Cumulative Stress…

A Modern-day and Ancient Concern

     The other day I ran into an acquaintance at the coffee shop. He told me about troublesome times he’s experiencing. His adult son has been struggling with cancer treatment for months. A little grandson was recently hospitalized with a severe infection that may require surgery. On top of all that, his elderly mother took a serious fall and is clinging to life by a fragile thread.

     A tinge of sadness was etched into his weary countenance, but In spite of his difficult circumstances, it was obvious this man’s faith is intact. Strength much greater than his sustains him.

     Following my last blog post on ‘soul care,’ I heard from a reader who said, “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.

     Both of these dear people are most likely dealing with what stress management “experts” call cumulative stress. When I first learned about cumulative stress, the picture that came to my mind was the 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.” (Perhaps you’ll recall from my last blog post John Ortberg’s definition of ‘soul’ as “the deepest part of you…a synonym for the person.”[1])

     Health, emotions, relationships, cognitive clarity and even a sense of spiritual well being 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. It was on this site that Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to prove their god was 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 sustains my friends’ faith and peace—helped Elijah rally. The same stress-management remedies God provided for the Old Testament prophet continue to be applicable today.

     As I conclude this post, I’m praying for my two friends, and I’m also praying God will give you, Listening on YOUR Journey reader, strength for whatever stressors you are dealing with today…

Sue Reeve

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




2 thoughts on “Cumulative Stress…

  1. 2016 was a very stressful year for me as well, and I never considered the effects of “cumulative stress.” The Lord has sustained me, but it’s helpful to know that it’s okay if “healing” takes longer than I expected.

  2. “Cumulative stress” is an excellent way of envisioning the building up of things that happen to us, one on top of the other…..just like a child’s building blocks! Honestly, my “blocks” definitely tumbled with too much stress and disappointments. But, the moment I gave in and turned full control of the situations over to God, even though my burdens are still here….. I truly felt that he was going to watch over me and guide me, and “things” seem to lighten up for me in a way I can’t quite explain. I really feel His presence every single day and know He is right here for both myself and my family.

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