You’ve been working long and hard, and finally you get a chance to get away for some rest and relaxation. You’ve dreamed of this time, and now it’s here. You settle in, sit back and try to relax- but you can’t. You’re away from your desk, the phone is off, you have no responsibilities, but in your spirit there is an unrest.
What’s happening? Why can’t I relax? Where is this “below the surface stress” coming from? Here are a couple of ideas.
1. Sensory Overload
We live in a digital world where information is constantly at our fingertips, and we become so accustomed to being connected that we can’t deal with silence. I recently read some research data that found 2/3 of people under 30 cannot go longer than 15 minutes without checking the status of their favorite social media site.
When we live our lives in constant contact with media and information, suddenly disconnecting can leave a palpable void. I encourage you to resist the temptation to reestablish those connections and work through your feelings of withdrawal. The benefits of tranquility far outweigh any temporary feelings of stress you might feel from being out of touch.
2. Unfinished Business
Sometimes the insidious stress we feel comes from unfinished business, unmade decisions, or undecided issues that have yet to come to a close. This happened to me recently. I went on vacation for a week, and right before my vacation began our staff began a tentative discussion about a new direction for our ministry. I left excited about the possibilities. But when my vacation started, I couldn’t put the issue completely out of my mind. It felt like undercurrents of stress.
While it’s impossible to wrap up every loose end and make every impending decision before it’s time to rest, you can still do everything possible to keep from getting away without unfinished business. Rest comes when you’ve done all you can do.
3. God Might Be Speaking
I’ve discovered that undercurrents of non-specific feelings of stress is one of God’s preferred methods of speaking to us. Rarely does God seem to barge into our lives and scream out directions. Instead, He seems to create a sense of disquiet, of unsettledness, or undercurrents of stress. Things feel a little off, and it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong. I’ve learned to pay attention to these feelings, because those conditions have sometimes led to a word from God.
There’s nothing more frustrating than to finally get some down time and not be able to relax because of stress running below the surface. If you’re experiencing this kind of stress, here’s something to think about. For all those who are followers of Jesus, the peace of Christ comes with the presence of Christ in our lives. Jesus said this:
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
The key to experiencing this peace is allowing it to rule in your hearts. Paul reminded the Colossians of this truth:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… (Col. 3:15)
Give this peace permission and authority to override the stress you are sensing. This peace isn’t a mantra or a magic spell, it’s a reality.
Stress below the surface? It happens, but it doesn’t have to rule the day. Let the peace of Christ rule instead. You’ll enjoy your vacation much more.