Stress.words_

We are a stressed-out nation. Very often, we wear our stressed-out, over busy, crazy lifestyles like a badge of honor, all the while knowing that we are losing something very important in the chronic insanity of our culture…our sanity and soul.

There are many reasons that stress is so prevalent, but according to the American Psychological Association, the following are the key issues at hand:

* Money, work and the economy continue to be the most
frequently cited causes of stress for Americans, as they
have every year for the past 5 years. In addition, a growing
number of Americans are citing personal health and their
family’s health as a source of stress.

* Significant sources of stress include money (75 percent),
work (70 percent), the economy (67 percent), relationships
(58 percent), family responsibilities (57 percent), family
health problems (53 percent), personal health concerns
(53 percent), job stability (49 percent), housing costs
(49 percent) and personal safety (32 percent).

* The percentage of adults reporting that family health
problems are causing them stress (53 percent) increased
in 2011 compared to the last 2 years (47 percent for both
2009 and 2010).

An unhealthy pace of life has become an addiction in our country, and is something we desperately need to address if we are to regain our soul, and most importantly, listen to the voice of God. When our lives and minds are drenched in over-stimulation, over-communication, and excessive busyness, the voice of God becomes a distant memory, and we begin to justify why God is no longer speaking. No matter the theological gymnastics and/or other reasons we create to comfort our unease concerning the seeming silence of God, the truth is that He is still speaking, all around us, all the time, but our minds are too full to discern His still small voice in the storm of noise.

I love how Toki Miyashina re-wrote the 23rd Psalm and reminds us that the Lord needs to be our pace-setter:

The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity,
by anointing my head with his oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord,
and dwell in his house for ever.

It’s okay to live with balance…

It’s okay to have moments in your week that are not crammed with rushing around…

It’s okay to still, slow, and even stop in order to breathe more deeply and practice divine awareness…

It’s okay to say “no” to the requests that don’t align with your purpose in life, for if you don’t, you will miss your purpose in life…

It’s okay to be healthy and unable to “one-up” your friends who are trying to impress you with their busy schedules…

It’s okay to have joy in your soul, hope in your heart and serenity in your mind because you choose to allow God to determine your pace, and not the culture or the people around you.

May you have a life that responds to God’s grace with energy, His voice with delight, and His love with service.

4 Comments

  1. Right on take on the reality of our lives in this culture…Pete Scazzero said the same thing at the Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference a couple of weeks ago. Monique and I found our passions stirred even more for Emotionally Healthy Spirituailty and will become consultants in a few months, desiring to see the EHS movement grow in the U.S.A. and in other countries. EHS is exploding in Latin America right now. The side by side discipleship journey, emotional health and the contemplative will infuse life (His life) back into the body. Your book speaks to the contemplative beautifully. We would love to talk with you more about our experience and share what EHS has meant to our growth loving well….isn’t that how spiritual growth is really demonstrated?

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  2. Monty,

    I have a hard time reconciling this idea of balance with the idea of laboring hard for the kingdom. I understand the need to slow our pace down with regard to things that are non-kingdom issues, such as money or work. However, it seems as if the propensity in our culture, especially “Christian culture”, is that we busy our lives with trivial things and yet we are lazy when it comes to serving God. I guess I always saw it through a 2 COR 1:6 idea that affliction is a comfort. There is a C.H. Spurgeon quote “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed”, I have always read this as a call to exhaust ourselves for Christ.. Even David in the 23rd Psalm seems to be saying that he is comforted by God in the midst of strife, not that God takes away the strife; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”, he still is walking through the valley, right? Should we not be given over to death for Jesus’ sake? Maybe you can help me see where I am misunderstanding and how theses two ideas are not mutually exclusive, but I’m having a hard time with it.

    Nathan

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    1. Hey Nathan! there is a big difference between being busy and being effective. Those who are the most effective and actually “do” the most in a longterm way tend also to be people who have a better sense of balance. Hard work does not equal “good” or “right” work, in fact some people who are excessively busy are the least productive as they are not able to engage well in any one area as their life is a chaotic mess.

      When you have healthy rhythms you are better able to respond to what God is asking you to do in any given moment for the following reasons:

      1. You are centered enough to actually see and hear His voice and the movement of His Spirit.
      2. You have margin that allows you to involve yourself in something that comes up unexpectedly.
      3. You get to serve out of a sense of divine invitation, not guilt or shame.
      4. Your emotionally healthy and physically healthy enough to bring creativity and insight to something that a burnt-out mind will never think of.

      Perhaps the most important factor is that you need to look to Jesus as your model…would you agree that He was very effective? Very Missional? Very engaged in the work of the Gospel?

      Now look at the rhythms he practiced which sustained him through pressure, stress, attack, ministry and all the other circumstances of life.

      He said no to many things including healing sometimes…
      He withdrew and prayed in silence and solitude consistently…
      He delayed to enjoy people and relax with them…
      He stayed engaged in spiritual conversations and synagog attendance…
      He “only did what the Father told Him to do.”

      If Jesus needed to practice a lifestyle that had a healthy sense of pace, we would be arrogant to think we can do it better…or perhaps we have bought into our cultural idea that more is better, fast is better, busy is better etc rather than a biblical lifestyle that notes that life has dark valleys and quiet meadows, not either or…and that while we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death…He will lead us to the quiet place where our soul is restored in the midst of the storms of life…

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