Help for Women Under Stress: An Interview with Randy and Nanci AlcornBy Trillia Newbell | March 26th, 2013 | Category: Uncategorized | 2 comments
Women are under stress. That isn’t anything new. But what is causing these stressors and where does our help come from? Those are questions worth exploring. Randy and Nanci Alcorn set out to help women, all women, who experience the pressures of life and are squeezed in their new book Help for Women Under Stress.
Learn more about the book in this Q & A.
Q: I understand that Help for Women Under Stress is a rerelease. Is this correct?
Randy: Hi, Trillia. The answer is yes, sort of. It’s been twenty-seven years since Nanci and I wrote this book (originally titled Women Under Stress), and it’s been out of print for nearly twenty. When the book originally came out I’d written only one other book. Women Under Stress went out of print before any of my books made the bestsellers list. So while many of my later books have been widely read, not many people read this one.
Numerous women told us the book really helped them (the wife of a Christian leader said that it kept her from taking her life). Over the years women have encouraged us to republish it. After all this time I wasn’t optimistic when I sat down to reread it (I’m pretty self-critical), but when I did I told Nanci I was pleasantly surprised at what I found! It seemed just as relevant today, in some ways even more relevant. We saw some major ways to improve the book, including deleting some portions and adding others, and updating statistics and footnotes. In the end, there wasn’t a single paragraph that didn’t get changed. So I would call it a major overhaul, bordering on a resurrection.
Q: Why did you decide to publish this new version?
Randy and Nanci: We’re publishing this new version because—not surprisingly—women are still under stress! And perhaps, in our ever-changing, media-saturated, fast-paced world, they’re under more stress than ever. And we also feel that through facing our share of stress in these last twenty-five years, we’ve learned more from God and His Word about how to deal with stress, and how to see God using it in our lives for His glory and our good.
We at Eternal Perspective Ministries decided to publish it ourselves, so we can get it to people for a less expensive price. Since we give away 100 percent of the author royalties from all my books, including this one, we also saw it as an opportunity to use the small amount of money we’ll make in sales to support our ministry.
Q: Women truly are under stress. How do you define stress?
Randy and Nanci: Stress is the wear and tear of life. It’s the cumulative effect of all the demands made on us—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. While some researchers give highly specific and technical definitions for stress, to most of us, stress is simply a physical and/or psychological sense of pressure or weight. It’s usually triggered by some condition, event, or series of events. Often the word stress is used in reference to an external force that places demands on us, such as a stressful occupation, a stressful illness, or a stressful confrontation with a bank teller. But the experts say that stress does not reside in these demands themselves, but in our response to these demands.
According to Hans Selye, the father of stress research, “Stress is the spice of life.” So what’s the problem? If stress is the spice of life, many of us are over-seasoned. We have stress to spare—stress running out our ears, running up our blood pressure, and running down our minds and bodies. The problem is not stress per se, the problem is too much stress—and inadequate knowledge of how to deal with it. Though much can be gained from the secular research, God’s Word always offers the best counsel.
Q: What do you think are some of things causing women to be stressed?
Randy and Nanci: One doctor and stress lecturer has said that the most overstressed person in our society is the mother of small children. Our counseling experience, our family experience, and our conversations with many women confirm this. The woman who is mother and wife doesn’t simply live with her own stress. She carries the weight of secondhand stress, inherited from her husband and children. Whether they work outside the home or not, it’s no wonder today’s women are under stress.
Women of all ages and demographics are bombarded in unprecedented ways with unending contradictory messages about who they are and how they are supposed to look and act in today’s world. The Christian woman is particularly stressed because she knows that enduring values are spiritual, that character is far more important than appearance, and that while people look at the outside, God looks at the inside. But every time she hears a seminar leader (who is typically beautiful) talk about the Proverbs 31 woman and inner beauty, her mind—shaped by her insistent culture—is still on outer beauty, resulting in guilt and stress.
Q: Why did you choose to focus on women?
Randy and Nanci: While men and women have common stressors, there are significant differences between how and why they experience stress. Historically, most of the research on stress has been done on men. Nevertheless, stress is chronic among women and, in our experience, it’s most often women who cry out for help.
Male-female equality is rooted both historically and theologically in a number of truths. But in the long-overdue process of emphasizing gender equality, a terrible mistake has been made. For many, equality has become a synonym for sameness. Every suggested difference between men and women is seen as a threat to female equality. If women are truly equal to men, so goes the logic, they must be virtually the same as men.
No matter how many women join the traditionally male work force, no matter how androgynous the current fashions or gender-blended the rock stars, certain things will never change. Women menstruate, men don’t. Women become pregnant, men don’t. Women nurse babies, men don’t. Women endure menopause, men don’t. These are not cultural differences, they are built-in, created differences; they’ve never changed and they never will. And each of these differences brings to women a distinctive form of stress that will never be experienced (perhaps not even understood) by men.
Q: How do you encourage women, in general, under stress?
Randy and Nanci: Women need to be understood in terms of the demands of shouldering the unique daily stresses they face. The heart of Help for Women Under Stress is something secular books on stress inevitably ignore: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
It’s God who cares for you, the one true God revealed in Scripture, a God who cared enough to go to the cross for you, who has seen you at your worst and still loves you. The God, for whom you need not perform or achieve, just be. The God who knows all, governs all, and weaves all together for your good.
We encourage women to learn to pace their race, and throughout their days, all the seasons of their lives, to look to God as their Creator and Redeemer. Jesus came that we might have abundant life, not just in Heaven but on earth. This is not prosperity theology; it’s simply believing that in the midst of a world under the Curse God is serious when He commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
So it’s fair for a woman to ask how rich and rewarding her life is, and how much joy she’s experiencing day to day. It’s fair to ask how much richer and more rewarding life could be with a daily maintenance plan for the body, soul, and spirit God has entrusted to her care. God made only one of each of us. We should budget ourselves and spend ourselves wisely, for God’s glory.
Q: If you could sum up the message of the book in a few sentences, what would it be?
Randy and Nanci: Stress is part of our everyday lives. Sometimes it’s the spark that keeps us moving forward and sometimes it’s the avalanche that threatens to bury us. Don’t waste your life in unnecessary and unwise responses to stress. Let this book—especially as it appeals to Scripture but also to findings concerning medicine, nutrition and exercise—help you live in a way that honors God, is best for you and your loved ones, and understands and respects your limits.
Q: Who is this book for (what age demographic)?
Randy and Nanci: We think women of all ages and life stages will find something applicable in the book: those who are single, married, divorced, widowed; those who are mothers; those who are young, and those who are older and facing menopause and aging. Most of the chapters are applicable to any woman struggling with stress, including “How God Uses Stress for Your Good and His Glory”, “Getting on Top of Your Emotions”, and “Managing Time and Tasks Before They Manage You”.
Still, we would say that moms with kids still at home would be a core audience. Because of the special stresses involved in being a wife and mother, we’ve dedicated a chapter to exploring the topic of “Are You Meant to Be Wonder-Wife and Super-Mom?” (Our daughter Karina was seven and Angela was five when the book first came out, so needless to say a lot of the illustrations relate to young children. But we’ve added insights coming out of experience since then, as we now have five grandchildren ages eight and younger!)
Q: Is this your first book together? If so, what compelled you to write this particular book together?
Randy: It’s our first and only book written together! It was a good experience, but it cemented home for Nanci one of the things we talk about in the book—God has wired us all differently. Nanci is a hundred things I’m not, and while book writing is a calling for me, it isn’t for her. We’re both fine with that. Nanci helped me a great deal with the original book’s research and we talked through every chapter. The writing fell to me, and I revised it based on her feedback.
Q: What do you hope women who read Help for Women Under Stress will walk away with?
Randy and Nanci: We hope the book will provide readers with a deeper understanding of how stress impacts our lives—and how God uses stress to draw us to himself and to encourage us to make necessary changes. (As the thirsty seek water, those under stress often seek God. For that reason alone, we need to learn to see stress through the eyes of faith.)
Thank you so much for the interview, Randy and Nanci. Help for Women Under Stress is available exclusively at Eternal Perspective Ministries in paperback and as an ebook. You can also read a book excerpt (includes table of contents and foreword) here. Learn more at www.epm.org/helpforwomenunderstress.
Watch Randy as he shares more about Help for Women Under Stress
Randy Alcorn is an author and the director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. He is the bestselling author of over forty books (seven million in print), including Heaven; If God is Good; Money, Possessions and Eternity; The Treasure Principle; Courageous; and the 2002 Gold Medallion novel of the year, Safely Home.
Randy and Nanci were married in 1975. They reside in Gresham, Oregon and have two married daughters and are the proud grandparents of five grandsons. Randy enjoys biking, tennis, research, and reading. Nanci enjoys reading, exercising their Golden Retriever Maggie, watching pro football, and traveling with Randy. They both love spending time with their family.