Many people, especially the next generation are struggling with stress which can lead to depression or worse. Stress is very real among young people and studies show that this is the case more so than ever before. A smaller percentage will see their stress as the end of the road and suicide will become an option. This is a serious issue that seems to fly under the radar. With a pastor’s heart, I felt compelled to write a few words about this important topic. If you find these words helpful, please pass them on to a friend, youth, college student, parent or pastor.
What if stress is really really serious? It’s no secret that high school and the years that follow are a time when many people fall into depression. According to Teen Health and Wellness, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 in the United States. Deep internal stress is a very serious problem. Don’t be fooled: Even those who love Jesus can struggle with depression. Maybe you feel like your problems are so overwhelming that you don’t know what to do. Perhaps you think you’re stupid for even feeling this way. There is hope—but you can’t do it alone. You need to reach out to someone!
Many who are in the dark hole of depression choose to keep it to themselves, believing they can fight their way through it alone. They’re trying to build their own life preservers even as they feel themselves drowning in the open sea. This is no time to be silent. This is the time to yell for help! Go. Run. Hurry. Choose a close and trusted friend, pastor, brother, sister, mom, dad, step-mom, step-dad, grandparent, professor, physician, coach, teacher, or counselor. And if the first person you tell doesn’t take you seriously, keep searching until you’ve found a trusted friend who can help, because there is always hope! Read that again. There is always Hope. Please keep reading.
Don’t worry about looking dumb or feeling too needy. We were built for community and connection with others. And remember: Jesus will always be there with you, even as you walk through this valley of death. Jesus walked through the same valley just hours before he was nailed to the cross for our sins (Luke 22:39-46). There’s good news: If there’s a valley, there must be a mountaintop. No matter how difficult it might seem, victory is yours through Jesus Christ who conquered death.
A Place of Peace
In 1969 astronauts landed on the moon for the first time. (I know— that was before most of us were born. In fact, it was before I was born.) After the Eagle landed on the moon, the astronauts set up what would be called Tranquility Base. It was an ironic name for the site of such a daring and dangerous mission. Did you know that when Neil Armstrong landed that spacecraft on the moon, he had less than a minute of fuel remaining? In fact, some scientists estimate there were only 11 seconds worth of fuel left! Eleven seconds! Can you believe it? And they performed that whole moon mission with less computer power than I have in my minivan! NASA seemed to be communicating a biblical principle:
You can have peace in the midst of stress.
Oceanographers say that no matter how high the ocean waves might be at any particular moment, the sea is always tranquil and peaceful 20 feet below the surface. No matter how bad the storm rages on top of the ocean, the waters are calm down deep. The believer in Jesus finds peace in the same place—down deep! Shallow belief in Jesus leaves you anxious and fearful when the storms rise, but deep, stable faith in Jesus provides tranquility in the midst of severe and threatening storms.
One of the most important things you can do when you’re feeling stressed is gain perspective. Take care of yourself. Go buy a grande carmel macchiato from Starbucks and drink it in a hammock. Take a chill pill. Exercise like crazy. Pray without ceasing. Run a lap. Play soft music. Take large, overwhelming tasks and break them into bite-sized pieces. Buy a punching bag. Find a hot tub. Light some candles. Say no to something. These are all good ideas. Try them.
On the other hand, there are some things you shouldn’t do while attempting to deal with stress. If you’re stressed, don’t bite your fingernails, get drunk, do everything all at once, take pills, drive like crazy, eat a whole quart of ice cream, fill your calendar so full you can’t breathe, punch your friend (even if you say you’re doing it “in Jesus’ name”), play in the road, or put firecrackers in your mouth and light them. These aren’t good ideas. Don’t do them.
I want to end this blog on a more serious note—and hopefully one that will give you some hope when the stress is real. Paul gave the Christians in Corinth (and all followers of Jesus) a great reminder, even when times get difficult: Do not lose heart. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Let me put it another way: You might feel like a quarterback being rushed by a whole gang of linebackers, but you’ll never be sacked. Every now and then you might feel like a rubber band stretched to your max, but you won’t break. You might feel like a deer being pursued through the woods on a wintry day, but you’ll never be hunted down. There are even times when you’ll feel like a
boxer being beaten, bruised, and thrown against a wall repeatedly, but you won’t be knocked out.
Because “we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). We’re like jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7)—fragile and breakable on the outside, but strong like iron on the inside because Jesus lives in us. Even though your present circumstances may seem dark and hopeless, there is still Hope in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Put your hope in Him. Seek help and prayer from others. Reach out.
So we don’t lose heart. Don’t give up or give in to stress. We’re maturing as we follow Jesus.