Dear Family of St John’s

I came across a meme this week which said, “I stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about. Then I stress about stressing over stress that doesn’t need to be stressed about. It’s stressful.”

And another one that said, “According to the latest research, the average human body is 20% water and 80% stress.”

How often have we thought, said, or heard someone else say that they were stressed this last week?

One of our staff commented earlier in the week that life was moving so fast we’d soon be planning Christmas services! Well, my mind automatically went into mild-panic mode… ‘What month are we in?!’

It’s okay, as of today, the 10th March, we have 290 days until Christmas… I checked.

It’s exhausting operating at this level of stress though, isn’t it? And yet, that seems to be the norm for so many people. If we’re not worrying about our children and work, we’re worried about the rising cost of living and our finances, or the worsening state of our drought, or the levels of crime and poverty, or our health, or loadshedding and when it will ever end! Could you add more to this list? I’m sure you could.

Our Lent Bible study is titled ‘The Search for Peace’. We’ve just completed the second week of the study, and across both groups I’ve attended is the affirmation that we all desire peace. We all need to slow down, stop doing so much and just ‘be’. We need time to breathe, to let every muscle in our body relax and quieten our hearts and especially our minds.

Why not pause as you’re reading this. Relax completely wherever you’re sitting, close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly for a minute. Doesn’t that feel better? Now, if we did that regularly, increased the time, and focused on God in that breathing, how much more peaceful and relaxed we would feel.

But reducing our stress requires a bit more than a relaxation and breathing exercise a few times a day. I think part of the problem comes from the fact that we carry too much on our shoulders. We hold on to so much that we should be surrendering to God.

And here lies a problem. How do we view surrender? We see it as a weakness, as a sign of giving up. In many of our daily situations we have the attitude that we’ll never surrender, no matter the cost! We will stand our ground, don’t give an inch!

But, aren’t we told to hand over all our worries and burdens to Jesus? 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

And in Matthew 6:25ff Jesus tells us not to worry about our day-to-day needs, trust in God for He provides. He asks whether we can add an extra hour to our lives by worrying. The truth is that we probably reduce the hours of our life by worrying!

This passage closes with verse 34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

That’s not so easy to put into practice, is it? I don’t believe that ‘not worrying’ means not working toward providing for our needs. I believe it means that we need to trust in God that, with the work we have put in, we will have enough. Remember, the work we put in also needs to be balanced giving us time for God and our family. It means that we need to shift our priorities.

And this is all about surrender, surrendering our control over the situations that cause us stress, anxiety and worry. Surrendering to Jesus is not giving up, it’s not declaring weakness, it’s not defeat. Surrendering to Jesus is acknowledgment of His power, glory and love.

When we surrender our stressful times to Him, and hand over the control to Him, we find peace. There’s a lovely acronym that I came across for stress. It goes like this:

Some Times Resting Easy Soothes Souls.

What better place is there to rest easy than in God? What a wonderful way to find soothing for our souls. We all need soothing. When I picture stress, I see jagged edges. Those edges need soothing and smoothing. This happens when we focus on and surrender to God. Then we will find that peace we all need.

My prayer for each of us, no matter the source of our stress and anxiety, is that we would make Some Time to Rest Easy to Soothe our Souls, that we would practice the act of surrender to Jesus, and know His peace.

With love

Your friend and rector,