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Resurgence Text & Context: Biblical Stress Management

March 7, 2008

My bride and I attended the Resurgence: Text & Context Conference in Seattle last week and it was quite possibly the best conference that I have ever attended (with The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World being its rival). I will be posting some notes from the conference over the next few days. I won’t be making much, if any, commentary. Here are my notes from a pre-conference session by Steve Crain of Healthy Dynamics.

The Christian & Stress:Biblical Stress Management
Resurgence 2008

Seminar Purpose:
As a point of fact, life is full of stress, for the Christian even more so. Learning to manage stress from a biblical paradigm changes everything. To this end, today’s seminar is designed to help Christians redefine stress scientifically/medically and then manage stress from a biblical perspective by understanding the following:

Science attempts to explain how things work.
God through scripture, tells us why.
The why is much more important than the how!

What is Stress?

Most people think stress is in your mind, medically you are not under stress until it affects your body. Stress is when the body is affected.

Stress is…

a combination of physical responses (designed by God) in your body.

to events or situations that happen outside your body.

Most stressors are neutral, whether they become distress or eustress is largely up to us.

The Science of Stress:
How God designed our bodies and the nature of stress development.

Eustress, Distress, the Sympathetic Nervous System

  • Distress is…
    • Damaging
    • Pathogenic stress (the capacity to foster disease), or wear and tear on the body.
    • Distress breaks down bodily systems and…
    • Develops into ‘Chronic Diseases’
  • Eustress is…
    • Growth-promoting stress…
    • represents a challenge &
    • is a stimulus for growth &
    • positive development.
    • Eustress is the spice of life.

Locus of Control
Is a psychological construct that can change distress to eustress which refers to where you believe the control of your life’s circumstance is located.

There are two categories of Locus of Control: Internal & External

  • Internal Locus of Control
    • People with an internal locus of control tend to believe that they have control of and over their lives.
    • They also tend to believe that the money they make, their jobs, grades or their health are all factors within the realm of their influence.
  • External Locus of Control
    • People with an external locus of control tend to believe that control over their life is located outside themselves.
    • They may believe that luck, chance, other people, or God have a greater influence over what happens to them.
  • From science’s view:
    • An internal LOC promotes eustress
    • Whereas an external LOC promotes distress
    • But… psychological studies show that when people put faith or trust in God and they pray about things, it turns distress to eustress.

Stages of stress development

  • An Event
    • Something in your environment that triggers your bodies stress response.
    • Bottom line… it is a stressor. It is the trigger to the bullet.
  • Cognitive Appraisal
    • Where you interpret, categorize and label the stressor: Distress or Eustress.
    • As we Christians live our lives, stressors come at us day by day, minute by minute…but what’s eustress for one, is distress for another…
  • The Alarm Stage… prepares your body to take physical action in response to a stressor.
    • The autonomic nervous system uses Cortisol and Epinephrine to stimulate increases in heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Endorphins are released to help you feel good.
  • Fight or Flight
    • Most stressors will trigger either fight or flight, and the alarm stage prepares you for physical activity.
    • If you fail to ‘fight or flight’ (act on it in a physical way), the physiological effects linger. If it continues over time, it becomes what we loosely call ‘stress’.
  • Resistance Stage
    • This stage attempts to end the alarm stage, slowing the physiological changes, and return your body to normal. But if resistance fails, then we get exhaustion and disease.
  • Exhaustion and Disease (this is where Chronic Disease gets its start)
    • When your bodies alarm reaction is triggered repeatedly, the process of shifting from alarm to resistance drains energy and bodily organs begin to break down, threatening your health and inviting chronic disease.

The General Adaptation Syndrome
Stressor > alarm > resistance > exhaustion & disease

The physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of stress
Hypertension, heart disease, cancer, strokes
Divorce, neglect, troubled children, addiction

Why God designed our bodies with a stress response system (or Why God gave us Epinephrine, Cortisol and the Sympathetic Nervous System)
We moved from the Garden of Eden to the Jungle. This mechanism keeps us alive in a fallen world. But if we don’t view a neutral stressor as eustress, we get damaged anyway.

The Science of Stress through the lens of Scripture.
It is critical to have scripture in your head/heart for recall during the Cognitive Appraisal stage.

1. Phillippians 1:12-14 and the Locus of Control

a. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me (my stressors) has really served to advance the gospel (eustress), so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest (eustress in others) that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

2. Philippians 4:6-7 and the Locus of Control

a. “Do not be anxious (stressor) about anything, but in everything (stressor) by prayer (External LOC) and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

b. A chosen External LOC shifts distress to eustress. It brings you down out of the alarm stage, and minimizes disease.

3. Philippians 4:11-13 and the Eustress/Distress

a. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance (stressor), I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

b. How we view the circumstance is critical.

4. Philippians 4:19 and the Eustress/Distress & Locus of Control

a. “And my God will supply every need (stressors) of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

b. This is an Internal LOC that chooses proactively to be an External LOC. This changes everything!

5. James 1:2-8 and Cognitive Appraisal

a. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

b. This passage helps us to see a stressor as eustress. Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. We must see life’s stressors as what God brings us to do surgery on our lives.

c. If we don’t view stressors biblically… what God intended for eustress becomes distress.

6. Romans 8:28 and Locus of Control

a. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together (external LOC) for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

b. Looking at the science of stress, viewed through the scriptures, we see how God uses stressors to build our faith.

7. Matthew 6:25-34 and Locus of Control

8. 1st Peter 5:6-7 and Locus of Control

a. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

b. Foundation in an Internal LOC that intentionally trusts the External LOC

9. Philippians 2:3-5 and Cognitive Appraisal

10. Luke 10:38-42 and Prioritizing and Goal Setting

The key is to shift distress to eustress, through the Internal LOC intentionally choosing to trust the External LOC.

Stress Management, Application and Review
Temple Stewardship: God says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He owns it out right, but graciously allows us to borrow it for awhile, which means we have custodial responsibilities.

  1. The role of exercise
    1. Remember, the alarm stage prepares you for the physical activity. If the alarm stage prepares you for fight or flight, both of which are physical, how can you stop the alarm stage from progressing to disease?
    2. Your body gets all amped up, ready for physical activity. Exercise helps get the system flushed. It is a critical maintenance component for the body.
    3. Exercise for stress management is huge.
      1. Detoxification: detoxify your body by burning off stress-related hormones that perpetuate the cycle
      2. Physical exercise serves in reducing mental anxiety. Psychosomatic effect.
      3. Serves in strengthening internal organs, like your heart, lungs. This makes your body more resistant to disease.
  1. Having a healthy Nutritional Lifestyle
    1. Some vitamins get hammered during stress, but you can get these vitamins with just some good fresh food.
    2. We need five small meals throughout the day. With bigger meals in the morning.
  2. Choosing His mindset
  3. Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize
    1. God
    2. Wife
    3. Children
    4. Pastoral Ministry
  4. Just Say No! You can’t be everything to everybody.
  5. Goal setting
    1. Short, easy goals that get you to the end goal.

Temple Stewardship
The biblical basis for taking care of our health!

Being a good steward involves more than money. It includes making balanced, disciplined and wise lifestyle choices. Stewardship includes the wondrous creation of the body. Recognize God’s authorship, ownership and your stewardship.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2008 12:00 pm

    I was doing a search for Acts 29 and Austin Stone and whose blog appears in my google search?? Mr. Jacob Vanhorn’s!!! Good to see you and your beautiful family is doing well. Much love and prayers to you guys in Austin! (like the new last name?? I don’t know if you heard but I got married last December. Blake Chilton doesn’t know what to do with himself because he can’t call me Evander anymore)

  2. shirley katy permalink
    October 21, 2009 4:53 am

    It was an awesome , i loved the way stress is expressed here .

  3. lisa permalink
    September 2, 2010 4:45 am

    This is an inciteful and honest explanation of stress. I love the biblical perspective.

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