Thirty-two years next week we’ll have walked together on the road of marriage. My husband knows a “little” bit about stress.
“What do you tell your patients when you give them advice about stress?” I asked.
“I tell them to pick their battles. Don’t fight everything. When you are stressed it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, and you can get easily overwhelmed.”
“What should they do?”
“List the top three stressors, and then come up with three things to do that would reduce each one of those stressors.”
“What if their stress is a big thing, like a relationship with a child or boss?”
“I get them to break it down into something they can do something about. For example, if the relationship is strained over a child’s attitude, they still need to break it down even further. I ask them to name the specific topic that brings the conflict, like curfew time or chores, and then come up with ways to deal with those issues.”
“Oh,” I replied. “Breaking down stress into the smallest manageable pieces is great advice.” (I’m finally learning after 32 years to verbalize my compliments to him. It reduces his stress.)
My husband’s advice does make great sense. With it, the phrase “divide and conquer” gets a completely new meaning.
Sometimes our stress seems so large; it’s hard to find a place to start. Start small. Pick one thing. Get it done or confront that issue, and then move on to the next area. Don’t try to solve it all at once.
Many examples of this strategy are given in the Bible. There are stories of people who obeyed God and tackled a small assignment. Later they were led into a wider victory because of their willingness to focus on the details God asked of them. These individuals let go (to God) of the broad dream of “conquering” the big thing and became faithful in the little things. The result was God took over the “big things.”
The story of Gideon and his army selection and battle fighting are an example of this concept. Gideon’s stress was over the task of saving Israel from their enemies the Midianites.
Read the story starting with Judges 6:14 thru Judges 8.
“Gideon said to God, “Oh Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Behold my clan is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
The Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall smite the Midianites as one man.”
Being unable to solve all your stresses at one time or being unable to change your circumstance at large might seem like the end of your world, or at best, a useless effort, but in God’s perspective (with your permission and desire), it’s just the beginning of the world for you and Him. Your weakness is His best place to shine. Step one to help reduce your stress just might be to get in a right relationship with God.
Consider another example—another man—Paul from the New Testament. He speaks in 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10 about a stress in his life, “a thorn in the flesh” and the possible purpose he gained in enduring the circumstance.
“There was given me a thorn in the flesh to rack and buffet and harass me…Three times I called upon the Lord and besought Him about this and begged that it might depart from me; He said to me, My grace (favor, loving-kindness, mercy) is sufficient for you and enables you to bear the trouble manfully, for My strength and power are made perfect and show themselves most effective in your weakness.” (Some say Paul’s issue was blindness.)
Also, the call to become champion of the smaller pieces is echoed in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. (NLT)
From all these manly examples, what is the given advice to reduce stress?
In today’s language….
1. Take a bite-size, honest look at your stress.
2. Then do what you know is right in those small areas.
3. Let God handle the rest.
Their advice sounds strangely familiar. Maybe it’s because they got it from the same source as my husband. What do you think?
(P.S. to my hubby and proof reader…Happy 32nd Anniversary!)
Sounds good to me! We’re moving soon to CA! I’ve had some stress in this move and dealing with so much stuff! It can seem overwhelming at times. I like what you said about dealing with small stuff and letting God handle the big areas. We can only do one thing at a time and take those small steps. Leave the big picture to God and let Him take over the big things! Sounds good to me!!!
Also, congrats on your 32 years of marriage next week!!!
Thanks so much. We find that commitment works better with God walking with us!
Yeah, my husband and I are moving soon too. And now that the time to move is a few months away, I am re-reading this. It helps my stress level! I just gotta remember “Think small and think in real terms. God will take care of the rest.” Thanks!