Simply Stress-Free

I believe life here on earth was meant to be simple. By simple I mean free from the stresses caused by the minute-by-minute bombardment of information to our brains by the marvels of technology. My husband and I just came from serving at a six-day youth summer camp in the suburbs. It was a most welcome break from all things that have been causing us much stress the past twelve months.

It was such a blessing – such freedom! – to be off the grid known as the social network. We may not realize this but there is so much pressure and expectation to project a certain persona, to greet and respond to all our Facebook or Twitter “friends”, to accept all “friend” requests and invitations to join other social networks, to never “un-friend” anyone, to always be online, to comment on people’s photos and status, and the list goes on.

Just a few days ago, we “lost” our internet connection again. This time, it was caused by some freakish factor. If not for the fact that we are paying for our internet subscription, I felt relieved to have an excuse not to check mail, FB, etc. Believe it or not, it’s not all good news and pleasantries in social networks. There are a lot of conflicts, bad news, personal attacks masked as famous people’s quotes, and wars being waged online for the entire world to see. No one cares anymore if personal conflicts are not for general consumption. The more people know about it, the more powerful the weapon. It’s not only very sad – it’s downright tragic!

I don’t know if someone else already came up with these, but here are my thoughts about social networking:

It is to be used to seek peace and pursue it; not to wage war. It is to be used to build bridges; not burn them. It is to be used to affirm and encourage others; not to berate or malign anyone. It is to be used for decency; not for obscenity. It is to be used for thoughtful truth; not for hurtful lies and deceit. It is to be used for good; not for evil.

It is also healthy to rest from social networking every once in a while. I still believe that more meaningful relationships are built, developed and sustained in personal, face-to-face encounters. Any misunderstandings can be cleared faster in a face-to-face conversation. Loving and forgiving touches can be given and received, and these promote healing in the most profound ways.

We are relational beings. We need to experience touch; we need to be able to smell aromas and associate memories with them. The same goes with sights and sounds. We need to be able to “speak” and “listen”. More importantly, we need to connect with other human beings; people we can grow with, laugh with, cry with, hurt with, or just BE with.

Life was meant to be simpler than it has become. It behooves us to “un-complicate” things and get back to the basics. Spend real personal time with family and friends. Lay down our mobile phones, PDAs and laptops and actually learn to communicate verbally and listen attentively. Turn off the TV. Slow down. Leave the car home and take a walk to the bakery. Stop and smell the roses, because they may soon be gone. Pray. Meditate. Heal.

May we all learn to give up what we don’t need and keep what matters most. Have a stress-free day.

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Is Our Helpline Busy?

I just received two phone calls from two very distressed friends. It had been a very long and stressful couple of weeks and I hardly felt capable of handling any more stresses. Let’s just say I’ve reached my “stress limit” and any more would have sent me spinning into the orbit of depression.

As servants in the ministry, we are often placed in situations where we need to be – or are expected to be – dispensers of comfort and encouragement. I usually don’t have any complaints, but when I have some painful and difficult issues to deal with myself, it becomes very difficult to be a source of comfort. When my own world is filled with noise and unrest, listening to people’s problems becomes a source of distress and even pain.

It is difficult to emotionally detach myself from other people’s problems, especially when friends and family are involved. I believe that as women, we were created to be more empathetic towards others because of the nurturing spirit we were given. But what if, weighed down by our own hurts and concerns, we have nothing left to give? What if we have reached our “stress limit” but our hurting brothers and sisters continue to dump their emotional burdens on us?

What if the noise inside our heads becomes a very deafening drum beat, where other people’s concerns are pounding mercilessly on our own? What do we do? Who can we turn to for help?

As humans, we can only give so much of ourselves at a certain time. The emotional resources God has given us get depleted too. And as we have so often heard, we cannot give what we do not have. With these in mind, do we stop giving of ourselves from time to time? Can we excuse ourselves and turn away a hurting soul? After all, we might cause more harm than good when our judgment is clouded and our emotions are far from rational.

God never turns us away whenever we approach His heavenly throne for help and comfort. He is always available for us even though we may sometimes feel that He is awfully quiet “up there”. And while, unlike Him, our resources get depleted, the Lord Jesus always has a fresh supply of resources ready for our taking. His Holy Spirit not only dwells in us, but He also eternally speaks to our hearts! And His Word is replete with wisdom and promises of encouragement, comfort and our daily provision.

Jesus loves us. He has not left us here on earth without leaving us with the tools we need to cope with the challenges of our daily lives. He has left us with a “help line” that we can call anytime, any day. It is never too busy! And when we begin to feel that we no longer have the strength and comfort to give others, we can rely on His promise: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, italics mine)

When there was nothing else I could say to my friends to comfort them as they spilled their hearts out over the phone, I turned to God’s word and sent them messages of encouragement through their mobile phones. I pored over the Psalms, looking for a prayer I could send them, and ended up praying those same verses myself. It is really amazing how God can really, literally, give me the comfort I need through His Word, so that I can give the same comfort to others. Text messages are a great way to be of help and are instruments God can use to deliver His message of comfort and encouragement to His dearly loved children.

We don’t always have to speak in order to give comfort and encouragement. But we can always listen and keep our well meaning advice to ourselves. And if we, ourselves, are going through a rough time, we can always go to the One who never gets tired of helping us – the One who never runs out of love and encouraging words for us. We don’t have to take it all in by ourselves – in fact we shouldn’t! Let’s give it all and give it up to God. He can take it!

The next time my friends, or others, come to me with their burdens – and they will! – I will be sure to have my Bible next to me, or in my memory. I am by no means ready to handle all their concerns, and I don’t intend to. I am still going through a rough time but I know God is more than able to help me and my friends. He may still choose to use me as His “help line” for others in the midst of my own difficulties, but I also know He will continue to supply me with the strength and comfort I need to do so. After all, He is my true “help line”.