Stressed. This is what my thesaurus had to say: “To ‘stress’ is to emphasize.” Emphasize what? The fact that your life is out of control? The fact that you’re not handling things well?
Being “under stress” means that these two elements are wearing on you — being out of control and not handling things well. However, there is still some control. A minute amount, but then, are we ever really in control?
Perhaps something, somewhere, somehow, in some way is insisting on driving you crazy. More than likely it is we, ourselves, who are driving “us” crazy. We are the ones who insist on allowing something or someone, in some way, to get to us, to rob our joy.
For example, as I write this my husband and I are driving on Interstate 10, going from Phoenix to Los Angeles. We are going the speed limit at 75 mph. A Chevy Blazer with a roof rack piled high with camping gear and a back window with a sticker that says, “Desert Center Fellowship,” plus a license plate that reads “PASTOR,” zooms past. It is definitely exceeding the speed limit of 75 mph. This is after he has been tailgating us, we who are behind a semi-truck that is exceeding his speed limit. The first semi-truck pulls in front of another semi that is passing us on the right, then quickly passes the one in front of us and then pulls in front of him, cuts over to the left of him, and pulls in front of another car. It is moments such as this that drivers tend to get stressed.
I continue writing as my husband continues to drive. Approximately 10 minutes later, from out of nowhere, the Pastor of Desert Center Fellowship zooms by us once more, and once more, he swerves to the right to pass a car that is dawdling down I-10 at the much-too-slow speed of at least 85 mph.
Now, many drivers I know would be stressed by now. They are not merely under stress. They are stressing out big time, and at this point, it is their choice. At times like these in our lives, we allow stress to rob our joy. We allow situations and other people to insist on their agendas, hammer home their opinions, spotlight on the negative, underline our failures, dwell on our mistakes.
You know what I’ve learned that was refreshingly reminded to me today? People like “Pastor Desert Center Fellowship” don’t cause my stress. I do. Things like being cut off in traffic don’t cause my stress. I do. Situations like dirty dishes in the sink left for me to do don’t cause my stress. I do. I allow myself to “climb under” this stuff — because I choose to. I choose to let it get the best of me and drag me down so that I fit under it, let it cover me, and dwell fitfully within it as it wraps its not-so-warm, fuzzy blanket around me. I have allowed it to define my moment, my day. I have become the “s” word: Stressed out.
I am so grateful God has not given up on me, that He still finds me teachable. I am grateful I have learned not to always give in to stress, as was once so easy to do. Now I am much quicker to recognize the hold it strives to have on me. If I allow it to cover me, if I climb under it, before I know it, I am not just “under” stress; it has begun to consume me, define me, highlight my life, insist on having its way, and ultimately, I have allowed it to steal my joy.
Disease. Loss. Pain. Financial burdens. Relationships. All things in life that can create stress, if we allow them. We cannot control everything, if anything. Stress allows us to deal with this “life” — this disease — ineffectively. What is effective? I have found two things to be most effective for me: Forgiveness and thankfulness.
I had a current, ongoing situation that had been stressful for me. After talking to a good friend recently, I realized I hadn’t forgiven the person with whom I had been struggling. I’d allowed the pain to grow because I’d sought control instead of forgiveness. I had allowed the situation to highly frustrate me, and at times, rob my state of mind, my joy.
Forgiveness! Do they deserve it? Not my call. Do I need to do it? You bet. By forgiving, I can find things in that situation for which to give thanks, and by doing that, my focus returns to its proper place — on God being in control. When the right perspective is there, joy overflows.
Is forgiveness easy? No way. Is it necessary? For me, yes. I don’t like the word that starts with an “s” and if I refuse to forgive, refuse to see the hard things in life to be thankful for, that “s” word takes control, consumes my joy, and I am nothing more than … stressed.
That isn’t where I choose to live. Joy is a much better state of mind and with all that a person who has Parkinson’s has to deal with, don’t you think that’s a better place to be? Living with joy and axing the stress in your life?