The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Doctor Henryk Wieja defines stress and burnout, and gives a biblical perspective to cope with it when it is harmful.
Stress, conflict and burnout are very common problems that men, women, and children with different backgrounds, social and economic environments, suffer worldwide.
But, What exactly is stress? And how much stress is too much? What causes burnout, and how can we be intentional in seeking after peace and hope? What does the Bible have to say about it?
Henryk Wieja is the co-founder and president of Life and Mission Ministry, an evangelistic and discipleship ministry that originated in the 1990s and is based in Poland. Henryk was involved in the formation of evangelistic conferences within the Polish Lutheran Church.
He is also a medical doctor and founder of the Centre for Preventive Medicine and Comprehensive Care in Ustron, Poland and conducts training and seminars on spiritual growth, health, marriage and family counseling.
In an interview with the European Leadership Forum, Wieja explains how and when stress and burnout become harmful and gives a biblical perspective to cope with it.
“STRESS IS A PART OF LIFE”
Although “very often stress is defined as the pressure outside of circumstances, or the attitude of other people to us”, Henryk Wieja explains that “this is not stress. Stress is not something outside of us, it is a subjective reaction, response to the circumstances, actions and life events around us.”
“Stress is a part of life, without stress we cannot function, because stress elevates our stamina, our mobilization. Stress is preparing us for being more articulated, more effective, without stress we would not pass any exam, we would not be precise or successful”, he adds.
According to Wieja, “we cannot use stress as something negative only. It might develop negative results, but stress, in its original form, is something that mobilises us to be more effective, more productive and more successful.”
POSTIVE AND NEGATIVE STRESS
At what point does stress become unhealthy? “When we reach our best, and the stress response continues to elevate, it becomes harmful”, the doctor answers.
“We can divide stress in two categories: a positive stress, which mobilises us, but after crossing the threshold of optimal functioning, the stress becomes distress, a destructive stress that is harmful.”
Wieja warns that “when distress occurs in our body, the issue of fatigue, losing exciment, mental and emotional tiredness occurs, and if we ignore this, it just can grow to another state, the state of burnout.”
Stress can even “kill us, if we ignore the fact that when fatigue levels are so big that further pressures inside may be harmful, or cause a disease, or even death.”
“WE NEED TO BE TRANSFORMED”
The president of Life and Mission Ministry says “excessive stress reaction is preventable, but we have to remember what Christ said: all is possible for those in Christ. The Bible says that we can change our response, our reactions, and if we want to change, we need to be transformed, as Romans 12:2 says, not to imitate the reactions of the world, but to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us to become more Christlike.”
“The change then will be inside me. The circumstances may not change, the attitude of others would not change, but my response, my interpretation, my perception, and then my decisions may change. This will help us to function in an optimal level”, he continues.
“TAKE GOOD CARE OF THE BODY”
“As we read in Thessalonians, God wants our whole body, soul and spirit to be well cultivated, He will make us accountable of how we care, not only for our souls and spirit, but also for our bodies”, Wieja states.
So, first, at the physical level, “if we do not have enough sleep, we already wake up feeling tired, with a lot of fatigue, and we are in danger of losing joy of what we are doing. So what we eat, how we eat, how active physically we are, and what amount of sleep we have, is very important.”
The doctor also points out the importance of the liver and the kidneys, which “are the main organs that cleanse our body from toxins, so if we do not have enough sleep, or if we eat meals too late, we don’t allow them to cleanse our body and we are intoxicated in the morning when we wake up.”
“GRATITUDE, JOY AND GOD´S LOVE”
“At a emotional level, we have to cultivate gratitude and joy, which is the most powerful prevention of burnout. If we do not, as David did, give orders to our souls to focus on gratitude and joy, to focus on good meaningful relationships, it may lead us into the state of burnout”, Wieja affirms.
At a spiritual level, “we have to allow God to love ourselves. He wants to love us, but very often, even in our prayer life, we are bombarding God with the issues we are interested in, and we are not listening to Him”, he adds.
“LOOK AT THINGS FROM GODS PERSPECTIVE”
“We have many petitions, while He wants to help us, elevating our spiritual awareness, to look at things, people, challenges and problems from His perspective.”
Because “He is a loving father, He is making us humbly aware that without Him we cannot cope, but He is also going to sanctify who we really are. Otherwise, we will be function as a carnal individual, and that will bring more harm than blessings”, Wieja says.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT STRESS AND BURNOUT?
Henryk tells the stories of Moses and Elijah, as examples of “two persons that did not accomplish their life assignment according to the biblical definition”, and at some point of their lives were very stressed. But “please notice, who is comforting Christ at the mount of transfiguration?.”
“They had the empathy, they didn’t succeed, but God appointed them to be with his Son, to tell Him: Jesus, you can make it”, and that can give us hope when stressed and burnout .
Watch the full Henrik Wieja talk here: