The Four Legs of Stress

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

(Psalm 46:1,2,11)

When a lion tamer holds a stool in front of the lion's face, the lion tries to focus on all four legs of the chair at the same time. With its focus divided, the lion becomes confused and is unsure about what to do next. What the four legs of a stool do to a lion is what stress does to individuals.  Stress causes a kind of paralysis that overwhelms us. It weakens us emotionally and physically.  This paralysis is laced with fear and anxiety.  Have you every felt that way?  I'm sure that you have! Almost all of us have had days of stress, anxiety and frayed nerves. Stress plays a major role in many if not most of our lives. Stress is linked to physical and mental health, as well as decreased willingness to take on new and creative endeavors. Job burnout experienced by 25% to 40% of U.S. is blamed on stress. More than ever before, employee stress is being recognized as a major drain on corporate productivity and competitiveness. Of course, stress is not just confined to the workplace. A struggling marriage and financial difficulty are among many other things causing stress. 

Medical doctors cite stress as a direct cause of one-third of all diseases and claim that another third is indirectly aggravated by stress. Such diseases as duodenal ulcer, heart disease, high blood pressure, bronchial asthma, bowel disorders and a host of skin diseases can be related to stress according to medical authorities. 

Stress is an automatic physical reaction to a perceived or real danger or demand. Muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, the heart speeds up, extra adrenaline rushes through your system.  Its purpose is to give the extra strength needed to fight off danger - or to flee it.

With stress comes anxiety.  Often anxiety is a result of pressure that someone else puts on us because of their expectation and our feared outcome. Or, it could be a result of pressure that we put on ourselves by our own lofty and unrealistic expectations.

Do you find yourself snapping at your spouse or those around you? Do you feel under constant pressure to do more, try harder, go faster? Does everyone, including yourself, expect too much of you?  If your answers to one or more of these questions are yes,  you are probably living under the canopy of stress. 

Well, Psalm 46 was evidently written in a stress-filled environment. Everything around this Psalmist was out of control. His problems were so severe that it seemed the mountains were being thrown into the sea and the earth was being shaken by an earthquake. He felt threatened on every side.  Clearly, the Psalmist felt like he was in a pressure-cooker and couldn't get out. So he wrote the words of this Psalm as he sought to deal with the stresses of his life. 

This Psalmist was declaring that when life presses in upon us, when trouble comes, then we can know that we have a place to run.  It does not matter what form the trouble takes, or how it is delivered, or how long it stays.  God alone is our accessible, protected place of refuge and retreat. We can hide there knowing that nothing can get through to us unless it goes through the hands of the"Blessed Controller of All Things." 

It is not our job or a bank account that is our "ever present help in time of trouble." It is not the economy that gives us strength.  It is not the age, appearance, condition or health of our bodies which provides us help. It is God who provides us with a place to run, a place to hide and a place to rest.  Moses in Deuteronomy 33:27 affirms the words of the Psalmist when he said, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

The next time you face the four legs of stress tempting you to emotional paralysis, remember, The Lord of hosts is with you. He is your stronghold and strength in stressful times. There is peace and rest to be found in His presence.