As the Christmas Holiday Season draws to a close and the New Year is upon us, I am drawn to reflect on a statement my wife made recently about how stressful life seems to have become in the past several years. I can’t recall exactly what she said but it was made as we drove home from a very relaxing and rejuvenating time visiting family and friends over. She wasn’t referring to anything specific either; it was just a general comment on the state of most of those close to us.
I will turn 40 in 2012 and most of our friends and close relatives are between the ages of 35 and 45. These are the years of peak activity for many. It’s when we start families, purchase our first home and jockey for position on the ladder of success. Apart from the death of a loved one; the birth of a child, moving and changing jobs are considered by psychologists the most stressful events one can endure. Add to that economic concern and the ever present specter of saving for retirement or the education of the aforementioned children and it’s no wonder that stress related illnesses like heart disease and general anxieties have reached epidemic proportions.
I blame the advertisers.
We are bombarded with messages everyday that are designed to make us feel bad about ourselves and then show the wonderful new product that will fix our lives and make us feel better. The fact is that in order to achieve that miracle thing we must spend more money. But in order to spend it, we have to make it and in order to make it we have to work harder and spend less time doing the things that truly bring rest and rejuvenation.
Of course we can always buy things on credit but that brings with it a whole host of other problems that I don’t have time to go into right now…
The point is that we are running around chasing after things that don’t last and digging ourselves into a hole financially, physically and emotionally that we may never be able to recover from. Our culture tells us to do more and go faster. But this cultural tendency is literally killing us. According to Statistics Canada, the most common time for a heart attack is Monday morning and the fastest growing demographic for heart disease are women under 50.
How counter cultural then is it to remember the words of Jesus on stress and our human tendency to chase after more?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? [Matthew 6:26-27]
I leave you on this New Years Eve with that thought and this prayer;
May 2012 bring you a stress free peace that comes from the wisdom and strength of saying NO when our culture pressures you to over commit your time, energy and financial resources to things that will pass away before or shortly after the dawn of 2013.