Monday, June 9, 2014
The Antidote to Stress
Stress!!! It's everywhere. Time and again I hear people speaking of being "stressed out". Parents are anxious about making ends meet, problems with the children, the challenges of work, caring for aging parents or, not uncommonly, a combination of all of the above. (I recently was told that forty percent of professionals - yes, 40!!! - are medicated in order to deal with their pressures.) Even children experience stress because of problems in the home, at school or with their peers. When I visit schools I learn very quickly that some of our beloved young people are carrying burdens of worry that no child should ever be expected to bear.
What's going on? It seems to me that the root of much of it is surrender to the illusion of self-reliance. It all depends upon me. This leads in turn to the felt need to control things and to fix problems. The difficulty with this, of course, is that much of the time the circumstances in which we live are beyond our control, and our challenges lie outside our capacity to resolve. If I come at this out of the presupposition that I am my only resource, then nervousness, fear and worry arise, and from these is born stress, and lots of it!
But I am not my only resource. In fact, I am not even my first resource. There is one who is already at work in my life before I am even aware of it, who loves me beyond imagining, and who seeks to use all that unfolds in my life, and in the lives of the ones I love, in order to turn everything to the good. All that he asks is that I transfer my trust. He invites me to trust no longer in myself but in him, to give up the illusion of self-reliance and to rely instead on his love and wisdom. The one of whom I speak is Jesus. He is our Lord, crucified out of love for us and risen from the dead so that we might live in the power of that love.
This transfer of trust is in part what is meant by faith. It is an act of the will, a deliberate decision on our part to place our complete trust in Jesus. Yet we know from experience just how difficult it is to let go of illusions of self-sufficiency and control. Faith, though, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. At Mass on Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost, we heard St. Paul teach us: "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." In other words, no one can surrender in faith to Jesus, no one can place their trust completely in him, no one can make the decision to allow him to reign in their life, unless the Holy Spirit gives the ability.
So, let us pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is the antidote to our stress. He leads us to Jesus and enables us to place our complete trust in him. When we do this, we will witness Jesus doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, often in surprising ways, and our stress will give way to peace.