Coping With Stress as Modeled by Jesus

Parenting can be stressful.  Life is stressful.  Certainly there are moments of pleasure and peaceful relaxation, but the daily challenges of life can be significantly distressing.  When adversity comes, our degree of happiness is determined by the attitudes we embrace.

Let us ponder how Jesus modeled life, so that we can more deliberately imitate his lifestyle and methods of coping with crises.

First, consider the various types of distress that Jesus encountered and endured.  He was a societal misfit.  People labelled him as a mamzer (bastard) since he was born illegitimately.  He was misunderstood by his family and neighbors.  Jesus was often falsely accused.  Jesus was considered to be crazy or out of touch with reality by the intellectuals of his day.  The religious leaders accused him of mingling with the sinful dregs of society.   They even implied that he was demon possessed.  The Pharisees despised him, and the lawyers were constantly trying to trap and embarrass him.  Jesus was betrayed by a selected disciple, and all of His friends abandoned Him when He most needed them.  Eventually, He was murdered in the midst of an angry screaming crowd, who had previously witnessed His compassion and miracles.  He suffered excruciating death on the cross, bearing the sinful reproach of humanity.

Pause now.  Consider the extent of His external stresses.  Can you relate to any of those experiences and the emotional-social pain that accompanies such turmoil?

As we reflect upon the Gospel writings, we can observe six powerful coping strategies that Jesus utilized.  These methods of handling distress are based on His lifestyle, not His teachings.  We want to observe what Jesus did that enabled Him to endure the extreme pressures and maintain a joyful attitude.  Jesus told His followers to imitate Him so that they could experience His joy and peace in daily life.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to keep our eyes on Jesus…..

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.  Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT

Below are the first two coping strategies.  In subsequent writings, I will share with you the other four methods.

  1. Jesus relied on solitude and prayer.  In several places, the Gospel writers record that Jesus left the crowds, went alone into the hills to be still and connect with God (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42).  Jesus invited His closest followers to come with Him to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:30).  Before and during His intense temptations by the Devil, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert (Matt. 4:1-2; Luke 4:1-2).  Solitude was crucial for His emotional and spiritual survival.  It was a regular part of His life.  Regardless of the demands upon Him and the hectic busyness, Jesus made it a top priority to be alone with God and Himself.  Solitude should not be casual or an afterthought.  Rather, it must be intentionally built into our schedules and become part of our daily bread.
  2. Jesus developed and maintained close friendships.  Although He was powerful and magnanimous, He recognized the importance of intimate friendships.  He cultivated a few vital confidential friends.  Beyond the training of 12 disciples, He selected three to be comforting friends to laugh and cry and share burdens together.  Peter, James and John were invited to accompany Him on special occasions (Matt. 17:1-2; Matt. 26:36-38).  Jesus entrusted His deepest feelings to them and was vulnerable.  We also observe a close relationship with a family in Bethany of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John 11).  Jesus felt the deep sorrow upon the death of Lazarus and weeps with the two sisters.  Those who saw that transaction commented about His special love for them.  Jesus understood that “no one is an island” and living meaningfully requires the support of a few close friends.

to be continued in my next blog….

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Dr. David R. Leaman

Dr. David R. Leaman is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He had been in private practice in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania 1981-2013. Dr. Leaman is a frequent lecturer and professional trainer, nationally and internationally. He conducts workshops and seminars on a variety of mental health issues.

Book CoverDr. Leaman is the author of numerous professional articles as well as two books -- Making Decisions: A Guide For Couples; and MY CHILD IS ANGRY...AND SO AM I: Guiding Youth in Expressing Anger Constructively.

Using humor and cogent illustrations, Dr. Leaman presents vital principles for experiencing an emotionally healthy life.  Whether listening to Dr. Leaman as an event speaker, or attending one of his in-depth training seminars, you will enjoy learning about yourself in a gentle way and developing valuable insights for life.

Dr. Leaman and his wife, Joyce, are a dynamic counseling duo. They have been creating and leading family seminars and marriage enrichment weekends for over 35 years. Visit Dr. Leaman's website for more information.