Overcoming, not succumbing to, stress

Even when we have many things going on at once, we have a God-given ability to take effective, harmonious steps forward – without feeling swamped.

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A work-related call coming in. A frustrated kindergartner yelling next to me. A family activity coming up soon. Certainly a recipe for stress! I didn’t want to add dealing with stress to my already full plate. But what could I do?

Amid that tough start to the day, I realized that rather than simply succumbing to stress, I could start from a different premise entirely.

Imagine that you’re a product maker, armed with the best 3D printer on the market, and you’re designing a new product with several moving parts. Are you going to make that product so that the moving parts rub and scratch against each other, literally causing stress to the whole system in the course of its natural activity? Of course not; you’re going to make sure that everything works smoothly.

We have been made, created, with that same care and refinement. The very first chapter in the Bible records the creation of all things being deemed very good, unfailingly representative of the very nature of God. Christ Jesus’ world-shaking ministry and promise of present salvation harks back to that primal, divine assessment of creation as wholly good. Jesus demonstrated through his healing and his teaching that simply being willing to start from God’s viewpoint, instead of willfully trying to straighten things out all by ourselves, can make all the difference.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Christian Science Monitor and reintroduced the world to the immediate and practical relevance of Jesus’ ministry, stated bluntly the impossibility of God’s children being created to be inharmonious: “To suppose that God constitutes laws of inharmony is a mistake; discords have no support from nature or divine law, however much is said to the contrary” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 183).

So that morning, I closed my eyes, praying quietly with these ideas for a few moments. I found myself saying out loud the inspiration that came to me: “There is not too much going on.” Starting with this God-decreed premise instead of trying to wade through the mess, I was able to effectively conclude my work call, help my son, and embark on a happy day.

Since then, that simple premise, “There is not too much going on,” has been a very gentle, clear reminder for me of the harmony God expresses throughout all creation. We have the right to start with this spiritual reality, with the promise of God’s harmony rather than the premise of stress as inevitable – no matter how late we’re running, how many erratic drivers are on the road, or how many tasks we need to get done.

This doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes have many things going on at once, but it empowers us to take effective steps forward without feeling swamped. We can confidently follow the loving counsel given to Job in the Bible: “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14). Consider the works of God, instead of getting bogged down by all the stuff around you. Consider that you too are the work of God.

Harmony, not stress, is the natural state of all God’s children – the representatives, the very image and likeness, of the divine Principle of the universe. Realizing this enables us to respond and move with peace instead of stress.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

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