A Christian Stress Management Article
In several places I have mentioned that the cycle of belief-trust-obedience is important for conquering stress and achieving the peace, joy and fulfillment that we are promised as God's children.
My purpose for this article is to explain just what the cycle of belief, trust and obedience is... and what it looks like when we are living it out.
Keep in mind that this cycle can be applied to many areas of our life... not just stress. We can use the cycle to invite God into more and more areas of our lives as He reveals the need to do so.
I use stress management as the example here because a lack of belief, trust and obedience will always create stress in the Christian life.
You may read this article and wonder "what about faith?"
The cycle that I describe in this article is really a way of talking about faith... I'm just breaking it down to make it more understandable.
BeliefLet's start with "Belief"
It is important to know what we believe and why we believe it, so that we are prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks about our lives and our hope (See 1 Peter 3:15).
Beyond that, belief forms an vital foundation for trust and obedience. After all, why would we trust in something we don't believe? How can we obey someone we don't believe in?
So... what exactly are we believing that is so powerful when it comes to battling against stress? We are believing the promise of peace... that God will help to bring us peace in stressful times.
In St. John's account of the Gospel, Jesus Christ Himself said that He was going away for a while (See John 14:18-27). But He left a promise for everyone who demonstrates love for Him by hearing and keeping His commandments.
Christ promised that He would not leave us alone like orphans. He promised that His Father would send a Helper, the Holy Spirit to remind us, to teach us and to comfort us.
This Helper, our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is not just present with all Christians... whether we are being persecuted for our faith or just struggling against the problems that life in a fallen world brings our way.
Holy Spirit is not overloaded by too many calls for help. He is not napping. He is not distracted by more important things.
He is sent by God the Father to everyone who has a life-changing love for Jesus Christ.
In the Apostle Paul's letter to the early Roman church, we are assured that God works everything for the ultimate good of people who love Him and are called according to His purpose (See Romans 8:28).
Not just for those being martyred for their faith. Not just for celibate, cloistered contemplatives.
In the end, God works everything for the good of everyday Christians who are trying to make ends meet, Christians who are struggling with physical ailments, Christians who are being pulled in fifteen directions at once and Christians who are living every day "in the world" and on the front lines of the spiritual battle.
I could go on with scripture after scripture, but remember this: you must believe that the promise IS for you.
TrustSo where does trust come into the picture?
We believe that Christ died once and rose again... we devoted our souls and our bodies to Him... maybe last week or maybe half a century ago... but we will spend the rest of our time on earth learning to trust Him with every aspect of our lives.
We need to trust because of our own limited vision.
God is always revealing new areas of our lives which we need to hand over to Him. Our stress levels, and in many ways our spiritual and psychological well-being, are directly correlated with the completeness of our trust in God.
When we try to take on life ourselves - or when we hold ourselves responsible to ensure a positive outcome - we take on the stress that goes with it.
In Christian life coaching, we are often exploring the areas of our lives where we need to take responsibility, and discovering which areas we need to hand over to God in complete trust that He will work everything together for our good.
Here are a few words of comfort to those who are struggling to trust...
God is the sustaining God of the Universe, true. He has billions of prayers to answer, true. It is also true that He guides the fate of entire nations and holds the hearts of powerful leaders in His hand.
However, your peace in life's turmoil and your joy in troubled times are not too small a task for our Father. All of those important things are not enough to keep Him from paying attention to you, His child.
Consider this... God dresses up the flowers of the field more elegantly than Solomon, the ancient, wealthy king. He provides food for the little birds, and knows when one of them falls to the ground. He pays attention to you, and to your stress. Even if you have been so stressed that you are pulling out your hair, God still knows exactly how many hairs you have left!
For reference, see Matthew 6:25-30, Luke 12:6-7, and Luke 12:22-28
ObedienceNotice that the cycle does not stop at belief and trust. Belief in God and His promises is good, but it requires something more of us, which is trust.
Thank God, belief not only requires us to trust, it also enables us to trust! Once we truly believe that God will take care of us as He promises, then we can trust Him to do so.
Once we truly believe and trust that God has our best interest in mind, then we can obey His commands. When we obey, things work out for our ultimate good.
As we see the fruits of obedience in our own lives and the lives of others, it strengthens our belief and the cycle continues.
You can see that obedience plays a special role in the believe-trust-obey cycle. Even as obedience is important, remember that we do not succeed because of our own strength.
Just as trust follows naturally once we truly believe that God's promises are for us, obedience follows naturally from a firm trust in God's ability to work things out for our good.
We can obey God's commands when we trust that they truly are designed to relieve our stress and not add to it.
I don't need to list God's commandments here. You know where to find the 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy chapter 5). And you know that Christ said the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Holy Spirit will also help you remember God's commandments... He is very good at reminding us when we get off track!
Unbelief, Doubt, SinNow that you have a full picture of the believe-trust-obey cycle, I am going to introduce you to its evil twin... the unbelief-doubt-sin cycle.
If believing in God's promises, trusting in His ability to take care of us and obeying His commands will relieve our stress, you can imagine what the unbelief-doubt-sin cycle does...
it adds to our stress, of course!
Use your God-given intuition and imagine your own examples of how a lack of belief in God's promises leads to doubting of His abilities and intentions which results in acts of sinful disobedience.
We all have plenty of examples from our own lives, if we are humble/honest enough to admit it :)
To find out more about the Cycle of Belief, Trust and Obedience, see...
God In Our Stress: The Christian's Guide to Stress Management
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New Book Offer!
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God In Our Stress