Category Archives: Stress

Toxic Friendship

Sometimes in our lives, we have to make choices. Choices that are very difficult. In fact, to us it feels like we are cutting off our right arm. That is how I felt about a certain relationship. I had become so entangled in that relationship that I had lost myself. I no longer knew who I was. I had become this other person. Oh, do not get me wrong. I remembered the things that I personally enjoyed, but I had no time to do them. I loved to read books, and do research online about the Bible. I loved studying history—especially about European countries. Unfortunately, I did not have the time. I I loved to paint, but where could I find the time.? I was consumed with this thing—this relationship. This “thing” that moved from friendship to counseling to moaning to heavy load…to dread…to wanting to hide in my room and not come out! I did not want to talk to anyone. Tears were my words instead of laughter and enjoyment. My face showed my inner sorrow and agony. Everybody but me saw what I was going through. People waited wondering how much longer I would take it before I splattered the walls of the halls with agony and pain. One day it began to happen, and try as I might I could not be the brave soldier I had put on for years to be. I lost control of it all as it all came flowing out of me like Niagara Falls. People were not surprised, but I was when I found out that I had their support.

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was finished. I was at the end of my rope. Do you get what I mean? Have you been there? Do you know what I mean? Do you really know what I mean? If you do not, I understand. Let me explain it to you. It is a deep dark place where you wake up one day wondering how you got there. You want to know how you get out of this deep dark STINKING HOLE OF A PLACE!!! Is there any hope at all? Does anybody hear me at all in this DEEP DARK LONELY PLACE!!! Can you hear me calling? Does anybody care at all… Whew!

I needed help, and I needed help fast. Where could I go? Who could I turn to and unload this heavy burden to? Who could I bear my very soul to? I was not the kind of person to trust anybody with myself–that is my inner self to. You see I do not want to get hurt. I am already hurt. I do not want to bear hurt on top of hurt. I am already bleeding all over the place. I am hemorraging profusely. I do not need kind words of sympathy or empathy! I need a surgeon, and just any surgeon. I need a specialist in the field of emotional healing. By the way, do you know of one who specializes in this field? It is a very specialized field, and there aren’t many doctors who have studied in this field. In fact, I don’t even know if I can pay their fee.

Then one day I met this woman who was temping while a woman was having her baby. She said something that made me think abou my “friendship” with this individual. I did something that I had never done before. I wrote it down in my diary on my computer. I read it and pondered it almost everyday, and prayed about it too. Funny thing is now that I’m free from that toxic relationship, I have forgotten the security code for the diary. So I had to delete the diary! Isn’t that something?  There was only one problem with her advice. I didn’t follow through…

I started going to a new church in Bolivia, NC. They took me in. They loved me and cared for me in a way that was amazing! I thought I was dreaming. I had never felt such love from a church like this before. I had no idea that this connection would bring the deliverance and emotional healing I needed in my life.

I became friends with one of the women from my new church. I realized how true she was, and how much she really loved me. She would stop by and bring a snack or some food. Sometimes she would call and ask if I had eaten dinner. She let me know that she was on her way with my dinner or lunch. Sometimes she would call and we would talk for almost an hour. We became very good friends. We stick closer than brothers. When I think of her, she is thinking of me. She is more than precious to me!

I shared many things with my newfound sister in Christ. I began to tell her about this “friendship.” She called one time, and I was crying. She asked what wrong, and I bore my soul to her. She started telling what I should do. I knew she was right, but in my heart and mind I did not have the strength to tear away from this toxic relationship.

Then I wept many days in the solitude of my room. Alone with Jesus. Understanding that this was a thing between Jesus and me. You see I still loved this person. Yes. I had poured my very soul into this person. I lived for that person. Toxic relationship. I had to face reality. I had to really face myself. I had to face the fact that I needed to break away in every sense of the word. What would I do with all the time that would now be free? All that I had known was this person. Whom would I eat with? Who would I have coffee with? Who would I talk to? Who would I laugh with? Who would I do anything with? Who? Who? I was like a lost puppy… I realized for three years my entire life had been centered on this person…

I found liberty by realizing who I was in Jesus Christ, and great friend in Christ Jesus. After I asked for a meeting with the person, slowly I began to find myself. Of course, I was too nervous to meet them alone. I knew I could not meet them alone. They would have out talked me because they were so self-centered. I would not have been able to say one word. They would have commandeered the entire meeting. Therefore, there was a mediator in the meeting. My sister-friend in Christ agreed with me that I should make a list of what I wanted to say in the meeting.

Well the day of the meeting came. For me it did not completely go as planned. This person let me speak up to a point. They thought we should have been able to come together alone and speak. They thought because we were Christians, that we could have handled it in that manner. No way possible because I knew this person would take over the conversation and not hear a word I was saying. That was how they were in the meeting! I ended up being so upset and frustrated because this person started saying “wait a minute.” The individual started interrupting me. I folded my notes, and left the meeting room in tears. It was the only way to save myself from getting sick.

The outcome of the meeting was good for me. It was decided that we would still be friends. We would not be BFFs (Best Friends Forever). Besides that kind of relationship would no longer be possible because that person had become engaged. I needed and wanted to be separated from them. Another thing that I got tired of was how the individual spoke to me, and how rude they were to me. Now I did not have to deal with them. Whew! I could go on, but I think I will stop here.

How am I now? I am enjoying the freedom I have in being myself. I enjoy talking and being with different people each day. If I want to be alone and do things I want to do, I have the freedom to do it. I can watch what I want to watch. Thank you Jesus! That Christian girlfriend of mine is the best friend I have ever had in years! She does not smother me. She lets me be. We encourage and pray for one another. We call one another. She is seriously concerned about me. Can you believe it? She prays that I feel better. She prays that I sleep at night. She prays when I have to go to a doctor’s appointment. She just calls to say hi! Wow! She shares with me, and I share with her. A two-way relationship. Do you see what I see? Isn’t it wonderful? God sure did come up with a great idea when He wanted us to walk along side one another. To be real and true. To carry one another’s burdens. To weep with one another. To laugh with one another. Wow! You know what? It really does work.

 

Check out this verse:

Romans 12:15 (KJV)
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

 

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Principles from Elijah’s Experience concerning Stress

Filling Your Emptiness

-Spend time alone with God

-Receive God’s rest and physical nourishment

-Seek communication with God.

-Wait on God’s response.

-Respond honestly to God.

-Place your trust in God.

-Rely on instructions from God.

-Be ready for God’s blessing

Stress and Steps to A Solution

Are you mentally, emotionally or physically on the road to a breakdown? Are you driving with all eight cylinders, but running out of gas? Notice the following statement:

God often allows your tank to be empty so that you will seek Him. Come to the King of Kings and learn His ways. The Holy Spirit is drawing you–seeking a personal relationship with you that will lighten your load!

 

Key Verses to Memorize

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

Key Passage to Read and Reread

Even his name Elijah (God is Salvation) announces that he is a messenger approved and sent by God. Elijah had significant spiritual strength, yet he wound up with an empty tank under a broom tree, begging God to deliver him from his great distress.

 

Elijah on Empty

I Kings 19

Scripture reveals the cause of Elijah’s burnout:

-Elijah lost confidence in the sovereign power of God v. 3

-Elijah had reached the end of his resources. v. 4

-Elijah was tired and exhausted. v. 5

Scripture also tells us the steps of Elijah took to be restored:

-Elijah left his servant and got alone with God vv. 3-4

-Elijah received the rest and food provided by God vv. 5-8

-Elijah sought to communicate with God v. 8

-God was not silent but asked Elijah to explain his need v. 9

-Elijah was honest with God about his feelings v. 10

-God showed Elijah that He was still in control vv. 11-12

-God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper vv. 12-13

-Elijah’s response revealed that he did not understand how God was working v. 14

-God revealed part of His future plans to Elijah vv.17-18

-Elijah obeyed God and went back to the job God had given him. v. 19

-God gave Elijah the gift of a genuine friend and companion. vv. 20-21

 

God sometimes allows difficult situations in your life in order to nurture a stronger relationship with Him. The events in which Elijah found himself were beyond his control and demanded a complete dependence on God. If your prayer life is to penetrate to the deeper layers of your faith, you may find yourself under the broom tree of a broken spirit.

 

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Psalm 18:6.

 

Root Cause of Stress

Here, I will discuss what you need to know and believe in order to enable you to have success over stress.

 

Wrong Belief:

“My life is out of control. I feel helpless to cope with all this stress in my life.”

 

Right Belief:

God has allowed this stress in my life to bless my life and reveal my weaknesses. I am grateful for the pressures that have pressed me closer to Him. It has caused me to allow Christ to be my strength.

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Surface Causes of Stress

Looking under the hood is not enough. Check out the parts that have received excessive wear and tear. Are you worn and torn by stress? Have you analyzed your own condition? This is not about somebody else. It is about you and your life. Take a close look at Paul’s many experiences, and examine them in the light of your own experiences. You will see the circumstances, which are most likely to cause stress. If you have pressures in your life that are not being used to press you closer to the Lord, you may be on the way to a blowout! [For the headings in the following section, see Ogilvie, Making Stress Work for You, 37. For a list of common surface causes of stress, see Keith W. Sehnert, Stress/Unstress: How You Can Control Stress at Home and on the Job (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1981), 68-69.]

 

“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.” 2 Corinthians 11:22-31.

 

 

Conflict

 

Paul was met with what is to be considered as extreme opposition from others vv. 23-24

 

Examples:

 

Opposing values of family and friends. Unresolved anger in relationships. Unrealistic expectations of another person. Lack of open communication in relationships.

 

Crisis

 

Paul was shipwrecked and often in extreme danger. vv. 25-26

 

 

 

Examples:

 

Death of a friend or family member. Separation or divorce. Severe illness or handicaps. Unexpected trauma of any kind.

 

Change

 

Paul was constantly on the move, often going without sleep. vv. 26-27.

 

Examples:

 

Change of environment. Change in financial state. Change in employment. Change in sleeping and health habits.

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Hood

In order to understand what stress can do to an individual, June Hunt uses the illustration of a car.

When you start hearing noises like clanking and smoke billows from the hood, you respond by going to a nearby station where you can talk to a mechanic. The first phrase that the mechanic says is to look under the hood. Unfortunately, many of us may be more concerned about the distressing condition of our car than the condition of our physical bodies. Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves…

Are you sensitive to the warnings of your emotional engine? Your physical symptoms could register that you are on the brink of burnout.

“A man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones.” Job 33:19

Checklist for Burnout

-I have difficulty relaxing

-I have tightness in my neck and shoulders

-I have lower back pain.

-I feel tired and lifeless most of the time.

-I have frequent severe headaches.

-I get indigestion often.

-I often have diarrhea or constipation.

-I could be getting an ulcer.

-I have trouble sleeping at night.

-I grind my teeth at night.

-I am susceptible to every cold and virus.

-I have allergies or asthma.

-I eat and snack excessively.

-I have lost a lot of weight.

-I often have cold hands and sweating palms.

-I have shortness of breath.

-I have rapid pulse.

-I generally feel nervous and unsettled.

Not everybody will suffer with all of these signs. If you have checked four or more, there is a need to evaluate how you are responding to the pressures in your life. Are you releasing your heavy load to the Lord and allowing His peace to permeate your heart?

 

“A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Proverbs 14:30

 

The Four Stages of Stress

Stage 1

No Light

Insufficient Stress

No motivation to move responsibly.

Stage 2

Green Light

Positive Stress

Motivation to move responsibly.

Stage 3

Yellow Light

Negative Stress

Motivational warning signs to slow down movement.

Stage 4

Red Light

Burnout

Movement is stopped and repair is necessary.

Stage 1: No Light

When there is insufficient stress to move responsibly, you will find that the person…

-avoids responsibility

-has poor relationships

-is not productive

-has no energy

-experiences depression

-lacks perspective on life

Stage 2: Green Light

When there is positive stress, you will see that the person…

-faces responsibility

-has responsible relationships

-is productive

-is energetic

-is enthusiastic

-has fulfillment of purpose

-has a positive perspective

Stage 3: Yellow Light

The warning signs of stress are like the amber lights on a traffic signal: They caution you to be on the alert, to slow down and to be prepared for upcoming change. The physical warning signs of stress can be…

-tension headaches

-muscle aches

-heavy sighing

-high blood pressure

-ulcers

-hyperalterness

-loss of sleep/excessive sleep

-lack of concentration

-indecisiveness

-irritability

Stage 4: Red Light

Burnout is certainly not God’s will for us. It may actually mean that we have not processed the stresses of life in a godly way. Instead of living at Stage 2, we become…

-overwhelmed by responsibility

-withdrawn from relationships

-minimally productive

-depressed (lack of enthusiasm)

-purposeless

-without perspective

-easily fatigued

-lacking the ability to concentrate

-indecisive

-irritable

 

Spiritual Implications

Stress is a spiritual issue that has an effect on a person’s entire life. Pressure is not the perpetrator. [See Warrick, How to Handle Stress, 5-6]. How an individual reacts to pressure reveals their understanding of God’s ways. An individual can allow pressure to come between them and God. An individual can also make the choice to allow pressure to press them closer to God. There needs to be an evaluation of their mental, emotional and physical response to the pressures that produce stress in their lives.

 

Mental Response

It must be understood that this kind of stress is a result of how an individual thinks about or interprets events. [Ibid.] If an individual dwells on something negative that is going on, then that person will feel stress. If that person makes the choice to dwell on God’s faithfulness to provide, God will replace their stress with His peace.

You should ask yourself this question: Do you have a positive or negative outlook? When you dwell on negative thoughts, you can turn even good circumstances into stress. That is how much power you can give your thoughts. That is why God wants you to mediate on what is pure and holy.

“If anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you.” http://ref.ly/Pp4.8-9

 

Emotional Response

This is how you process your thoughts. Bitter thoughts bring bitter emotions. If you think forgiving thoughts, you will feel forgiveness in your heart.

Although feelings need to be recognized and acknowledged, they are a product of your thinking. They can be controlled. Emotional immaturity makes you a prisoner to your feelings and keeps you chained to undue stress.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. http://ref.ly/Ro12.2

Physical Response

An individual’s physical body automatically responds to external pressure. When an individual dwells on difficulties, fatigue is developed. If an individual trusts God for His timing, He provides peace.

Medical science has its own special definition of stress. It threads mental and emotional reactions to the central nervous system. “As other physiological systems begin to activate in order to meet the external demands in life, if the pressure is not dealt with in a healthy way, you become susceptible to a variety of physical problems.” [Biblical Counseling Keys by June Hunt] Look what God reveals in Proverbs. We are told to keep His words in our hearts. This is how the believer can avoid many of the consequences of stress.

“Keep them [God’s words of wisdom] within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” http://ref.ly/Pr4.21-22

 

Definition of Stress

Stress is a word used by engineers to describe both the external force applied to a material and the internal strength required to resist the pressure. [See Lloyd John Ogilive, Making Stress Work for You: Ten Proven Principles, with Built in Study Guide (Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 25-26.] Such combined stresses will cause the material to change both size and shape. An example of this can be seen in a metal like iron. It has a yield point at which outside pressure increases the density of the metal. This would make it stronger. When this strain exceeds its load bearing capacity, what is known as a “failure point” causes the metal to break. This is what happens when a blacksmith heats and hammers a horseshoe. He is not only shaping the metal, but he is increasing its strength.

 

  • Stress is external pressure that causes physical, mental or emotional strain.
  • Stress is internal resistance in response to outside pressure.
  • Stress is negative pressure that results in distress, danger or destruction.
  • Stress is positive pressure that results in motivation and movement: “The stress of having to support a family caused the young man to seek a better job.”

 

Stress Introduction

Why am I discussing stress? Our lives are filled with stress. Stress causes not only problems in our personal lives, but in our entire lives. We are faced with stress on a daily basis. Stress brings on illnesses and other mental problems. That is why I believe we should study this topic.

 

I hope these lessons will enlighten and encourage you. If, at any point, you have questions or concerns, please write me. Let me know if these discussions are beneficial to you.

 

Are you at a breaking point in your life right now? Are you at the point where if you have one more pressure added to your life, you will break? You realize that you are at that point, but you do not know what to do Stress can become a monster in our lives. It can also be a motivator if we handle it right.

 

The following statement is quoted in Dennis Rainey, Lonely Husbands, Lonely Wives: Rekindling Intimacy in Every Marriage (Dallas: Word, 1989), 96.

 

“It matters not how great the pressure is, only where the pressure lies. As long as the pressure does not come between me and my Savior, but presses me to Him, then the greater the pressure, the greater my dependence upon Him.”