Do you ever have those days where you feel like you just can’t even? Maybe it’s not your day or even your week. You feel overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities, and your stress level is at an all-time high. You’ve overcommitted and overscheduled yourself (again!) and there’s no end in sight. But before you have a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Walmart parking lot somewhere—no judgment, I’ve been there—what if stressing out is sending you a deeper message about your current priorities?
One of the first definitions of the word “stress” was “drawn tight,” which is a pretty accurate way to describe how being stressed feels. You feel like you can’t breathe or think—like you’re restricted. A few years later, the word expanded to have a figurative meaning. The earliest definitions were “to put emphasis on” or “lay pressure on something by relying on it.”
Again, it hits the nail on the head, right? When we’re stressing out about something, we’re putting emphasis on our problem. And that’s okay sometimes, but we have to ask ourselves—are we putting more emphasis on our problems or on our God?
Jesus challenged us about this in Matthew chapter 6. He explained that we don’t have to worry about what comes next in our lives. Instead, He invited us to trust Him. He asked us to consider whether we truly believe He is a good Father who cares about us, because if we genuinely believe He wants what’s best for us, then we can stop worrying so much about what’s in front of us.
One especially striking thing Jesus said was, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Jesus knows better than we do what we need on earth. But are we so caught up in trying to live a great life that we forget to focus on eternity? We know this world is not our home. But so often, we can idolize comfort. What we’re stressing out about reveals what we care about. And if we’re always stressed about achieving the next big thing here, we have to question whether our hearts are aligned with God’s kingdom or focused on building our own.
Although we should use our God-given gifts and talents to make a difference on earth, and there’s nothing wrong with ambition, we have to make sure our priorities are in the right order. Seek first His kingdom—then these things will be given to you.
So, as you reflect on your stress, ask yourself what you’re relying on. What are you putting your emphasis on? What is your stress saying about your priorities?
Choose to focus first on God. Choose to trust that He is a good Dad who can take care of you. And as your focus shifts onto God and away from yourself, you might be amazed at how your stress level doesn’t seem so high anymore. Here are some of the verses I used when writing this post to help me get a handle on stress in my life.