LESSENING STRESS THE LORD’S WAY – IDENTIFY ROOTS
January 6, 2018
I share with you an editorial from the Atlanta Journal:
The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace…and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature cannot endure much more!
Believe it or not, that editorial appeared in the Atlanta Journal on June 16, 1833—some 186 years ago!
When it comes to the topic of stress, everything is relative to one’s own particular generation. And yet, the all-pervasive, overriding response you get when you ask folks today how they’re doing is “Man, I’m snowed under-can’t even breathe!” “I can’t keep up—just hangin on!” “I’m having Red Bull for breakfast and lunch to keep me in overdrive!”
Nerves are frayed, tempers are short, words are curt, dispositions are downright ornery. Forget about Kyle Busch—the rats have already won the race!
STRESS LEADS TO…
An Intolerable Snarkiness
Yes, to protect our frenzied, fragile souls, we’ve developed certain coping mechanisms. And foremost is a nasty, negative, sarcastic…yes, snarky attitude that cuts others off at the kneecaps. The following is a list of comments offered by office workers at a major insurance corporation:
- I pretend to work. They pretend to pay me.
- If I throw a stick, will you leave?
- A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
- I like cats, too. Let’s exchange recipes.
- How do I set a laser printer to stun?
- I’m not a cranky person. I’ve just been in a bad mood for 30 years.
- I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.
- Well, this day was a total waste of makeup.
- This isn’t an office. It’s hell with fluorescent lighting.
- Therapy is expensive. Popping bubble-wrap is cheap. You choose.
- Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
- Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
- Not all men are annoying. Some are dead.
- Earth is full. Go home!
Yep, saturating yourself with snarkiness is one way of coping with the insanity of stress in the workplace, at school, in the neighborhood, around the house. But here’s the deal…you might find some temporary relief, but you’ll soon be without any friends!
It is also well-documented that stress leads to Incessant Sickness.
People who are constantly wired are not well. Immune systems are compromised. Lethargy and depression set in. You feel like a frayed rubber band ready to snap.
You want to hear something crazy? The doctors told me the heart attack I suffered back in December, 2011 was not due to any high blood pressure or high cholesterol. I was in decent physical shape with no classic symptoms.
So what was the risk factor they identified? Stress. Stress that causes the interior lining of arteries to act like Velcro—trapping clunks of plaque to the point those arteries clog up and I keeled over. I never knew stress could kill you.
And the funny thing was I didn’t consider myself a very stressed-out individual. I’m a pretty calm, cool and collected fellow! Right???
Let’s be honest here: Do you find folk avoiding you because of your incessant snarkiness? Do you find yourself battling incessant sickness? Well, it could just be the harried, hurried lifestyle you’re leading that is the culprit.
STRESS ORIGINATES WITH…
Where does stress come from? It’s not enough to simply blame our occupations or our family situations or whom or whatever. In many instances, there is something much deeper at work…
Could it be that we are frayed at the edges due to a Lack of Identity?
One of the most popular gifts this Christmas that folk gave to each other was a $99 detailed DNA analysis from Ancestry.com. This test supposedly helps you to trace the origins of your family identity to most any region and subculture in the world. It’s a fascinating thing!
Yes, Ancestry. com can uncover your physical roots. However, it still is unable to detect your spiritual roots. And that is where the problem of stress often begins. It is spiritual amnesia. We do not know who we. We have not done the soul-work necessary to determine our true identity. We simply go through life flailing and reacting hairtriggerly to the circumstances surrounding us, without ever digging within to determine why we are so harried.
Much stress also originates from our willingness to live into labels. Because we lack spiritual identity, it is often quite easy to fall into the trap of becoming the self-fulfilling prophecies others place upon us.
I had a friend, Don, who was a great high school football coach. He got into the profession for the right reasons, wanting to make a difference in teenagers’ lives. Yet, the intoxication of winning soon drowned out his original intentions. He found himself listening to the constant, ever-increasing expectations of parents, school administrators and fans. He was now the super coach, and had to live up to the demands, the pressure and the hype. He was living into the labels everyone placed on him.
Don lost all semblance of family life. He lost his faith. He was simply lost. He became bitter and burned out. He finally quit after a decade, successful on the scoreboard, but soundly defeated in life.
Thankfully, Don eventually discovered an important truth…truth that gave him his life back…truth we should all heed…and it is this:
STRESS LESSENS WHEN…
We realize whose we are.
At the occasion of Jesus’ baptism by John in the cool waters of the Jordan River, we hear this account:
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
This is a pivotal moment–the moment when God adds an exclamation point to the relationship he has with his only begotten Son.
From this moment on, Jesus never doubts who holds the deed to his life. No matter what might be swirling around him, Jesus can firmly identify his roots in the One he would call “Abba” – Daddy – and he desires that you and I discover this same blessed assurance.
God stakes his claim upon Jesus as his Son. And through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, God stakes his claim upon you and me. We are loved with a love deeper than even the bond of our family. We have a spiritual rootedness that is eternal.
Do we believe the words of the psalmist:
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3
If this is true, then we begin to let go of the stress that hassles and hems us in, for our ultimate self-worth is found in the Lord—in him we are free. We have nothing to measure up to except the liberating grace of God.
Our days would be much more relaxed if we learned to arise each morning and spend some time contemplating whose we are, praying “Lord, you are God…It is you who have made me, and I am yours!” And then we go forth to face with divine strength whatever might come that day.
Stress lessens when we realize whose we are, and it also lessens when
We exorcize what we are not.
The Apostle Paul had that unique ability to lose the baggage of whatever weighted him down, simplifying his life until he had a firm focus on his Lord. He did not dwell on what others thought of him. The only opinion that mattered to him was God’s opinion.
Paul states: 4 … If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Yes, a lot of our stress arises out of worrying about who we need to impress, fretting over what others think of us, and frantically striving to be something we are not in order to live up to all of that. It’s time to exorcize that baggage. Simply be what God created you to be.
Be yourself – a beloved son or daughter of God!
The ice storm we had last month sure did wreak havoc around parts of the Shenandoah Valley, especially in the Waynesboro area. I remember seeing this huge pine tree toppled over on what was left of a crushed fence. I wondered how some ice could bring such a mammoth tree to the ground.
On closer inspection, it was very evident–the tree had very few substantial roots. Evidently its root system had become diseased and died, leaving nothing to support the mighty pine tree against ice and wind.
The proverbial ice and wind of stress often envelopes us from day-to-day…and if we have no substantial root system grounded in the presence and grace of our God, then we too will crash.
Remember, stress, at its least, leads to intolerable snarkiness. At its worst, it brings incessant sickness and early death.
Stress originates with our lack of identity and desperately seeking to live into the labels others place on us.
And yet, we can do something about it. Stress will lessen as we strive to realize whose we are and exorcize the baggage of what we are not.
Yes, lessening stress the Lord’s way begins with identifying our strong and eternal roots in God Almighty! Amen!