There is a wonderful quote by Mother Teresa that I first heard over 25 years ago and it has guided me well in learning how to manage my own stress as well helping my patients manage their stress. The quote goes like this, “I know that God would never give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much!”
It’s a bit humorous and tongue-in-cheek, but it does illustrate a powerful point that I believe to be true about stress: God, in his sometimes incomprehensible sense of humor, seems to enjoy giving us what I call “a celestial stress test” as a way to challenge us to become all that we are capable of becoming. When we can begin to view stress as God’s challenge for us to become wiser, better, kinder, more loving, giving, compassionate and just – then we will have passed the test and discovered a sacred truth that can help us to live a good life, full of meaning, health, happiness and peace of mind.
Now I also know that many times – it appears equally true that Mother Theresa may have been wrong, and that God does give many people more than they can handle and the result is clear: there is some sort of breakdown, either in their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual well-being. And, although most people experiencing such a breakdown will eventually recover and perhaps grow stronger, better and wiser because of it, it would be naïve of me to think that this happens in every case. Some people’s lives seem unfairly ruined and their spirit unfairly broken because of too much stress. In these cases we can only learn to be more compassionate and less judgmental – understanding that “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Nevertheless, in the overwhelming majority of cases – it is clear to me that God does “use” the vehicle of stress to challenge us to become better, kinder, wiser and more just and giving. In fact, I firmly believe that the greatest fulfillment in life comes when we use our God-given skills, ingenuity and determination to overcome the obstacles and adversities that have been placed in our path.
But perhaps most important of all, when stress does lead to some sort of breakdown, I firmly believe that a breakthrough is possible, and that if we can intervene early enough, we can help the overwhelming majority of people facing inordinate stress to prevent a breakdown in their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. So if you know someone who’s life or health is being ruined by too much stress, please direct them to this site, where they can find the tools, the wisdom and the guidance needed to get well again.