Stress is part of our lives. Some stress can be good, it makes us act when action is needed. But too much stress can paralyse us causing us to be ineffectual and leading to other issues. Stressors (stuff external to you that creates or builds stress) influence our lives causing stress, when we have too many of these stressors we can go into distress. Distress occurs when we are unable to deal with and alleviate the stressors.
Some of us like stress and think that we can’t operate without it. We need the stress to set our adrenal glands into action and give us that hit to get stuff done. This occurs when deadlines approach, when we pile out plates to overflowing with to do’s. This often comes at the expense of other more important parts of our life (family, friends, relationships in ministry).
One of the big causes of stress is conflict. We each have our own way of dealing with conflict, but most of them fall into two categories. We either stand up and fight; we lash out, get angry, say terrible things, even actually throw punches. Or we run away (flight), we avoid the conflict: don’t talk to the person involved, change the subject, conveniently change small groups, ministry teams, or more drastically, move cities or head overseas “on mission” or for “self discovery” or some other purpose.
For me I am more likely to avoid the conflict, this is dangerous and can lead to further pain, it festers and causes more division and unease. Equally fighting can do the same, it escalates the problem, leading to further stress and pain.
Since this our typical and most often sinful response, there needs to be a third, gospel, way to approach conflict. Mark Driscoll, in his Trial series talks about this (I just need to work out which sermon). We need to respond with grace and understanding, not excusing people for mistakes but neither reacting in anger by fighting or in avoidance. We must let the cross shape how we deal with conflict and stress. When there was conflict between us and God, Jesus went to the cross to resolve that conflict.