Back in 1994 a study was cited by the Harvard Business Review. This study indicated that 60-90% of all medical office visits were made for stress-related symptoms.

I suspect this statistic hasn’t changed much in the past 16 years. Evidently, we live in a stressed out society. Someone has described our modern era this way:

This is the age

Of the half-read page

And the quick hash

And the mad dash.

The bright night

With the nerves tight.

The plane hop

And the brief stop.

The lamp tan

In a short span.

The Big Shot

In a good spot.

And the brain strain

And the heart pain.

And the cat naps

Till the string snaps—

And the fun’s . . . done.

So, what’s causing all this stress and strain on us modern Americans?

Well, there can be many causes of stress in a person’s life, but if my observations are correct, one of the biggest sources of stress in most people’s lives is the fact that they feel that they have too much to do in too little time.

Have you ever heard of burning the candle at both ends? Have you ever heard of going in several different directions at one time? Have you ever heard trying to hang heavy things on very thin wires?

I chuckled knowingly to myself when I heard a character in the Lord of the Rings movie (Bilbo Baggins) describe himself by saying:

“I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like butter spread over too much bread.”

Do you ever feel like that . . . thin?

Sherman James, an epidemiologist (someone who researches epidemic diseases) at the University of Michigan, describes a personality type named John Henryism.

This name refers to the American folk hero who worked on the transcontinental railroad as a “steel driving man.”  In other words, John Henry dug tunnels through mountains and hills by driving a six-foot-long steel bit through solid rock.

According to the legend, the railroad company eventually began to experiment with what they thought might be a better way to build tunnels—the newly invented steam powered drill. The story goes that big John Henry took up the challenge: he raced a steam-powered drill through a mountain . . . and won!

As James defines it, John Henryism involves the belief that any and all demands can be vanquished, so long as you work hard enough.

On questionnaires, John Henry individuals strongly agree with statements such as “When things don’t go the way I want, it just makes me work even harder,” or “Once I make up my mind to do something, I stay with it until the job is completely done.”

People with a John Henry personality type are absolutely convinced that with enough effort and determination they can regulate all outcomes. As a result, they often over commit themselves to too many projects at the same time.

Can anyone besides me relate to this particular syndrome?

Do we need to be reminded today that . . . John Henry died after that stupid race was over? If we don’t get a grip on our John Henryism, the stress it brings into our lives just might be our undoing!

Okay, so what do we do?

Well, I could focus our attention now on the kinds of stress-relieving and reducing techniques that we find in magazine articles, self-help books and a hundred-and-one internet websites. I could the devote rest of this blog posting to the goal of encouraging us all to:

  •    Learn some legitimate relaxation techniques;
  •    Make sure we get enough physical exercise;
  •    Get ourselves organized;
  •    Stop procrastinating;
  •    Stop trying to prove our worth all the time;
  •    Stop trying to be the “savior” of every problem we hear about;
  •    Seek balance in our life;
  •    Etc.

Though I believe we would do well to engage in many of these stress-reducing endeavors, these things are not what I want to focus on today.

Today I simply want to remind you of the way the man—Jesus of Nazareth—dealt with stress and encourage you to follow suit.

First of all, here are some reasons why I believe that even though Jesus was the Son of God, he was also human and therefore susceptible to stress just like you and me:

  •       First, we know that Jesus was a very busy person who was constantly having to deal with people who wanted a “piece” of him:

 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. (Mark 3:20)

  •        Second, we know that Jesus knew what it was like to experience heaviness in his heart:

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:27)

  •       Third, we know of at least one occasion where the emotional and spiritual stress Jesus experienced became so great that he developed physical symptoms:

 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

  •        Finally, the author of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus has experienced every temptation that you and I have to wrestle with (wouldn’t this include the temptation to cave in to stress?):

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

 The bottom line is that, even though Jesus was the Son of God, he was still very much fully human. As a human, Jesus had to learn to deal with stress just like you and I do.

 And boy, did he!

 I love this quote by Henry Drummond:

Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived; tempest and tumult, tumult and tempest, the waves breaking over it all the time. But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there.

The big question we need to ask ourselves today is this: How did Jesus do it? What did Jesus do to overcome the negative effects of stress in his life?

I am about to show you a short but profound Bible verse that, taken seriously, could change your life. Are you ready? Here it is:

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)

It has been my personal experience (and I might add, the experience of hundreds of thousands of Christians over the last two thousand years, some of whom have written entire books about this matter) that the key to defeating the negative effects of stress, worry and anxiety in our lives is to learn to do what Jesus was in the habit of doing: getting alone with God so that we can pray about the stuff that’s causing us to be anxious.

I want to suggest to you that learning to pray—really learning to pray like Jesus did—will rock our worlds in many ways. One of the things it will do for us is to help us experience a relief from stress that we’ve never known before.

This is why the Apostle Peter wrote these words:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

And why the Apostle Paul wrote these words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. {7} And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

And why the Old Testament psalmist wrote these words:

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. (Philippians 4:6-7)

So, could you use some supernatural strength and peace from the hand of God today? According to these powerful passages, we Christians have a secret weapon we can use to defeat the negative effects of stress. We can do what Jesus did: we can pray. We can develop the routine of getting along with God, pouring out our concerns to him so that he can press his divine strength and supernatural peace into us.

Again, are you really ready to experience some divine strength and supernatural peace? Are you really ready to lean on God a little bit?

Remember, John Henry … died!

Something to think about.