I recently looked down at the scale and did NOT like the numbers looking back at me. Truth be told, when backed up against the wall, our human instincts usually urge us to either FIGHT or TAKE FLIGHT. But for some reason, my instincts urge me to EAT!
It’s like a man walks in and pulls a gun on me, and my first stress response is… “Let me finish off this slice of pizza.” Unfortunately, I’m a “stress eater!” Everytime I get really stressed, I EAT!!
So, how can I be stressed while on sabbatical? Let me make a long answer short… My wife has an auto-immune disease that effects her intestines. It’s called Crohn’s disease, and she has painfully suffered from this disease since the age of six. Imagine your worst stomach ache, and then imagine experiencing that pain every day of your life. This is my wife Rebecca’s daily experience. Most of the time, she manages her affliction fairly well. She is one tough cookie, and looking at her face, one rarely sees her pain. I greatly admire her ability to maintain a strong faith in Jesus and a positive outlook despite her condition.
Unfortunately, for the past month and half, Rebecca has been really struggling. Stress is a catalyst for my wife’s Crohn’s Disease and causes inflammation in her intestines, which causes her not to eat. Naturally, when her health and weight diminish, it’s a catalyst for causing me stress, because when you love someone, it hurts to see them hurt. When she looses weight as a result of not being able to eat, my stress response is to eat on her behalf, like the husband who gains weight while his wife is pregnant. This is where I get myself in trouble. It can be a real downward spiral. But it doesn’t have to be!
If one of my problems is overeating because of stress, what is the solution?
I like what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to a young pastor he was mentoring: train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV) Notice that Paul tells Timothy that bodily training is of some value. He doesn’t say it’s worthless, but that it has value. Paul said this in a different context than mine (although Timothy appears to have had some digestional disease as Paul urged him to take a little wine for his stomach), but the principles still apply.
One observation I have made, regarding when I get stressed, is that bodily training and exercise have a tendency to go right out the window. Recognizing this weakness in myself, I stopped by Twisted Trails Running Company in Steamboat Springs to see what God and I could do about this problem.
Josh, the owner of Twisted Trails, hooked me up with some running shoes and great customer service. He also shared with me some group runs that would hold me accountable to dealing with my stress in a positive way. I bought the shoes, then drank the Kool-Aid, and have gone on every group run offered so far.
However, note that Paul’s primary emphasis to Timothy was to train himself for godliness. So, how do we do that? He says earlier to Timothy, For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:4-6 ESV)
It can be easy, during our times of stress, to let our active relationship with God slip. We can easily give up the discipline and privilege of spending time listening to God speak through His word and through prayer. If we are not seeing a clear picture of God’s grace and who we are in Christ Jesus, we can spiral down into a dark hole rather than setting our hope on the living God. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:9-10 ESV)
Is the stress of this life killing you? It doesn’t have to!
Together, we can train ourselves by the power of the gospel to set our hope upon the living God who continually saves us through the grace of Jesus Christ. Through the gifts God gives, we can fix our minds in God’s word and in prayer, no matter how twisted the trails of life’s trials become. We can train ourselves in godliness, as it holds promise for the present life as well as for the life to come. And we can look forward to the day when the pains and struggles of this life will be forever gone.