Jesus knew that we’d all struggle with stress and anxiety along the way, and this is what he had this to say about it.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:24-33
In the weeks leading up to exams, things can feel rather stressful, whether they’re school tests, college or university exams, or even job examinations, no one seems to like them, and inevitably God seems to lose his priority in our lives as our minds are focussed more and more on revision, or relaxing in some cases.
Though God promises to guide us and reading the Bible will help us keep direction, being a Christian is no guarantee that we will pass our exams, or that life will somehow be perfect, Christians can fail just as much as other people. And just by handing everything in our lives over to God, it doesn’t mean that he’ll help us pass, we still need to put in the effort. We need to work hard for God, so that he gets the glory through our achievements and efforts.
It can become tempting to focus on the thing that gives us immediate relaxation, from eating, to watching Netflix, or gaming or anything else, but we shouldn’t let that take over and become our master. In the same way, though exams may seem to be the be all and end all, though it may seem like your whole life depends on the outcomes of these exams, we shouldn’t let it take over our lives. And yet, even so, I am just as guilty as the next person in the weeks leading up to them. I tend to go into a like ‘revision mode’ about a month beforehand, but it can get really unhealthy solely focussing your mind on revision for the exams and not allowing God to fill your hearts day by day with what he has to say.
But how? You’re right, how do we just ‘not stress or not worry’? it’s not usually as simple as turning off a switch or stopping ourselves from doing it. But I do think that sometimes, reflecting on his word and praying for peace of mind in the weeks leading up to the exams can really help. From knowing that exams aren’t the most important things in our lives, to having confidence in his plan, regardless of how content (or not content) we may feel, there is always something we can be allowing the holy spirit to be changing and transforming us from inside.
And as it is so beautifully put in Philippians 4, Paul writes:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7
This is echoed again in 1 Peter 5 where Peter says:
“Cast all your anxiety on him [God] because he cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7
Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded of how much God loves and cares for us, and these verses are no exception to that, not only does God take away our stress and anxiety if we give it up to him, but actually, when we pray in replacement for this, this peace of God transcending all understanding shall take over.
Though it may seem tough and hard to get into this exam season, we are told that God does love us, he does care about us and he wants us to give our worries to him. Over these next few weeks, why not try to think about looking up to him in prayer, especially in the times that you feel most anxious or stressed, whatever it may be about.