By Dr. Donna Chacko —
Are you stressed-out? God will help you deal with stress if you trust Him to do so.
Stress is a huge problem in our over-busy and over-connected world. You may well be one of the 75% of Americans who complain of stress. Stress causes or contributes to 80% of serious illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Stress is also a contributing factor in the majority of visits to the doctor. These are the stress-related ailments like pain, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, or depression that I saw everyday during my many years practicing medicine.
Most of you who are reading this believe in God. But, do you understand the difference between your faith in God and your trust in God? Do you trust God? Let me share a famous story that helped me understand the difference.
Charles Blondin was a world-famous tightrope walker who in the mid-1800’s walked across Niagara Falls 300 times on a 2-inch rope.Thousands of people saw him do this. They also saw him perform breathtaking stunts, like walking on the wire backward, blindfolded, or while pushing a loaded wheelbarrow. Everyone believed Blondin could do these things. They had faith in him. But only one person trusted him. His manager, Harry Colcord, who trusted Blondin enough to climb on his back and let himself be carried across the falls.
Faith is a grace or a virtue given freely by God. Think of it as a gift from God. But this gift of faith will not be yours until you say yes to the gift, until you make the decision to absolutely believe in God. You accept this gift by your decision to believe. Trust will then grow from this faith. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely.” Trust is not an intellectual process or a decision—it is more like an action. It won’t work to just tell yourself, “Starting today, I will trust God more.” Let me explain how you can increase your ability to trust and what this has to do with stress-reduction and health.
You may not be ready to trust God with your life, as Colcord did with Charles Blondin, but you can start small by trusting Him with a little of your precious time. For years I was obsessed with time, with my need to be productive every minute and to complete my to-do lists each day. As my relationship with God became more important to me, I yearned for it to be a closer relationship. I finally realized I had to surrender some of my time to Him in prayer and trust that somehow my work and my lists would be adequately completed. Even though I believed in God and loved God, this was not easy for me, and it may not be easy for you. If you are like many Americans, you are too busy. Perhaps you are dealing with long commutes, two jobs, raising young children, or a packed schedule. So, how can you find any time to pray?
I started with only a few minutes of daily prayer time. I gradually increased the number of minutes and tried different forms of prayer, including contemplative prayer and prayers during my daily activities, such as praying in the car instead of listening to the radio. In this way, I have gradually trusted God with more and more of my time and my life. Think of this process as training one’s trust muscles!
This training program offers unequalled benefits. The primary reward is the closeness to God we experience as we learn to rest in the loving arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to trust God with our stressors, and to wait with Him during trials. But, there are unsought bonuses that come to us when we follow this path. Our minds will experience peace as we surrender our stressors and fears to God. Our bodies will start to relearn what relaxation feels like.
Considerable research on stress suggests that reduced stress translates to improved physical health and well-being. Many stress-reduction practices have been studied, such as breathing, meditation, exercise, and mindfulness-based stress-reduction.
They are all good. But, prayerfully trusting God and surrendering our lives and problems to Him is the best!
Dr. Donna Chacko promotes health of body, mind, and spirit through her website (serenityandhealth.com), her blog, and programs at her church. She previously practiced medicine for forty years, first as a radiation oncologist and later, after re-training, as a family medicine doctor. What she learned taking care of immigrants and the homeless in Washington, D.C., continues to influence her programs. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother and lives in University Park, Maryland.