Publication: One-to-One, Summer 2010
Jim looked again at the alarm clock. 5:59 a.m. One minute left he thought. He felt as though he were watching the countdown on a bomb clock. Jim had spent the last three hours in bed, unable to sleep, while his mind cycled through a myriad of concerns. Last night’s argument with his wife, the overdue bills, the reports due for the Seattle project all seemed like weights bearing down on him. BEEP… BEEP… BEEP the alarm clock sounded.
In the shower a random statistic flashed into Jim’s thoughts: “heart attacks most commonly occur on Monday mornings.” “Just my luck” Jim mumbled aloud, unaware he wasn’t the only one in the bathroom. “What was that?” Jim’s wife snapped from somewhere over by the sink. “Nothing” said Jim.
The box of doughnuts in the kitchen had one left. By now it was stale but it was Raspberry, Jim’s favorite. He filled his mug with coffee and jumped in the car. Surfing through the morning radio shows Jim took in the latest news sound bites of the economy, Ahmadinejad, and earthquake some where the oil spill, and Afghanistan – where his little brother was serving. Each topic seemed to be bringing new troubling headlines. “I need some music” he thought.
Flipping through the dial, he paused as peaceful guitar strumming caught his attention. The singer began, “Any minute now, my ship is coming in. I’ll keep checking the horizon…” Jim started to sing along wondering to himself when he even learned the song. “…I already have a plan. I’m waiting for my real life to begin.” He felt a connection to the music as he pulled into the office parking lot.
Entering the office, the harsh reality hit. All of the to-do’s came flooding to Jim’s mind. His pulse quickened. While making his way down the corridor to his office, Jim’s supervisor turned the corner. “Jim, I was hoping to catch you this morning. You know I need those reports for the Seattle project.” “No, problem” Jim replied, “I’m on it.” “By the end of today, Jim.” “You got it.”
Marty from Accounting was next to greet Jim. “Jim, I still need those data sheets.” “Yeah I was going to ask you …” “Woah, dude!” Marty interrupted. “Nice Jelly blowout on the shirt!” While Jim was still looking down at the big blob of Raspberry jelly on his shirt, Marty walked passed him. “End of the day, Jim, end of the day,” Marty repeated.
Walking past the break room, the usual suspects were in the midst of their pre-workday antics. “Jimbo! Come on in man! They brought your favorite today, Raspberry Doughnuts.” “No thanks,” Jim said as he tried to keep moving forward. “Hey Jim, let me know if you need help later unpacking those bags under your eyes.” The giddy laughter echoed down the hall as Jim opened his office door and sank into his chair. “God help me,” Jim whispered.
It would be easy for us to pick Jim apart. There are several stressors and stress companions to be found in this story. I won’t take up the space to identify them all here. But we could lay out a plan for Jim that would include classes in time management, project management, nutrition, stress management, and then throw in some marital counseling and maybe some psychiatric therapy, and Jim should be shipshape right?
Chances are you know a “Jim” or might identify with some elements of his tale. Perhaps his life seems to have no stress compared with yours. Stress affects everyone differently. But make no mistake, it affects us all. The question is, what will our response be? And will we be open to what God might be trying to do or say to us?
STRESS: THE OVERACHIEVER
Back in 1983, the subject of stress landed on the cover of Time Magazine. It was called the “Epidemic of the Eighties.” So, considering our progression into instability, how have we fared with the epidemic?
Recent statistics show the following:
Physiologically, we’ve learned that stress raises the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. That’s terrific if you’re a gladiator fighter, but for the rest of us, it tends to be a negative. Stress hates to work alone, so it typically brings some close friends over to play. These include a gang of coping methods such as denial, bad diet, escapism, procrastination, and drugs and alcohol to name a few.
Stress in and of itself is not a sin. It could be caused by sin or easily accompanied by sin; but not necessarily. Jesus certainly experienced stress. In Luke 22, we see Jesus praying in the garden, knowing what was to take place, praying “in anguish”. The Scripture says “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
It’s good to know that in the midst of our stress, we have an Advocate who knows stress. Most people find it hard to empathize with the struggles of others unless they’ve experienced them first-hand. In other words, we tend to have mercy toward others for what we struggle with or can understand. But thank God, Lamentations 3:22-24 tells us that “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!'”
Jesus prayed at Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Here is the perfect model of honesty and obedience to the Father’s will. Notice what happened next: the Scripture says that “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” And so can it also be with us. God may or may not choose to remove us from the situation, but if we are honest and obedient with Him, He can strengthen us and allow the seed that we have received to fall into good soil.
Jesus told us that “in this world you will have trouble.” Stress calls us to confront our limitations. It cracks our cisterns. It can redirect us to the Father if we allow it. We live with stress; it’s unavoidable. But we don’t have to always live under it. And, in a time where stress is affecting so many, we have an opportunity to be mindful, and reach out to people, and lighten their load.
If you find yourself under stress, consider the following verses and remember that at CSM, we are here to stand with you in prayer. Feel free to let us know.
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4 NIV).
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).
1American Psychological Association
2 The American Institute of Stress
Scripture Reference: Luke 22; Lamentations 3:22-24; James 1:4; Isaiah 40:31
JONATHAN SIMPSON is a frequent contributing writer to CSM’s Marketplace Exchange.