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A Simple Solution to Stress From Dallas Willard

One day in the fall of 2007 when I was meeting with Dallas Willard at his USC office he asked me, “If you had one word to describe Jesus what would it be?”

How would you answer that question? If you could only use one word to describe Jesus what would it be? You might pause to consider that now…

Jesus is the Word of all words!  His is the name above all names. He is so magnificent and multi-faceted how could we pin our Lord down to just one word! And yet, I found this to be a very meaningful exercise. The words we pick and the ones we don’t pick may have something to say about us and our relationship with him.

As I sat with Dallas words for Jesus were running through my mind and out my mouth: Jesus is… Love… Compassion… Holy… Lord… Teacher… Risen… Healer…  (These are all good words to describe Jesus.)

As he so often did in my conversations with him, Dallas waited in quiet for me to think. He was unhurried. I was drawn into his silent prayer. Finally, I asked him what his one word for Jesus was.

Dallas looked into my eyes and shared with me his one word for Jesus. Now, you need to know that this was a very special moment for me. Dallas Willard is my key mentor. I’ve read every book he’s written more than once. I’ve listened (many times) to every audio teaching series of his I can find. Since 2002 he has apprenticed me to Jesus in ways that have impacted all that I am and everything that I do as a Christian, husband, father, friend, psychologist, pastor to pastors, spiritual writer — even how I drive my car!

What One Word would Dallas Willard use to describe Jesus? “Relaxed.”


…I would have never thought of that word! But ever since that conversation with Dallas Willard I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Jesus being relaxed.

Think about it. Jesus had to wait 18 years to begin his public ministry and then he had just three years to show the world that he was the Messiah. And yet Jesus was relaxed!

Jesus needed to convince a large number people that although he was merely a man he was also the unique Son of God and their Savior from sin. And his followers needed to be so confident in him as their Lord that they would give their lives to lead other people to know him – even to the point of torture and death. And yet Jesus was relaxed!

Jesus could only be in one location at a time. And when he left one city to go to another he left behind people that hadn’t been healed or discipled (Matthew 13:58). Most people – even his own family at first – rejected him and his message (Luke 4:28-30, Mark 3:20, 31-34).  Many of the people he discipled deserted him (John 6:66). And even his faithful disciples didn’t understand who he was until after he rose from the dead (Mark 8:31-33)! And yet Jesus was relaxed!

The fate of all humankind – past, present, and future – depended on Jesus successfully completing his gospel mission of going to the cross to die for our sins and rising from the dead!  And yet Jesus was relaxed!

And because Jesus was always peaceful in his Abba Father’s arms of love – even when he was under stress or in pain – he was able to love the people who were near him at any given time, including his enemies who mistreated him.

When I have big responsibilities… When people keep needing me… When I am criticized or rejected… When my To Do List seems unending… When I am in pain… Am I relaxed? Or maybe I’m determined, hurried, or anxious?

How did Jesus remain at peace when he was under pressures much, much harder than I face? He practiced what he preached! He lived in the same Easy Yoke that he offers to us. We need to think of Jesus as the first disciple: he apprenticed himself to the Father, even as a child and throughout his life, learning to live out the things he would later teach. Being relaxed in Abba’s love, submitted to him in the Kingdom of God, is what enabled Jesus to be in a position to love, have compassion, be holy, and to fulfill all the other lofty words that we use to describe Him.

May God help you and I to relax into the easy yoke of Jesus, not trying to make things happen for ourselves, but simply appreciating his love wherever we are and loving him and those around us from God’s strength.


Listen to this week’s SoulTalk episode: As Bill and Kristi continue to honor Dallas Willard, Bill shares one of his favorite stories of Dallas, which led him to uncover a key truth about resting with God. Leaders don’t need to wait until burnout to learn how to experience rest and experience calm and peace! It’s available right now. Jesus modeled this for us and wants to help us grow in this important work of learning to do nothing, with him! 

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