Stress is a given, but we don’t have to take it
There have been times when knowing that someone is earnestly praying for me has made me stand a little taller and be more resolute than ever that I could make it through.
A small, six-letter word with big implications. Stress is the brain’s response to any demand, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and can be recurring, short-term or long-term. Stress can further be defined as as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. For us, who are made in God’s image, stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Or sadly to crumble beneath them.
Yes, stress is “common to all of us” and affects us to varying degrees. Real-life statistics tell us that married couples handle stress far better than “singles” although married life itself can lend to stress.
What are some of the common stressors people put at the top of their list? Family matters, financial challenges, sexual incompatibility, work issues, school difficulties, transportation troubles, and of course, a lack of time are among those most often listed.
Stress factors can be relatively mild such as what outfit to wear or major such as an extreme life event like a divorce or a major illness. Extreme situations and circumstances can lead to traumatic stress reactions so we should all know when to seek professional help to work through these issues. For those of us who profess Christianity, God has given us a tremendous comfort:
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you," Isaiah 43:2.
In 27 years of marriage, Vanessa and I have leaned heavily on each other - through a cancer journey, major health issues for one of our sons, the deaths of our fathers, aging mothers, our own shifting needs, and on and on.
To have a godly, trustworthy someone to lean on has made an incredible difference in my life. To go to God together in prayer at the end of each day is a major difference-maker. There have been times when knowing that someone is earnestly praying for me has made me stand a little taller and be more resolute than ever that I could make it through.
For any relationship that lasts longer than two weeks, stress will eventually become an uninvited guest.
Virtually all couples experience stress, whether from problems in the workplace or with family and friends that we carry over into our marital relationships. Stress of course can spring from a couple’s own issues: changing perspectives, differences in wants or needs, or even feeling neglected.
Stress can negatively impact relationships, especially when one or both parties keep their stress to themselves. Bottling stress up makes it difficult for their spouses to understand what they are going through and to provide support.
Though it’s not well-advertised, stress is contagious. When our spouses or someone close to us is stressed, we can become stressed as well. That’s how simple conversations can escalate quickly to argument status which can “make” you say things you otherwise might not have said.
Stress can also be beneficial.
Experiencing stress doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is going to suffer. Rather, our perceptions of stress – how we see it and choose to combat it – is so important.
When couples view stress as an opportunity to share and open up with one another, relationships can become stronger. Spouses learn what they need from each other and can show one another that they are appreciated, understood, and loved. Having a spouse who is “there for you” and who responds to your needs helps you deal better with stress and lessens its intensity. As the cliché goes, we truly are “better together. God designed us that way!
Stress is inevitable in this fallen world, and the key is how couples and individuals manage it. Those couples that are most successful in dealing with stress are those who tackle it together. So remember to always check in with one another and listen first before you offer solutions. And always ask your mate what you can do to help and make their day run more smoothly.
Always remember that God Himself is for us and not against us. We may encounter some horrific challenges in this world, but God is not a man that He should lie, and He loves us! Why should we fear when God is always near to us?
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”