Finding freedom from stress

What are you putting emphasis on?

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 stressed 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 stress 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? 

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 doesn’t seem so huge anymore. 

Talk It Over

If you’re honest, what have you been putting most of your emphasis on lately?
What are some ways you can begin to shift your focus onto God and away from your stress? 


October 16
Code Word: Zebra
“that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1Co_1:29)
While we may be dazzled here on earth by the physical looks and achievements of spectacular people — Heaven is unimpressed.
Paul writes in full detail the sentiment of the Divine as it pertains to the high-minded folly of self-exalting men and women. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1Co_1:27-29).
That no flesh should glory in His presence — that is the specific reason why God works is such unusual ways; choosing foolish things to shame the wise things, and weak things to shame things that are mighty. And for those who follow Christ, it can sometimes be a real challenge to disconnect from the constant pull toward self-promotion is this “flesh exalting” world.
Maybe this short story will help.
A friend of mine, Jack, is retired from a high-powered career that had him rubbing elbows with the high and mighty in Washington, DC. He was a shaker and a mover, overseeing a nationwide enterprise that employed thousands of people, and affected millions of lives. There was never a dull moment.
Back in those days Jack wore his power suit with his power tie; gold cufflinks, and designer shoes. He snapped his finger, and fifty associates jumped to attention, ready for action. The only problem was that Jack also brought this energy home with him, disrupting the peace of his house.
And his dear wife decided to set him straight on a few things.
“These are your children,” she contended, “not your employees. You need to find a way when you come home to change gears from being a boss to being a dad.”
“What do you have in mind?” Jack asked.
“Zebra,” his wife answered.
“Yes, Zebra. Whenever I see you doing that boss-thing, I will use the word zebra in a sentence; like, ‘did you hear about that zebra at the zoo?’ Or, ‘I was watching a TV special about zebras today.’ When you hear the word zebra – chill out.”
“That’s a great idea, Jack said; but I’m curious — why did you decide on the word zebra?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” she replied, “a zebra is nothing but a jackass in a pinstripe suit!”
Jack chilled out – and peace came back into his home! Maybe each one of us can do the same, especially if we are strutting our stuff and trying to impress others with how powerful, how smart, how clever, how rich, or how knowledgeable we are.
Maybe we just might hear the Lord ask, “Did you hear about the Zebra at the zoo?”