Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God's Therapy for Stress

Sleep. Eat. Sleep again. Eat again. And then engage in intense physical exercise— forty days and forty nights; from Mount Carmel to Mount Horeb. In 1 Kings 19:5–9, God provides Elijah some simple remedies to help him manage the stress he was undergoing. How interesting that proper sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet often are prescribed to combat psychological stress.

A common treatment for mood disorders is called activity scheduling. It consists of developing a rigid timetable that contains pleasant and purposeful activities that will force a depressed person to organize, anticipate, and carry out events. Such a regimen helps the person fill time positively and avoid self- pity. Physical exercise often is included in the activities, because it helps produce endorphins, morphinelike natural chemicals that enhance mood and at least temporarily relieve depression.

With heavenly guidance Elijah was led into the steps that would restore his normal mental health. As with Elijah, we need to be open to divine leading. As soon as Elijah sat down under the broom tree, he prayed. Yes, it was the wrong kind of prayer (asking God to take his life), but at least it was a prayer, a desire for God to take charge.

Over time Elijah overcame his terrible discouragement, and God still was able to use him (see 1 Kings 19:15, 16; 2 Kings 2:7–11). Before being taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah was given the great privilege of anointing his successor, and of witnessing the waters of the Jordan River separate, thus permitting him and Elisha to cross the river on dry ground.

Finally, Elijah was taken to heaven, without ever having to die himself. Kind of an ironic "end" for a man who, not too much earlier, was asking God to take his life!

Jesus also heard his ways of managing stress. Commenting on Mark 6:31, Ellen White wrote: "His hours of happiness were found when alone with nature and with God. Whenever it was His privilege, He turned aside from the scene of His labor, to go into the fields, to meditate in the green valleys, to hold communion with God on the mountainside or amid the trees of the forest. The early morning often found Him in some secluded place, meditating, searching the Scriptures, or in prayer. From these quiet hours He would return to His home to take up His duties again, and to give an example of patient toil."— The Desire of Ages, p. 90.

In addition, Jesus also used a sanctuary of friends (Matt. 21:17, Mark 11:11). People may be a source either of distress or of peace. Jesus found peace with friends who brought comfort and affection to His life. This He found at the house of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. "His heart was knit by a strong bond of affection to the family at Bethany. . . . Often, when weary, thirsting for human fellowship, He had been glad to escape to this peaceful household. . . . Our Saviour appreciated a quiet home and interested listeners. He longed for human tenderness, courtesy, and affection."— Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 524.

Whom would you go to, among your family/ friends, if you found yourself disoriented and in need of emotional support?

Adapted from "Jesus Wept": The Bible and Human Emotions

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