By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
Dr. Richard Swenson, with degrees in medicine and physics, has written a book, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.” He defines margin as “energy … calm … having some space in your schedule,” and says, “The conditions of modern day living devour margin.”
Stress comes not just from bad time management, but from the pressures and pace of today’s world. We worry about our boss, our spouse, the children, the government. We all know folks who feel stress from decades ago, still trying to please someone who may no longer be in their life. Some even are stressed about whether they’re doing enough “good” things, or if they’re pleasing God.
In a famous sermon delivered more than 2,000 years ago, the speaker urged his listeners not to worry about the future. “’Each day has enough trouble of its own’” (Matthew 6:34). The speaker was constantly beset by people, yet we never find an account of him appearing stressed or anxious.
Just prior to the “don’t worry” verses we’re given the first step in avoiding stress. “’No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other’” (Matthew 6:24). The speaker, Jesus, later told the Pharisees who challenged him, “’I know where I came from and where I am going’” (John 8:14). His singular motivation was to please the Father who sent him.
When we lose sight of one true purpose in life, we tend to get caught in the cares of the moment and lose sight of the goal. One way to stay focused is to begin each day with prayer and time alone with God; then end the day reviewing how he helped and how tomorrow can be even better.
A second step in stress reduction is to concentrate on doing what matters most. Whatever profession we enter, we can be a faithful teacher, a Christian farmer, an ethical banker, a caring nurse, if our focus is on God who called us to that life. Each believer is uniquely equipped to share our own experience with people who are going through similar experiences. When Jesus met the woman at the well (John chapter 4) he began with his point of need, a cup of water; identified her condition; and opened her eyes to how her longings could be met.
Another technique is found in the Twenty-Third Psalm’s beautiful phrase, “he leadeth me beside the still waters” (verse 2). In the New Testament, when Jesus gave instructions he also modeled how to carry them out. He constantly sought time and solitude to recharge so that he would possess reservoirs of healing and hope for others.
Also He gathered twelve men who became his traveling companions, friends and disciples. If you don’t have positive people around you, ask God to send some with whom you can share burdens and joys.
A promise many have relied on in times of stress is in Matthew 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, … for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” I’ve always thought of a yoke as a rigid unyielding piece of wood, but recently it occurred to me that the yoke of Jesus could be strong and comforting, like the arm of a good friend around my shoulder.