Overcoming stress through love and service
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
I’m just going to admit it: I’ve been a giant ball of tension and stress recently. Kids, work, illness, and a silly-but-debilitating fitness-inspired injury—you name it. Even though I’ve been trying hard to breathe, to rest in the presence of my Creator, and give all my concerns to the Lord, the fact remains that I’m doing too much, not giving myself enough downtime, running on empty, not getting quite enough shuteye, and it’s been taking a toll.
As I write this, I’m also knee-deep in preparations to head off with my husband on a one-week mission trip to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. And ironically, I know deep down the trip, more than anything else I could possibly do, is my ticket to stress-busting.
See, I know it’s not going to be easy. We’ll be staying in the mountains in rather rustic conditions with no electricity, and the work will be grueling: tarping, tear-out, roofing, rebuild.
But if I’ve gleaned one bit of wisdom in my life so far, it’s that pushing myself aside to focus on others is probably the best stress-reliever is existence.
We all know that Jesus said the two greatest commandments are, first, to love God with everything we are, and second, to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). But what we might not know is that the secret to bliss also has everything to do with keeping those commandments. In today’s me-driven secular society, we get so many mixed messages about happiness. We’re told we need to prioritize ourselves and do what feels right.
But as Christians, I think we need to ignore that and instead focus on turning ourselves over to the Lord in whatever way He calls us to do. Sacrificing—our time, our money, our material possessions, our very lives—helps us become one with God. Why do we think Jesus taught that it is more blessed to give than receive? I think He knew that relinquishing control and worry over ourselves and our needs was a consuming, ever-downward-spiraling track to despair. His path is the one we are to follow: the way of truth, love, and humble service with God at the center.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:1-4, NIV).
Loving others, for me, is serving others. And whether that service is through reading to kids, cooking a meal for people in need, being a shoulder for a friend (or stranger), being a cheerleading encourager, or hopping on a plane for a weeklong mission trip to Puerto Rico, you can be sure of one thing. Putting myself on the backburner to engage in some love-filled Christian service is a balm to the soul.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, Christian author, editor, blogger, and writing coach.
She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate (AdvocateSC.org), the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism.
Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/