Wearing Stress

The number one resolution for 2016 is “eliminating stress,” quickly followed by eating healthier and losing weight.  This order is determined by internet search patterns around the holidays.  It doesn’t surprise me as a majority of people are overstressed.  I feel it.  Others feel it.  I often counsel people on stress ranging from work expectations, family difficulties, or personal insecurity.  We live in a society where stress is the norm.  This is confirmed by the uptick of people using therapists to simply cope with life.  Counselors are wonderful.  They can help with intense difficulties in life.  Yet, it seems there is a move towards professional assistance in all matters of life including everyday stress.  It seems we are losing our ability to cope with life.

My wife is currently reading the book Blue Zone Solutions.  The book researches the seven regions in the world where people live the longest. The intent is to discern lifestyle patterns, eating habits, and other factors that lead to people living longer in these areas.  One section explores Okinawa.  A key reason for longevity of life is their ability to live without stress.  In their language, they have a word that means “wearing stress.”  It encapsulates a person who walks around with concerns and anxieties throughout the day.  Literally, the person is wearing stress.  I love the image.  I picture myself literally waking up in the morning putting on the stress of the previous day or that particular day.  I then carry it throughout the day only to bunch it in the corner.  The next day I put on the same stress again.  It might be a church concern.  Or, it might be an upcoming doctor’s appointment leading to anxiety over my health.  If it is particularly bad, I simply go to bed with my “stress clothes” on.  This is most certainly the reality for many people.  To be honest, many of us have been wearing the same stress clothes for weeks if not months.

This is not God’s desire for us.  He implores us to pour out our anxiety to Him (Philippians 4:4-7).  He doesn’t want us to have stress-filled lives that suck the joy out of the day.  He wants us to enjoy the blessings that surround us (and there are many) rather than looking backwards or forward at the concerns of yesterday or tomorrow.  He wants us to trust Him with the uncertainties of life, realizing that He has a wonderful purpose in store for us in 2016.  God wants us to know that He is perfectly capable to handle all our worries if we will simply give them to Him.  I think we know this in our minds.  Yet, in our hearts, we cling to all those worries believing somehow that dwelling on them will bring about resolution.

Yet, all it does is stink up our lives.  It is similar to us wearing the same clothes day after day without changing them or cleaning them.  It seems illogical for someone to do so.  Yet, this is exactly what we do with our worries with the result being a joyless, bitter, discouraged spirit.  As we start 2016, let’s embrace an Okinawan mindset and stop wearing stress by daily laying our concerns before Him and enjoying the goodness He has for us today.

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