How to Cope When Stress and Worry Overwhelm You

What do we do when we’re overwhelmed by worry or grief? When we’re so stressed out that we want to disappear into our fridge, a book, or the internet? When we need to use every one of our old coping mechanisms to get us through, even if they’re of the wrong kind, and we know it?

How can we handle the stress, not only of the worry itself, but of trying to respond in a new way?

Listen to me carefully: God knows you are dust. (Psalm 103:14)

It’s one of my favourite things to say. I say it to myself, I say it to my friends. God knows you are dust.

He knows your weaknesses, frailties, failures, and He is not surprised by them. He is not disappointed by them. He does not think less of you. And He never will.

Nothing in all creation can separate you from God’s love.  (Romans 8:38)

So the first thing I want you to know is that it’s okay to be a desperate person, reaching out for help in the only way you’re accustomed to. You’re so normal.

The second thing I want you to know is that God is available, always, to help you. If you reach out to Him, He will not leave you hanging. But He knows your problem runs deep, and the fix won’t be instant.

Be as patient with yourself as He is with you.

He will lead you through the storm to healing, if you will let Him. Cling to Him, for however long it takes, and choose to see beyond your circumstances to the end. To heaven. To your real home. To His real purpose for your suffering: refining you into something even more beautiful. Making your heart into one that looks like Jesus’ heart.

He saves every one of your tears.

He doesn’t brush off your hurt or say you’re being silly.

He cries along with you.

I think He’d protect us from all suffering, like a mother tries to protect her child, but He knows, like a good mother, that some lessons must be learned the hard way. But He comes alongside us and walks every step of the way. He cries every tear along with us.

He is the opposite of indifferent.

I believe He feels it even more deeply that we do. After all, we are but reflections of God’s character. If we feel emotions as a reflection, how much more does God feel them? How does He survive the weight of the entire world’s suffering, when we can’t even survive our own?

He knows. He gets it. He’s been there.

And He cares. Deeply. For you.

So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.  (Hebrews 12:12)

Cry out for help, and then cling desperately to a promise from God. If you don’t know yet what God promises for you during your trials, go searching like a gasping man searches for a life raft. Satan wants you to do the automatic thing — reach for a snack, surf the web, play a video game. Those are the numbing things that leave us stuck and full of hopelessness, vague listlessness. We feel less, but we remain dissatisfied because instead of conquering the problem, we hide from it and pretend it’s not so bad.

God wants you, instead, to cling to Him. But how do you cling to someone with no discernible body, no audible voice?

You read His promises until the truth feels more real than the lie.

Until that truth sinks down so deep into your soul that it’s more a part of you than those old, automatic comforts ever were. You read them over and over again, and you choose to act on them. You lean your whole weight against them, hoping against hope that they won’t fail you.

And you pray to see your life from a heavenly perspective. From God’s view. From eternity.

You do everything you need to do to drown out the voices of failure, hopelessness, and not-good-enough. The voices of culture that tell us what timeline we must follow for our development, what we must achieve in order to be successful, and what eternally worthless things we should spend our money on. Our society shouts loudly at us. Read God’s word enough to make it grow dim.

I don’t want to leave you hanging there. There’s still so much more to say on this topic! Since the fix isn’t instant — it’s more like a slow, difficult, yet totally worth it process that will take the rest of your life — we need to talk about these things every day. In my case, I need to read about them and write about them every day. I need to mull them over. I forget the truth so easily. If you’d like to join me in being reminded, and you’re curious about the next steps, I invite you to sign up to receive updates in your email inbox so you won’t miss a single post. If you’ve read this, and you’re thinking, I want to believe these wonderful things, but I need more convincing, then please come back. There will be more. 

If you’re finding hope here, please do share with your friends. It’s amazing how many people are depressed alone, not wanting to admit their perceived failures to their friends. Sharing this message of hope from any source, whether this blog or somewhere else, could be just what someone you love needs to hear.