Topics: Biblical Case Studies, Stress
Overview (from the Leader’s Guide)
The Gospel is that good news which this world could never devise on its own and that God had to import into this world by the flesh and blood and word of His Son. And it addresses the entire human condition including our stress and anxiety. In Mattew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” In I Peter 5:7, Peter says, “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” This four part Bible study series takes a look at stress in the life of our kids. It does not assume that stress is an all-consuming problem for kids, nor does it assume that stress for them is negligible. Like most things in life, the situations for stress and kids vary a lot. This series offers four ways and four Biblical texts that can help us and kids think about the role of stress in our lives and what God’s word says about it.
These four studies cover four contexts of potential stress for kids: the social scene, the academic scene, the competitive scene, and the future scene. These are not the only settings in which kids experience stress but they are common to most kids. The study does not explore family conflict, serious disorders or dysfunctions, or the circumstances of tragedy, disasters, or prolonged illness and disability. The study does provide a variety of opportunities to explore the daily hassles and anxieties that kids (and all of us) live with and ways that God’s promises speak to our lives.
The Biblical texts for each study are not the “obvious” sorts of selections. Books like Psalms and Proverbs include content with direct psychological language about emotions and responses related to stress. But these texts are so general that they are often difficult for many kids to access. Instead, the studies use texts that are more situational. The kids will have to work to understand the situation, but they should be able to transfer the context and content to their own experiences. The texts are deliberately selected not to be the same old Bible stories some learned as children, yet are somewhat familiar in name, author, or principal character.
The series assumes the leader is reasonably well informed with Scripture, doctrine, and the stories used here. The discussion content is notched up rather than down. It does not merely rehash the surface features of the readings with closed-ended questions. But both senior high and junior high youth can delve deeply into issues of faith and life if the leader does good preparation, anticipates those issues, and facilities the discussion.
Goals and Themes
The Bible is not a psychology textbook, and we should exercise caution not merely to psychologize the things of faith. But the Bible does contains countless psychological portraits. Consider, for example, the Psalms, Paul’s descriptive language, and many of the Old Testament narratives. This Bible study addresses stress, but stress is a psychological term, not a Biblical term. The psych textbooks define stress as not just a stimulus or response but the process by which we appraise and cope with challenges and threats from the environment–something we have to do every day. (If you’ve got a general psychology textbook around, page through the chapter on stress.)
The goal of these Bible studies is that students will recognize that stress is a continuing part of life, that stress is not bad in itself (some degree of stress is needed for our motivation); that it can have both positive and negative effects; and that the Gospel gives us Gods promises, assurance, and hope both when life and its stress is good and when life and its stress is bad. The studies are composed in a way that allows the user and presenter to select among several related topics and themes. Among those themes, consider for emphasis some of the following:
- God’s word does not call us to remove ourselves from the social, academic, competitive, and future scenes. Christians practice no special piety within any of these contexts. Christians in all life’s settings give an account of the hope in us and seek to live according to that hope (I Peter 3:15).
- The kids to whom we minister are working out their salvation and how to give an account of their hope in the midst of important developmental changes.
- Kids are tuning their radar to social distinctions, discriminations, boundaries, divisions, classes, groups, and preferential behavior. The Gospel of Jesus Christ dismisses all distinctions except the only one that matters: those saved and those not saved.
- The world creates merit systems as readily as it creates idols. Help kids detect the merit and measuring systems at work in their lives. Help them consider how much importance they want to attach to these systems, bearing in mind that though we are not to be of the world, we are still to be in the world. (I Corinthians 9:19 is instructive here.)
- Competition is often a bit of a puzzle for Christians, particularly in light of texts such as Philippians 2:1-11 and Luke 14:1-14. Be ready to help kids think about competition in a critical, non-simplistic way and examine it as a stressor for them.
The kids we work with are all over the charts when it comes to goals, objectives, time horizons, and plans for the future. Some are very goal-oriented. Some respond only to instant gratification. Either condition can be the source of a lot of stress for kids.
Other themes will emerge as you study and prepare your materials.