I originally wrote this for my youth newsletter at the beginning of school several years ago. I thought it might be appropriate for some of us today.
The first definition of stress at dictionary.com that is not about emphasizing is this: “the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another.” That is a mechanical definition, typically used to describe the forces on a car in an accident or an airplane at takeoff. But it pretty accurately also describes the stress we feel – forces exerted on us by another. It’s that time of year when there seems so much to do at work, school, home, friend dramas, financial obligations, and… well you could probably name a couple of others.
Stress cannot be avoided. So, what can we do when we’re stressed out?
- Keep your priorities in order. Remember what is most important. It is very easy to find ourselves stressed out over things that in the long run don’t really matter. A good dose of perspective can help.
- Try not to look at ALL you have to do, but tackle each individual task that needs to be accomplished. You can’t move a rock pile, but you can move one rock at a time.
- Talk it out with someone you trust. There’s something about “getting it off your chest” (another burden image we use when talking about stress) that can do wonders for us. Some of us think best when we’re talking, so talk.
- Listen to Jesus. Remember the words of Jesus when he said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 Msg, italics added).
Let’s take a look at an example from Jesus’ life (see Matthew 14). Following his cousin John the Baptist’s death, Jesus looks to get away. He gets in a boat headed for a secluded place, but like a celebrity of today, his leaving doesn’t go unnoticed. The first century paparazzi meet him as he gets out of the boat. Upon seeing the crowd “he was overcome with pity and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14, Msg).
Jesus needed time away, but recognized the needs of the people and he went with what was presented to him. After several hours of healing, someone tells Jesus that it’s suppertime. I think the disciples were hoping Jesus would use this as an opportunity to end this and finally get the away time they all need. Instead, Jesus takes the time to feed the people. Jesus is flowing with the rhythm of grace.
After supper, Jesus sends the disciples off on a boat by themselves providing them with some “alone time.” He spends a few more minutes with the crowd then dismissed them. The story continues, “With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night” (Matthew 14:23, Msg). Finally Jesus takes the time he needs to grieve and process what has happened.
Jesus could have stressed out. He could have exploded on the crowd when they arrived. No one could have blamed him for saying something like, “Not now. Give me some space. I am mourning the death of a close relative. I’ll help you tomorrow. I need some me-time.” But Jesus doesn’t react. He moves with the unforced rhythms of grace. In the end, this gives Jesus the ability to meet the needs of the crowd, the disciples, and himself.
The next time you feel the pressure, pull, or other forces being exerted upon you by another, follow the example of Jesus. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace, and learn to live freely and lightly.