Healing of Stress
Kerri Henderson Martina shows how helpful Scriptures are in dealing with stressful situations.
All too often I have had experiences which try to convince me that it is normal to be faced with limitations -- such as never having enough time to complete all I need to without feeling exhausted. For much of my life, I was sucked into accepting that stress was inevitable. At school, during busy times, many of us learn to manage stressful conditions just by scraping by.
Recently, though, I was fed up with barely coping with my responsibilities. Like many others, I yearned for something more fulfilling than just getting through the day. I finally realized that learning to live with limitations, which is what I had been doing, is far less satisfying than being free from them.
In the fall of my junior year in college, I wanted to participate in many different extracurricular activities in addition to keeping up with my regular school work. Consequently, I struggled through most of the term trying to stay on top of everything I had to do, feeling like I was balancing on the crest of a breaking wave. My experience at school had turned into a never-ending struggle to manage my time effectively in order to stay afloat.
One night, anticipating yet another all-nighter, I sat down at about 11 o'clock and found myself stalling. All I could think about was that if I stayed up late, I wouldn't be much good in the morning for my first-hour class. So I decided to call my mom, knowing that she would have some good thoughts to help me conquer this feeling of overwhelming burden. And she did!
We talked about the idea that God is "infinite Spirit." We couldn't imagine God, or "Spirit," getting exhausted, run down, run out, or in any way diminished. Because God, Spirit, is our source of energy and that energy is inexhaustible, then our energy must also be inexhaustible. I realized that by assuming I'd be a wreck the next morning if I stayed up late, I was limiting not only myself, but also God. Sleep had nothing to do with real energy.
After our conversation, I started my paper. All of a sudden, ideas started to flow. Within two hours I had completed a paper that I had thought would take me the whole night. I received an A on it. That night was a wonderful experience for me for two reasons: I realized how my energy is not governed by the amount of sleep I get; and I saw how often time pressures are merely self-imposed.
It is so tempting and easy to complain about pressure or to feel obligated to be busy. It seems that if we're not busy these days, then we must not be worth much. Busy-ness, in and of itself, does not give our existence credibility, nor does it make our lives any more interesting or meaningful. If we think being overtired or overworked is something to be proud of, then maybe we're actually missing the point and acknowledging our inability to master a false, limited concept of time and energy.
The need is not for more time, but for a higher understanding of God -- that God already has everything in order for us, that each activity expressed is perfectly and logically synchronized. Therefore, for each right activity, we are given just the right amount of time for it to be accomplished, which enables us to see creative ways to accomplish what's needed without pressure or panic. There's a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier that helped me:
Take from us now the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.
From this experience I realized how we really are directed and governed moment by moment. We do not need to feel burdened by everything that needs to be completed in days or even weeks to come. We just need to love each moment as it occurs and trust that we will be directed. Educator Mary Kimball Morgan wrote:
If you ever find that your work is becoming burdensome, just stop and place the responsibility where it belongs -- in your Father's hands. Get rid of the sense of burden before continuing your work, for heaviness of thought cannot glorify God.
I am so grateful that I no longer have to cope with getting through a day. I know a life without stress and without limitation is not only possible, it is a divine right. Jesus did not teach that the truth he presented would merely enable someone to cope. He said that it would make people free:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)