Stress is something all people deal with throughout their lives. However, as university students, we go through a unique kind of stress. Our entire lives are set out before us, and most of the time, the choices we make here will impact us greatly throughout the future.
Like dominoes that fall in place after the first one is knocked over, so it often seems with our future. We feel like failure here will set us up for failure in the entirety of our future success. And this may be true. But first, take a long, deep breath. Hold it. Let it out. Don’t panic.
Before I go further, let me define stress. I am using stress in its everyday, colloquial usage wherein it means an overwhelmingly negative response to an outside stimulus, usually associated with anxiety, panic and shortness in both patience and temperament. I am not referring to positive stress or muscular stress in this article. I am only referring to that rush of cortisol in our brains that makes us freak out.
Cortisol is a hormone released by the brain, usually in fight or flight situations or during prolonged periods of fasting. Basically, this chemical is supposed to help you survive in a potential life-or-death situation. What does it say of us when cortisol floods our brains over, say, a grade? It says we have made such a mountain out of a molehill that our brains believe said grade must be a life-or-death situation and cortisol needs to be released to help us survive.
Of course, when no physical exertion follows to use up the cortisol, we feel psychologically and physically terrible due to its prolonged existence in our bodies (this is partially why exercise helps you get rid of stress; it lowers cortisol levels).
The truth is, at least for Christians, grades don’t ultimately matter. Especially not a single grade. Christians, there are only two things that actually matter in this life: how well you live for and like Jesus, and the relationships you make with others. These are the only two things that ultimately matter. Everything else will be gone or destroyed by rust or moth or time.
Your memories, relationships and service to God are the only things that’ll remain when Jesus returns. Jesus and the teacher in Ecclesiastes, I am convinced, were absurdists. They looked at the absurd — the fact that we try to find lasting, ontological meaning in our day-to-day lives but fail to do so — and then enjoyed life and God anyway.
Christians can take a lot from the wisdom of Kiekergaard, Camus and the like. But we should always turn to Christ himself first. What did Christ teach on anxiety and stress? Simple. He just said don’t be anxious or stressed. Matthew 6:31-34 says, “Do not worry about your life … seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and (your necessities) will be given to you as well … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
When you worry about a grade, it may not be apparent, but you’re worrying about your future necessities. The ultimate train of thought may be “I failed a class, and I might flunk out of college, and I might not get a job, and then I’ll starve homeless!” A legitimate response.
But Jesus said not to worry about it. Why? Because if you seek him first, he’ll take care of you. And stress and anxiety show a lack of faith in God. In fact, he implies that much. When you stress, you’re saying with your actions that you don’t trust in God’s provision for you. And if you’re more focused on your problem than you are on him, you won’t be able to notice his help when he sends it.
I believe his teaching on stress is two-fold. The second fold is this: What you’re stressed about won’t ultimately matter. Does it suck now? Definitely. Will it matter in a year? Five? Twenty? When you’re dead? No, it probably won’t.
Now, there’s a difference between dread — the negative desire to not do something — and stress. Christ dreaded the cross in Gethsemane, but I do not believe he was stressed about it.
Luke 22:42 asserts, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
May we echo that prayer and, in it, find solace from stress and anxiety.
Tripp Bond is a sophomore history major from Meridian.