Tension itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember, the violin attains beauty in tone because of the tension of the strings as the bow gently glides across them; but too much tension will only snap the string. Stress.
There are basically three responses to the stress of life today: The first is to ignore it. Yet there is no help in ignoring stress and its signs of crossness and irritability that signal trouble. Many try to overlook tension as though their system thrives on abuse. They are the ones who jump afoot when you walk up behind them, and then they say, “You should not frighten me like that.”
Others try to avoid tension. There is wisdom in learning to say “no” when you realize that accepting more responsibility will only subject you to added tension by involving you in activities that take your mind from the immediate problem.
Best of all, though, is learning to deal with tension. I would like to give you at least three ways in which you can deal with stress effectively.
Guideline #1: Deal with your tensions by putting life in perspective.
Is what you are so very nerved‑up over really worth the stress that you are tolerating? Ask yourself, “What difference will it make a hundred years from now? Or even ten years from now?” Chances are you are overrating the importance of your concern. Whenever I am privileged to walk through the ruins of ancient Rome or Athens, or walk in the shadow of the pyramids in Egypt, I always have to pause and reflect upon the things that have so concerned me. Someway in the stillness of those ancient ruins my soul cries, “Your problem is not worth the tension.”
Guideline #2: Deal with your stress by getting proper exercise.
This is one of our modern great shortcomings. When you sit at a desk, or go to work and do not move more than a couple dozen steps every hour, your muscles grow a little tighter. Tension is the normal response. Even a few minutes of physical exercise will relax you, and your mind will be very much clearer. Exercise has a therapeutic effect that far exceeds the helpfulness of any tranquilizer in most situations.
Guideline #3: Learn to trust God with your difficulties and leave the problem in His hand.
This is the tough one, and it is at this point that we so often fail. We say we believe in the power of prayer, and yet worry ourselves into tense little balls of nerves. Stomach ulcers, heart trouble, and hypertension become the badges of our faith or lack of it. Have you come to grips with the greatness of God? Or is God only a concept that has never invaded your heart and life? If you are a Christian, learn to accept the words of Scripture that say, “…God works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11, KJV). “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Learning that we can trust God to be God, breaks the tension habit and makes us realize that we are His children. When you are tense, get away from the lights of the city and sit down and look at the stars of the heavens. Remember that they are known by the same names today that they had centuries ago. Remember the words of Psalm 147:4 that tell us God calls them by name, by the greatness of His might. Now tell yourself, “If God can control our world‑‑if He can stretch forth the heavens–then He surely can help me with my problems.” Yes, you can break the tension habit before it breaks you.
Resource reading: Psalm 46:1-11