Nobody likes dealing with stress. But The Hulk takes reacting to stress to a whole new level.
In the movie, The Incredible Hulk, genius scientist, Dr. Bruce Banner, is on a quest to find a cure for the gamma radiation-induced phenomenon that causes him to morph into a monstrously powerful, unpredictable force whenever he gets stressed.
While most of us initially react to stress with irritability, addictive behaviors, withdrawal or chocolate, Dr. Banner's stress-induced super-human response has left him desperate. And like another popular movie sequel hero this summer, he also finds himself in South American being pursued by those interested in the military potential of this extraordinary power and caught up in the midst of an epic battle between the forces of good and evil. Just a little stress there...
Regardless of how long or short a time we've been a follower of Jesus, it seems that most Christians continue to struggle with how to handle stress and anxiety. How about you? Do you strive to stay close to God in the midst of tough times? Or is it easy for you to forget that God is in the business of redeeming your difficult times and using the tough stuff in your life to further His kingdom and bring glory to His name? When you don't understand and can't see what God's at work doing, do you dismiss God's promise that He can use the tough stuff to draw you closer to Him and to transform you and your world in the process?
One of the key things to do with our confusion and distress is to cling to Him and His strength, continually bringing our cares and concerns to Him in prayer. Jesus tells us:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-29).
Confessing our sin, reading His word and just sitting in His presence in prayer can be a source of strength and direction for us the midst of stressful circumstances. God also promises he will never leave us or forsake us, so no matter how hard things seem, He is there, walking beside us. Paul writes:
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly (1 Corinthians 4:11-13).
Difficult, demanding circumstances in our lives can either be wedges that push us away from God or push us closer to Him. And while we may not understand the why behind what's happening in our world, we can lean on the promise that God will walk with us through it.
Whether you're an action/sci-fi movie fan or not, if you find yourself in the midst of conversation about The Incredible Hulk, try using the conversation to talk about stress - how you deal with it and how your personal relationship with Jesus impacts you when stressful times smash into your world and threaten to turn you into your own raging version of The Hulk. Here are some ideas that might help you get started:
How do you react to stress in your life?
Are you more apt to explode or implode?
Do you struggle to control your reaction?
Ask your friends if they believe in God. Is He ever a source of strength or comfort for them in the midst of stressful circumstances? Listen, then share from your experience how your relationship with Jesus impacts your response to stress.
Ask your friends if they ever turn to prayer in the midst of stress or anxiety? Do they believe in the power of prayer? Listen, then share from your personal experience.
While stress doesn't impact us like it does the Incredible Hulk, we can still find our world turned upside down when tough stuff hits. As we learn to lean on God more fully, we can also seek to share His peace and comfort with a lost and hurting world.
Jane Dratz works for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., a ministry committed to energizing and equipping teens to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries, please visit www.dare2share.org. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.