Friday, January 14, 2011

Commentary: Stress and Sin

Stress and Sin


Although stress touches everyone, Stress is something that most know what it is, but cannot define.  It is something most experience but cannot put into words.  When talking about stress it is assumed that the other person understands.  Especially, if we believe that the person's circumstance is similar to ours. 


The word Stress has different meanings.  In linguistics it basically means emphasis.  In Physics it means: 1. an applied force or system of forces that tends to strain or deform a body; 2. the internal resistance of a body to such an applied force or system of forces.  This last definition has been appropriated how humans feel about the toils and burdens of life.  It is defined as: 1. a mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression; 2. a stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition.    

For most of us, however, it is not one adverse circumstance, but the summation of all of life's demands.  What causes stress is the long to do list and our attempt to do it all by ourselves.    Demands at work, family crises, guilt, uncertainty about the future, dissatisfaction with the past—these all are hard enough. All this, along with the general events of life, can put enough pressure on people that it affects their physical and mental health. Researchers Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe developed the social readjustment rating scale, which lists life events with corresponding stress values for each: the death of spouse—100; personal injury or illness—53; change in residence—20; etc. A person accumulating 200 or more points at any given time runs a 50 percent chance of becoming ill; someone accruing 300 or more will reach a point of crisis. Moderate amounts of stress are necessary to increase performance, but beyond a point stress becomes a health hazard.  You can see how if you have so much going on in your life that regular events in life add up to close to two hundred, the death of your spouse can drive you over the crisis edge.  Even a 20 point event can make you vulnerable to diseases. 


Most of us know this, and if not it makes sense when you first hear it.  But, what most of us fail to see is that unhealthy amounts of stress is Sin.  It is hard for us to make the connection. 


In Matthew 6: 25 - 34 Christ told His listeners that the pursuit of acquiring money should not be their priority.  "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what shall ye put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment" (Matthew 6: 25)?"  In the Greek the word for thought is merimnao.  This is the same word Jesus used to rebuke Martha in Luke 10:41,


Luke 10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:


Peter used merimna in 1 Peter 5:7,


1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.


Merimna is the same word Christ used in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13: 22 to describe those receive the seed among the thorns.  Among other things, the cares of the world choke the Word away.  The stress or worry about providing the basic things of life keep us, according to Christ, from seeking "… first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness."  The whole point of Christ's discourse in Matthew 6 is to assure His listener that as the Father provides for lesser creatures much more He will provide for us. Hence, the promise: "… and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).  Can we trust Christ?  Peter says we can.  He says that Christ cares for us.  Worry and stress come when we doubt The Lord's Word.  Ellen White says that "To worry is to doubt; but we would impress upon all the necessity of going to God for help, whatever may be your afflictions and troubles" (E. G. White, Signs of the Times, Aug. 28, 1893). And we are warned to "refuse to worry about what you cannot help" (the Upward Look, p. 142). We can conclude that Doubt and worry do not come from faith and whatever is not of faith is sin.


One wise writer wrote about this,


"Christ exhorts us not to be anxious in regard to what we shall eat, drink, and wear, significantly adding, 'For your heavenly Father knows that he had need of these things.' So long as he remembers it, what need have we to fear? Then the Lord says: 'But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matt. 6:30-33). In the face of this promise, whoever spends time worrying or fretting shows his disbelief in God" ("The Honor Due to God No. 6," Signs of the Times, Sept. 6, 1883).


Disbelief in God is sin, and does not spring from faith. "For whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). Does this mean we need to repent when worrying and entertaining stress? Yes, absolutely. Faith has nothing in common with either of them.  The good thing is that Christ is willing to give us rest from stress and worrying.  He invites us all to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NIV).  Let us accept His invitation. 


Raul Diaz