“We live in a world overrun by stress. Global urbanization, competition and the spread of technology have created a world in which access to information has become an obligation and necessity. People are now held accountable for their actions and whereabouts 24/7 and they are losing both their privacy and down time.” This is the opening paragraph in an article by Paul Huljich. For the complete article search "Stress in the world today" a news article written December 27, 2012.
Paul and I agree on this subject. When I was growing up in the 1950's, my grandparents had much harder lives. However, their lives were nowhere near as stressful. They had downtime daily and were nearly stress-free on the weekends. They did not have much money. However, they saved a little each paycheck, donated to the church weekly, and every month sent money home to the old country, to help make life better for those left behind. I was 14 when they burned their mortgage, but even I felt the freedom that act brought. So, what has changed, and what is God’s advice on the subject?
Matt 6:19-33, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Apparently, we are to think of heaven before we consider the things of this world, which means we follow the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Or, to put it another way, we need to focus on things that will determine our eternal future, Phil 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
When we decide to work, it should be to provide for our families, 1 Tim 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” and those who are unable to provide for theirs, 1 Jn 3:17, “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” God asks us to do everything to the best of our ability, for we do it for Him and not the treasures of this life, 1 Cor 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” The idea God is presenting is one of service. We do our jobs, or anything else we do, as His representatives in this world. Half-hearted efforts are not God's way.
If we knew God was standing next to us, would it change the way we did things? Would we treat people differently? How would we respond to the temptations of the devil? The truth is God is standing next to us, Heb 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” The stresses of this world serve to limit our time and ability to reason with God’s Word. This only adds to the stress we are experiencing. However, it is a choice, and each of us can change our lives by making reasoning with God’s Word a priority. Just investing fifteen minutes a day reading the Bible would be a wonderful start. Then, we would witness the results of spending time with God. Slowly, we will begin to feel His peace replacing the stress in our lives. This is my personal testimony.
The stresses in this world are mainly caused by our striving to always run for the carrot just beyond our reach; for once we reach it, we believe we will be happy. However, once there, another carrot appears just a little further down the road, a bigger home, a better car, a new cell phone, a more beautiful wife or handsome husband, Eccl 1:16-18, “I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Solomon, who was the wealthiest person in the world, who experienced every pleasure, who studied to acquire knowledge and achieve wisdom, finally understood that striving leads to sorrow and stress; and in the end is merely our vanity on display, as we try to elevate ourselves above our neighbors, Eccl 1:1-2, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” How do we elevate ourselves above our neighbors? Today, we strive to travel more, own more, appear healthier, smarter, wiser, all the while chasing the carrot, instead of learning to love as God does, 1 Jn 4:10-11, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
So, what is the solution to all of this stress? How can we eliminate it and find the peaceful life we really want? Jn 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Focusing on God and His love leads to His peace. My grandparents were married for over 50 years, only replaced their home once and their car once. They did not chase the carrot. Can we let go of all of our fears and learn to love as God loves? Matt 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He wants the person He created us to be, coming to Him without pretense. He does not want some make-believe version of us.
If we do, He is faithful to give us the peace and rest we seek. He is telling us we don’t have to be better than anyone else, a meek and humble version of ourselves will do just fine, Ps 25:9, “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” This reminds me of the study that asked kindergarteners if they could sing and dance, and they all raised their hands. Then, college students were surveyed and very few raised their hands. Why? And, why do so many senior citizens return to their childlike nature when they "mature?" Somewhere between kindergarten and college, we build up walls to protect ourselves from the negative responses we have received in this world, and begin projecting an image of the person we think society will love. This, make-believe version of ourselves is very difficult to maintain, and it creates stress. Then, when we are older, many of us reach the point where we only care what God thinks of us and lower our protective walls, which allows others to view the person we really are. Hopefully, this person we reveal is the one God created us to be and not the disheartened, disfigured one the devil keeps telling us we are.
God asks us to help Him build His eternal family; first, by joining it and then by shining His light so others can free themselves from the stresses they are living with, thus becoming the family members He desires to live with for all eternity. Being a member of His family brings us peace and joy in this life. However, it is not about this life, it is about eternity. The hope He brings us is eternal, and it frees us from the stresses of this life, 2 Cor 4:16-18, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” He justifies us by His grace, for we could never earn it for ourselves, Tit 3:7, “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
God has seen the future and has allowed us to choose an eternal destiny of love, peace, and hope, Jer 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” but He gives us the freedom to make our own decision. His peace is yet another thread running through the Bible.
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