God, I’m Stressed: Where’s The Chocolate?
Recently, I read an article by Harvard Health Publications that said severe stress causes people to increase their intake of high sugary and fatty foods. No disrespect to Harvard, but I could have told them this without the Ivy League degree. I feel this scientific fact anytime I have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and find myself stuffed before the dessert menu is even out.
Not that there is anything wrong with enjoying a hearty meal and/or a sweet, savory dessert. (The good Lord made the cocoa bean; did He not?) However it brings me to a question: How much of a good thing is too much? In a world of moral relativism and constantly changing values, how do we distinguish between what we are free to do and what is best to do?
The Scripture says:
“Everything is permissible for me–
but not everything is beneficial.
Everything is permissible for me–
but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor 6:12, NIV).”
It would be so easy if there was a rule book that took every possible scenario a person might face from birth until death and gave them a list of what they ought to do and when. To a certain degree the Bible is that amazing guidebook, and while it is “…a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” it is not an app on my phone that I can shake and find out what is going to happen tomorrow (Ps 119:105, ESV). Although, the Bible is clear about so much of what we are and are not to do, I’m speaking to those areas that are not specifically addressed, the gray areas:
- Could I eat four more soft-baked, chocolate chunk cookies since I had a stressful day at work and was stuck in traffic for two hours?
- Can I go just a little bit further with my boyfriend since he’s been so patient already?
- Could I join my office “Girls Night Out” group to preview the movie screening of Fifty Shades of Grey?
The answers to these questions are not specifically found in chapter and verse, but there are biblical stories which provide models, like when God told Sarah that she was about to have a baby. Sarah was like 90 something years old. She waited and waited and no baby. Sarah was culturally free to ask Hagar to have her baby for her at that time, but since God gave Sarah the directive, it wouldn’t prove to be a beneficial choice. She tried to fix the problem by bringing in Hagar, jealousy ensued, not to mention global consequences added. Sarah’s stress levels only increased when she tried to fix her own problems, meet her own needs.
Similarly, when we use our liberty to fix ourselves or indulge our own flesh, we sin (Gal 5:13). Our choices have consequences, too. We do not sin alone. Our choices impact others. So, let’s check the motives behind some of gray areas in life before we try to fix things ourselves. Let’s ask: Why am I doing this? Would this cause me to obey God? Will this strengthen me or weaken me? Could this cause anyone else to potentially become distracted or discouraged?
So, back to some application points for the above gray areas:
- Yes, I can eat four more delicious cookies, but the larger question is this: Is it beneficial for me to turn to sweets which will provide a temporary euphoria? Or is it more beneficial to have four more minutes of prayer/meditation with the God who takes my anxiety from me? The One who takes my stress and there is no guilt, no shame for running to Him, and no increased calorie intake… He may even reveal the why behind my behavior and get to the root of my stress, instead of the bottom of a cookie jar.
- Regarding the boyfriend: perhaps the question is not essentially how much can we get away with and still be guilt-free but rather: Based on God’s amazing gift of Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross for my sins, victorious resurrection from the grave, and free offer of eternal life to those who believe, how can I best honor Him by the things I do in this body and that I do to another person? Is this person God’s utmost choice for me? What if I become a stumbling block?
- For some Christians Fifty Shades of Grey is not so gray; it’s very black and white. However, given the popularity of a movie almost six months away from opening and the pull it has on our culture, we might want to decide in advance what is most beneficial, for us. God designed sex within the loving context of marriage, and in Ephesians, Paul tells us that marriage is to be a tangible expression of the mystery of Christ and His love for the church (Eph 5:25-32). So, how does watching a movie that is essentially soft pornography draw me closer to the heart of Christ and my image as His pure bride? How does it serve to strengthen my faith? Simply put, precious jewel (I mean you), it doesn’t. Pornography weakens.
Let me be transparent and admit that I do not have this all figured out, nor do I faithfully practice everything I’m learning. I remember a time when I totally blew it. I was on a camping trip and made out with not one, but two guys. (Talk about having a s’more or two.)
Cue the judgment.
Well, no need, really because the next day I was so choc-full of guilt and remorse with just me and the Holy Spirit. There was nothing in my behavior that even remotely resembled the directive to “…renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:12-13 ESV)
So, why did I do that?
For the same reason that when I’m stressed I crave chocolate chip cookie dough. Because it feels so good, and stress hurts. Food, alcohol, pills, and sexually charged movies can all numb the stress and satisfy the desire. Well, at least for a short time.
~Help Shabby Chic Ministries now through 8/15:
The next day after my camping trip, I went home confessed my sins to the Lord and repented. That was the easier part for me. Accepting God’s forgiveness and moving forward was harder. God knows my heart, sees all of my sin, and loves me despite. For those who know Christ, we are each saved by grace through faith, not through works (Eph 2:8-9). But if we want to move from saving faith to strengthening our faith, we still need to tap into God’s enabling grace to make better choices.
As we make our way through this Christian journey, tap into God’s power to make stronger choices, a gradual shift will begin to take place. We will become less and less hungry for what satisfies “me” and how my stress demands relief. We will become less about what I do or do not want to eat, do, or watch. And we will become more about what kind of day-to-day worship God deserves, who He is, how He not only takes our sin, but He also takes our stress. Come to Him. Let Him take your anxiety, and ask Him for His enabling grace to make stronger choices. He alone knows what really drives us and what will really satisfy us. His Spirit can help you tap into the abundant life that tastes even better than chocolate.
by Tricia Moton with Shabby Chic Ministries
- Consider taking a biblical self-assessment. Plan a café break and bring a Bible and journal. Write out 1 Corinthians 6:12 in your journal. Pray and invite God to purify your life’s decisions. What does God lay on your heart? Is there a specific area where you may be free to eat, wear, enjoy, but perhaps it may be … beyond what is beneficial for you? What might be “too much, or not enough” in your life?
- Take a page in your journal and write out the word “STRESS” across it. What stressors you have been trying to handle or fix on your own? Give each one over to the Lord, then write the word “Jehovah Jireh-The Lord Provides: over all of it.
- For more on how our bodies are to be used, check out this sermon from Ray Steadman.org entitled “What Are Bodies For.”
What is one area that you’d like to make an effort toward more beneficial choices that impact you or others?