call cumulative stress. When I first learned about cumulative stress, the picture that came to mind was a block tower children construct. As I thought about tiny hands stacking one little wooden block on top of another, I envisioned each block represented a stressor. One block of stress piled upon another.

     Some children have better eye-hand coordination than others, and their block tower grows fairly high, but eventually, the tower topples, and blocks scatter every which way. Some adults manage stress more effectively than others, but eventually, the ‘soul’ says, “Okay, I’ve had enough.” (John Ortberg’s definition of ‘soul’ is “the deepest part of you…a synonym for the person.”[2])

     Health, emotions, relationships, cognitive clarity and even a sense of spiritual wellbeing are impacted when the cumulative-stress tower tumbles. During such times, our souls need to be cared for well in order to rejuvenate.

     One of the places we visited while in Israel was Mount Carmel. This lush, green area is the site of a Carmelite monastery. On this site Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to prove their gods were more powerful than his God. The encounter ended poorly for Baal’s prophets, and as a result of Elijah’s daring faith, rain came, a terrible drought ended, and the faith of the Israelite people in the one true God was restored. (See story in 1 Kings 18)

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A stone statue on Mount Carmel depicting Elijah with sword drawn.

     I can only imagine the blocks of stress Elijah experienced during this time! In 1 Kings 19, we read about the impact Elijah’s cumulative stress had on the great prophet of God. But, when we read this remarkable account, we see that in spite of Elijah’s difficulties, he found strength much greater than his own.

     In my next blog post, we’ll look at how God—the same God who this day sustains our faith and peace—helped Elijah rally. Stress-management remedies God provided for the Old Testament prophet continue to be applicable today.

     As I conclude this post, I’m praying God will give you, Listening on the Journey… reader, strength for whatever stressors you are dealing with today…

Sue Reeve

  1. Soul Keeping, John Ortberg, Chapter 2, What is the Soul?

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