Php 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Php 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
One of the greatest difficulties Christians face is how to deal with the trials and stress of everyday life. I am of the opinion that these are more difficult for most of us to handle in a biblical, God-honoring way than those trials that might be described as very severe, life threatening or even persecution for the faith. I say this because it seems many times that the ordinary problems; those common to us all many times just aren’t handled well by we who claim to trust in the one, true God.
The title of this article lists perhaps the three main ways stress is handled in our day; legal drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol. I believe all three do the exact same thing regardless of the potential danger of taking illegal drugs; they all numb the mind. Now I realize that there are in some cases physical problems that can and should be addressed by medicine, but I am speaking about the everyday, garden variety way we handle the stress of big and small problems. There are two things I would like to point out concerning the way Christians should handle their anxiety.
First of all I think we sometimes are hypocritical in the idea that getting a prescription from the doctor for something to “calm” us down is somehow seen as different than smoking some weed or running home to have a stiff drink. I am not talking about whether something is legal or not but whether we are really handling stress in a better or fundamentally different way just because a doctor has prescribed a drug instead of us taking something not prescribed. I wonder if prescriptions are an “acceptable sin” in some cases. At the end of the day tranquilizers “force” a calmness upon us that did not come through the Spirit working in us.
To illustrate I know that if a member came over to the house Sunday evening and found me smoking a reefer and I excuse it by saying that the stress of church lately is really getting to me and so I just had to take the edge off; I am pretty sure I wouldn’t get much sympathy, nor should I. Yet if I go over to a member’s house who is struggling with some area that is causing them a lot of emotional and spiritual stress and they tell me that the doctor has prescribed something to calm them down I would be in big trouble if I suggested that that is no different than drinking or illegal drugs. It might be more socially acceptable but in all cases we have given up the fight. So first of all let’s be honest enough to admit that drugs are drugs, numbing the mind is numbing the mind, escaping our problems is running from them rather than fighting through them.
One reason I believe this is because whatever the Bible says about how we deal with our problems it was true and had to work in the day it was written. In other words biblical stress management must be able to work when there are no prescription drugs available. Throughout most of church history Christians had to be able to deal with life in a God-honoring way and they had to do it without the aid of drugs. So whether some drugs can be considered okay is not the point, but that the Bible with the Spirit of God must be able to be sufficient for every situation or their power becomes highly suspect. If Christians in the early church could handle stress without tranquilizers then we had better be able as well.
Secondly, if the above is a legitimate proposal then however Christians deal with their problems without altering their minds and bodies but instead using the Word of God must be a more God-honoring way to handle stress. Of course books could and have been written on this subject but let me just suggest a couple of guidelines.
First of all I believe God is honored by using our minds in difficulty not by numbing them. I think the Bible teaches us to dwell upon the promises of God, the truth of the Bible and the goodness of God and let these things work in us rather than chemicals. Paul said in the above verses that he has learned to be content. He doesn’t say that he has found a doctor who has helped him a lot. The Truth sets us free as we are able to work through trials in a way that uses them as an opportunity to serve the Lord not as an excuse to “forget about life for a while”.
Next, why do we assume that God wants us to get rid of stress as quickly and as easily as possible? Probably the most important thing in all this is the danger of assuming that it is perfectly okay to get over it as soon as possible. By this I mean that I believe God is more honored as we work through and endure our trials by gaining strength from his word and our love for him and proving that he is sufficient than by us “ignoring” difficulty by sleeping through it.
Take Job for instance who didn’t have a doctor to push some drug off on him. He had to just sit and take it and I don’t read where he did so with a bottle of scotch in his hand. He had to live with grief, and depression, a nagging wife and judgmental friends and struggle with it all. He couldn’t run from it but it was his struggle that makes up the bulk of the book. As he grapples with what was going on in his life and as the Lord reveals truth to him, he comes out on the other side the better for it. Can’t we say that if Job was medicated throughout the process the book would have never been written?
All this to say that it is the pain and the stress of life that give us the opportunity to show how much Christ means to us and the best way to handle these things is through truth and perhaps most of the time it is the struggle that we try to avoid through substance abuse that is the whole point of the Lord sending trouble to begin with. Should we not try to struggle as those who love the Lord above all else? Or are we to think that we are to lie down and go to sleep and do our best not to think about our problems?
I know a lot can be said about these things. I am not trying to make definitive statements that all prescription tranquilizers are sinful or that it is necessarily a sin to have a drink in the evening but clearly there is potential dangers with these things. I am saying there is a better, Christ honoring way that tackles life and not sleep through it. So let’s not give up the fight from the start. It is the fight that proves our love for the Lord.