355 was bumper to bumper that day and parking was worse than normal, and normal is already difficult. There were people everywhere. Navigating around folks in the mall looking for the perfect gift was as tough as weaving through traffic in gridlock. Standing in line to pay for gifts took longer than the shopping. And then there is the issue of how I was actually going to pay for all this Christmas shopping. When we pile up people, traffic, and money, there is a buffet of choices of what might stress you out.
Stress is everywhere. Stress is an emotional, mental, or physical tension resulting from circumstances. We can’t escape stress. Whether at home, work, or school, there are emotional and mental circumstances creating tension that impacts us. Stress can erode our body. And stress can erode our soul.
Unaddressed stress raises our blood pressure and weakens our immune system. It makes us more susceptible to illness and has even been linked to causing heart disease and cancer. Unaddressed stress also attacks our emotional immune system. It can cause us to be quick to anger at those we love most. It will cause us to cross boundaries that will hurt people. Stress is an enemy of the heart.
Life will always create stress. Chances are you cannot quit your demanding job, walk out on your financial obligations, or avoid traffic. Emotional and mental tension are built into our lives - especially in Chicagoland. The issue is: how do we deal with it to reduce the harm? How can we change ourselves internally so that stress does not damage our lives?
First, God says to worry about nothing. Worry is intellectual energy devoted towards a problem we cannot solve. When we lay awake at night worried about a decision at work that is out of our hands, that is worry. When we imagine the bad things that COULD go wrong with already stressful situations, it is worry. Nothing is solved by worry. Worry only causes us distress. So worry about nothing.
Second, pray about everything. Ask God for direction, and ask for Him to get involved in a direct way in a situation. Too often, myself included, we think that bothering God with anything less than AIDS in Africa or hunger in Haiti is wrong. God is personal, God is interested in you and me, and God has the time and the ability to work for the good of each and every one of us. God is probably sitting on the edge of His seat, waiting to be invited into the complicated and stressful situations of your life. So pray about everything.
Give God a chance to do something. We as middle class Americans want what we want, and we want it now. We complain when the popcorn takes two and a half minutes in the microwave, and we get bored driving 65 mph instead of 75. But in these stressful things, give God time, and give God a chance to work through and in the people involved to untangle the stressful situations in your life.
This is really a matter of trust. Do we trust God? Will we give God time to deal with our lives, or will we insist on our way right now and risk the mess we are likely to make? The fact is, it might take longer than two minutes for God’s outcome. I have learned the hard way that God’s timeline is rarely mine. But His solutions are also not mine, and they are always much, much greater than mine. Always. I am afraid I have cut God off from creating a better future for me often - simply because of my impatient lack of trust. Give God a chance, and give God time.
You will encounter stress today. That is a given. The question is, what will you do about it? Will you allow it to attack your body and mind and attack your soul? Know that there is a better way. Worry about nothing. Pray about everything. Give God a chance.