STRESS - TORN BY INADEQUATE GODS
Stress is one of the major problems of our age. We cover it with as much medication as we can find, but it is still one of the driving forces that fragment our lives and sap our energy. It is also a source of a lot of the physical illness that we face in our lives today.
Stress is a by product of our theology. We all have a theology, even the atheist who does not believe in God, has a theology. He has a complete set of idols to which he answers in terms of initiative in his life. If there is a decision to be made, the idols are manifest in the questions they ask.
How much does it cost? Money determines many of our decisions. What will people think? This question is much deeper since there are many people, and only one cost in terms of money. How will it feel? Pleasure is god. Will I get away with it? the Law is god.
All of the gods are not operative in every decision, and there is a fragmentation that issues at any time we ask a new question, seeking the approval of another god. With each one of the fragments there is a new stress. Stress grows from the conflict between our gods.
Perhaps the greatest issue of all is the issue of control. I need a god who is able to control all of the circumstances that I encounter, and finally I must maintain the ultimate control of my life. That means that I am god for me. I make the decision that will, and I like to believe that I am self sufficient. The major problem is that I am afraid that I am not in control. and the stress becomes noticeable as it increases.
Oddly enough that is the temptation that finally got to Eve in the story of the Garden. "You shall be like God." It is odd also that most of the Christians that I know are all seeking to become like God. There is a major difference. Eve tried to seize the prize she was seeking. Christians await the giving of the gift of life that God has given in Jesus Christ. We receive that gift only we abdicate from the control position and leave the control in Gods hands.
OUR BASIS FOR DECISIONS
The truth is that our decisions are made on the basis of what we believe will best fulfill our lives at any given moment. That is as true for the saint as for the sinner. That does not mean that we will make the same decision tomorrow as we made today. Our gods change in the order we hold them. They will vary with circumstances, and our feelings; but they will be determined by our beliefs at any given moment.
The word belief is not the same as thinking. Belief is more than thinking. It includes thinking, but it includes feeling. It includes old habit patterns and inner vows with which we have grown up from childhood. It also includes all of the conflicts that these sources bring into the mixture. It rests in the realm that Scripture calls the heart. It is the summation of our personality.
It is grounded in our perceptions of the world in which we live, and the path we have walked in our lives. It is our reality, but it is not actuality. That is why we encounter some major crises in our lives, and our perceptions are changed so that our entire world is different.
Wisdom is the summation of our evaluation of all of our experiences. We can have a lot of experience without wisdom, but we cannot have wisdom without experience. When the Scripture says, "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom." it is saying that we draw our wisdom from the god whom we elect to worship.
Most of us have a professed faith in a god we claim for our own. That faith may be in the Holy Trinity or in our own ego. We trust that we are right in our decision to believe in that god. We also have the little idols that go with the particular tradition that we follow. What will people think? Will it bring me the recognition that I crave? Is it worth the effort that it will demand? How much time will it take? Will I have time to do what I want to do?
We are torn between the god whom we profess to trust and the gods that surround us in a finite creation. It is the tearing that generates the stress. It is not so much that we have made a good decision or a bad one. It is that we have made a decision that pits one of our gods against another, or we have looked back to see that we missed considering one of the more important gods.
It is as we come to see the conflicts that exist in our belief system that we are torn to seek an escape from the pain we feel. Many smoke to tranquilize the stress they feel. Many drink seeking the anesthesia and covering of the pain. Many seek to find diversion through sexual activity or entertainment of some sort. All seek to escape the pain of stress. We may seek our escape through treating the symptoms. We may seek to deal with the interior stresses and the sources that cause them as we make our decisions based on what we believe will best fulfill our lives at the moment. It becomes a matter of whose hand holds the initiative in our lives.
AN ADEQUATE GOD
There are many who believe that there is only one God in the Creation, and we cannot know Him, so it doesnt make any difference what your religious preference is. The truth is that there are many gods in our lives. Each of us perceives God in some way. What we worship is our perception of God as we have received whatever revelation He has given us.
What kind of a God do we need? We need a God who knows why we are here, or we will never find the purpose for which we were created. We need a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. We need one who is concerned for our well being, and is present with us wherever we are, One who is available to His people.
We need a God who is willing to take us on a come as you are basis. Unless we perceive ourselves as perfect, we need to find what we are to be, and the empowerment to find our way into that reality. We need to find the place where our perceived reality comes together with Gods actuality.
Granted that there may be a few who are actually self sufficient. Most of us cannot even establish our lives in the pattern in which we would choose without a God who is able to know and create in us the integrity He intends. Those people who do not know stress must have an integrity that never pulls against itself.
The rest of us need to find a God who will recreate us into a whole and complete person who has no interior conflicts because we are totally within His will. He is the One who is also able to bring us from where we are into the state in which He would have us to live.
He would have to be a God who is able to set us free from any bondage that we may feel to the past - genetic or emotional. He would have to be a God who could set us free from guilt that we have accumulated and carried through our lives. He must be able to set us free from those persons whom we have carried around with us in our refusal to forgive.
He would have to be a God into whose hands we could commit our entire lives with no fear that He would abandon us at any time. He must be able to rescue us from ourselves in crises where we have lost control, and find ourselves in some impossible situation for us, but not for Him.
When we find a God who can bring us that integrated life in which we encounter no conflict in our decisions, we will have peace within and a continuing reduction in stress while we proceed to learn to walk in His will.
Such a God would leave us with only one question to ask when we make a decision. "Lord, what would you have me to do?" We would be able to know that His will for us would be the perfect will that has no stress because it has no conflict. He would have to do more than tell me what to do. He would have to enable the doing. He would have to be able to recreate me and make me a new creature, able to do what I cannot do now. He would have to be like the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus, His Christ; that I might find freedom from stress in the love of the one, the only adequate God.To Fr Al's Main Page