Stressed? -- Rev. Jody Long
Mortgages underwater. Decisions about father’s health care. Visits to grandmother’s decrepit nursing home. Children going off to school for the first time. School supplies to purchase again when the checking account is closer to empty than our car’s gas tank. Neighborhood declining. A retirement account looking more like a piggybank. Overwhelming demands at work. A boss who requires more than we can give. A spouse who does not understand your needs. Stress. Anxiety.
On Monday, I read a news article documenting the 1200% rise in the documented anxiety-related diagnoses in America since 1980. Doctors estimate that more than 117 million Americans report high levels of anxiety. “Some experts point to our high-paced, stressful lifestyle as feeding fear, issuing in this new age of anxiety,” NBC news chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman said.
Experts say that a little stress is good, maybe healthy, for human beings. Long ago, humans had to stay a little on edge because their lives may be at stake from predators and weather. The thin line between stress and anxiety, though, is that often times we can cope with stress but anxiety can control us, rendering us incapacitated.
“Anxiety and stress while interwoven can be easily treated. People sometimes reach for the medicine before they reach for the change in lifestyle,” according to Dr. Snyderman. In a world that seeks instant gratification and limitless connection, we want to satisfy our hurts and pain as quickly and easily as possible.
But, for those of us who feel like we skate on the thin edge between stress and anxiety, where do we go? To whom do we turn?
Jesus says he gives a peace different from what the world gives. In Matthew, Jesus calls all restless, stressed, and anxious to “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
So, take heart, fellow stressors. We live, learn, love, and stress together. Jesus opens his arms to those of us seeking peace and comfort from the stress and hurt in our lives. When we fall into his arms, we realize that we are not alone. Truth be told, all of us: ministers, nurses, teachers, managers, those still working and those retired, those who think we have it all together and those who know we don’t we don’t have it all together, can find the peace we need in his arms. Stressed out? Come to Jesus and his people. He’s here and so are we.