Where Science and Faith Converge

The Impact of Stress: The Bible Said It First

By Hugh Ross - February 1, 2011

Many of us have heard from healthcare professionals we need to do whatever we can to minimize stress in our lives. The Bible fully acknowledges that too much stress or the wrong kind of stress can be damaging. At the same time, however, Scripture teaches that some level of stress is essential for both physical and spiritual health.

Consider what the following passages say about the topic of stress:

Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

Endure hardship [stress] as discipline… No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 2:7, 11).

Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials [stresses] of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2–4).

In the Timothy passage Paul points out the analogy between physical conditioning and spiritual development. When it comes to exercise, the rule of thumb is “no pain, no gain.”

The stress that builds godliness holds value for our spiritual vitality not only in this earthly life, but also beyond it. Stress is associated with preparation for what lies ahead “in the life to come.”

One element of design I see in the environment God has designed for humanity is His provision for the limits of our stress tolerance. Through the Apostle Paul God offered this blessed assurance: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted [stressed] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This passage points to three truths about this particular kind of stress:

1. Everyone faces the stress of temptation. No exceptions.

2. God knows exactly how much of such stress we can handle, and it’s often more than we think we can bear.

3. When our stress level rises so high as to approach the damaging level, God in his great wisdom and mercy provides either a special means to withstand it or an avenue of escape from it. He does not cause us spiritual harm.

Whatever the kinds of stress we may face, God knows what we can and cannot endure. In His wisdom and mercy He provides the precise levels of stress most beneficial for each of us. According to His promise in Romans 8:28, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, God works all things together for their good.

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