Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Family Forte: Looking for Peace for Stressed Families

by: Topher Wiles


Have you ever experienced stress? I know you have! Stress is something that happens to all of us. It kind of sneaks up on you, but you know when you and your family have got it when it hits.


There’s a tenseness in your body with the muscles tightening up and you struggle to find a peaceful state of mind. If this keeps up long enough, you can become irritable with each other and possibly even experienced fatigue and sleeplessness.


Stress, or anxiety, as some call it, is so common that it gets the very first chapter in mental health counseling book I rely on by Gary Collins called Christian Counseling.  Stress/anxiety comes onto us whenever we feel that we’ve lost control of a situation. Whenever we get in a hurry or worried we can’t get where we want, when we want to. Perhaps we’re under a deadline, and we just know that if we don’t put an immense amount of effort into meeting that deadline, we won’t get it done. It’s potentially when we’re threatened with the loss of something we regard as valuable and we’re not sure we can avoid the loss. Collins says the long term effects of consistent stress can even include ulcers, headaches, rashes, cardiac issues, insomnia, reduced productivity, relational volatility, reclusive tendencies.


According to a medical report back in 1998, Dr. Herbert Benson at the Harvard Medical School believed that “60 to 90 % of doctor visits are for stress related diseases – including hypertension, infertility, insomnia, and cardiovascular disease.”


Even the Bible comments in many places about stress, but nothing summarizes it better than Proverbs 12:25a, “An anxious heart weighs a man down.”


Stress comes naturally to all of us and our families; it's always been around. But in today's culture, Collins says, "Anxiety is the official emotion of our age!" If we repeatedly experience anxieties and get stressed out, these emotions can have a terrible effect upon us and our families. Can you remember a more stressful time for families than the recent pandemic period?


So how do we deal with this malady that plagues us and our families? Here’s a few practical ideas that benefit me and are recommended by experts.


Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School (mentioned above) showed through his studies that the relaxed state brought on by prayer reduced the impact of stress hormones in a person’s body. He said: "Repetitive prayer slows a person’s heart and breathing rates. It lowers blood pressure and even slows brain waves, all without drugs or surgery.” Time alone with God in prayer and thanksgiving is a great way to deal with stress. It is even an activity that entire families can take part in together. My kids, my wife, and I pray together every night before bed and often count blessings together. Paul, a guy in the Bible who saw many stressful times in life echoes what Dr. Benson said when he shares, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  So if you’re struggling with stress, doctors and theologians agree, prayer really does help!


Prayer can bring peace to stress to families, but often times we also need to learn to process stressful requests better to reduce the strain. An elder at Central, Les Tubb, said that when a new problem arises that needs taken care of he does one of four things: he can DO it, DELAY it, DROP it, or DELEGATE it!  Either way, he is going to immediately choose one of these four avenues to resolve the requirement so that stress doesn’t due to an unmet deadline. Simply memorizing and following this decision-making process has been a blessing for me in my work, my relationships, and my person growth.


Finally, I recommend that you view stress in the family as something like a smoke alarm to address priorities. When you’re in your house and the smoke alarm sounds, you immediately investigate the source to address whether to put out the fire or flee.  Either way, you jump into action at the alarm.  When you find yourself feeling stressed out or you see the effects of stress building in your families, you have smoke coming from somewhere and often stress is a result of putting time, energy, and money in the wrong places. Let stress be a reminder to examine your priorities in life. Are wasted finances causing stress? Then reprioritize getting on a budget and paying off that debt. Is lack of quality family time leaving you anxious and worried? Then consider whether you’re investing too much time in work, hobbies, or video games. When we put our main priorities as the focal point of our time, energy, and finances, often the stresses of life lessen and we find more of that gift of people that God promises.


If you’re struggling with stress in your family, take a good long look at prayer, processing, and priorities as you seek to find peace. As always, my wife and I are happy to help you increase your family forte, and if you’re needing professional help with stress and anxiety, we have some great professional counselors to recommend.  Simply reach out at topherwiles@spartacoc.com. May you be blessed as you remember Paul’s promise, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer 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.”

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.christiscentral.org.

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