A well-circulated cartoon depicts a zebra standing and facing the reader. He’s half white and half black-and-white as his stripes are unravelling and piling up on the ground beside him. The caption reads, “I think it’s stress.”
Stress has been called the virus of the modern era. Most of us live with so much stress that it’s become as normal as brushing our teeth. Some of our stress comes from circumstances beyond our control, while much of it is brought on ourselves.
Too often we’re like the two men who moved to Mexico and opened a bungee-jumping business. On the first day, they offered a demonstration to spur the locals to open their wallets. One of the partners attached the cord to his ankle and dove off the tower. He soared toward the crowd below and then sprang back up.
When he got near the top, his partner noticed his friend’s clothing torn. The next time he saw a few small scrapes. The next time his friend looked bruised. Finally, he came to a stop and staggered up the ladder.
“What happened to you? What’s going on down there?”
“I don’t know,” he mumbled, “but what’s a piñata?”
It’s impossible to avoid stress, unless we move to the cemetery. The key is being stressed about the right things and then managing the stress that comes. We need to realize that we can’t do it all, so we have to say “No” to some things.
Stress is not a new dynamic, and even impacted life in Bible times. Moses faced the strain of leading the children of Israel and found himself overwhelmed with responsibility. With guidance from his father-in-law, Moses learned how to involve other people in the work.
Jonah rebelled against God’s call to go to Ninevah and was swallowed by the great fish. He finally submitted to God’s will and was freed to go to Ninevah.
Have you ever thought about Jesus and stress? Jesus ministered under tremendous pressure. Individuals thought if they could just touch Him, they’d be healed. So the crowds constantly pressed against Him. The religious leaders attempted to undermine His work and grew more and more hostile to the point of wanting to eliminate Him. Even His family members thought He was a religious nut.
So what did He do? He stayed focused on His primary purpose. He came to preach the Good News, and that is what He did. He came not to be served, but to serve. Occasionally, He’d retreat from the crowds and the pressure of opposition so He could re-group spiritually. And He constantly looked beyond Himself.
Noted stress researcher Hans Selye said the best cure for managing stress is “altruistic egoism.” Being courteous, saying kind things, doing good deeds all help activate our body’s relaxation response and takes our mind off of stress.
Norman Vincent Peale wrote about a businessman who entered the doctor’s office at precisely 3 p.m. and started pacing the floor when he wasn’t called back right away. Finally, he went back and only a few minutes later, the doctor came in.
“What’s your trouble?”
“Everything. The company’s cutting back and I’m doing the work of two men. I’m all run down and tired. I need something to help.”
The doctor checked all the vitals, put his stethoscope down and said, “Sir, you’re not run down. Your problem is that you’re all wound up.”
“Well, then give me something for it.”
“Like what?” the doctor asked.
“That’s what I’m paying you for,” the man snapped.
“Will you take whatever I prescribe?”
“Of course I will,” said the man, looking at his watch nervously.
The doctor scribbled on his prescription pad, handed the man the paper, and sent him to the druggist. The druggist took one look at the doctor’s note, and said, “Sir, we don’t have that product here.”
“You don’t have it in stock? Where in the world can I get it?” said the exasperated customer.
“In the Bible,” said the druggist. “This prescription says ‘take three doses every day of Colossians 3:15.’ Colossians 3:15 reads, ‘Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.’”
How do we handle our load of stress? “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.”
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville. The church family meets at 352 McDonough Road, just past the department of drivers’ services building, and invites you to join them Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org and “like” them on Facebook.]