Sep 252017 2 Responses

An Ancient Cure for Stress and Anxiety

Technology promised to make our lives easier and in some ways it has. Many in the world still have to walk daily to the well to get water; we don’t. Many don’t have power or AC; we do. With an amazing ease, we can communicate and transmit information. Technology has greatly eased the burden of attaining food, water, shelter, and many daily demands of life.

Without question, technology has made specific tasks easier. But has it made our lives easier? There was a time where the hope of technology promised shorter work days, more leisure time, less need to produce and more opportunity to enjoy.

Clearly, technology hasn’t delivered on that promise.

Instead of working less, the average American is working more.

Instead of getting a leg up on competition, technology has created millions of new people who are our competition.

Instead of work becoming less invasive in our lives, technology has stripped nearly every boundary between work and home.

Our day resembles that of when God’s people were enslaved in Egypt. It was a horrific period in the history of Israel. As a result of their pride, God allowed His own people to become slaves. The Egyptians were brutal masters, seeing the Jewish people as simple machines designed to accomplish work. They would work the machines as hard as they could until the machine finally broke. Then they would simply replace the machine with a new one.

For the Israelites in Egypt, life was a continual cycle of production. They couldn’t take a day off. There was no concept of rest. They were to work themselves non-stop until they died. It wasn’t 24/7/365 because they didn’t have electricity. But it was 12/7/365. They would work every day as long as there was daylight without any breaks, days off, or holidays.

Over time, God was gracious to his people and after years of enslavement, he heard their cry and raised a leader to deliver them to freedom. God used Moses to lead the people out of enslavement and into the Promised Land. Yet as the people finally got to the land God had promised, He wanted to ensure that they did not simply replicate what they had lived for the previous 400 years. There were many things God wanted to protect them from, but one of those things was the endless production culture that 20 generations of Jewish people had grown accustomed to.

Two contrarian practices were commanded by God and were to characterize His people now freed from the slavery they had long endured:

1. The Sabbath. While the Egyptians never allowed the Jewish people a day off, God commanded that they take a day. Not just a day a year, but a day a week. Every week, they were to work for six days and then rest for one. That one day was meant to give them time to relate to God, rest, remind themselves and others that God, not their own work of their hands, was the source of their blessings.

2. The Tithe. Not only would God’s people work a day less than the Egyptians, they would also give away their first fruits. While the Egyptians held tightly to everything they produced, God’s people would hold loosely their possessions, even giving away the first 10% of their crop or herd.

These two practices were in stark contrast to everything God’s people had seen in Egypt. If the Egyptians struggled to survive working non-stop and holding on to everything they produced, how would God’s people make it while taking a day off every week and giving away 10 percent of their work?

Yet that is what God commanded them to do and he promised to take care of them.

If ancient Egypt was a 12/7/365 culture, then our day is 24/7/365. Even with endless production, we feel as though we are falling behind. Technological advancements have not simplified our lives. They have lured us into the belief that if we don’t continually produce (and figure out ways to produce more) and hold tightly to the fruits of our labors, we will suffer, struggle and ultimately lose.

The result of this belief is pressure. We worry, stress, and feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. It’s the source of much of our exhaustion, isolation, and distraction.

Is it a coincidence that the less we engage in Sabbath and giving, the more we experience anxiety and stress?

Are God’s commands actually invitations to avoid the emotional strife of our day?

Is our stress a symptom of our disobedience?

These two ancient practices aren’t magic pills. Practicing them apart from the faith behind them is futile. Yet for those who believe, engaging in these two old habits can reap great benefits. Imagine taking a day a week and refusing to focus on production. Instead, create a day focused on joy, connecting with God and others, and reminding yourself of God’s purpose for your life. Consider holding loosely your possessions, so much so that you give away the first 10 percent of all you receive.

These practices won’t magically erase all your stress, but when done in faith they will be good first steps toward a more rested, connected, and engaged existence.

We live in a day where it feels as though the competition is too steep and time is too precious so that we must live in a mode of continual production. Yet when we do, we are no more safe, secure, or stress-free. Instead, we feel added pressure to work harder, longer, and more effectively. God invites into a different way; not one of laziness or sloth, but one of diligent effort wedded with grace-filled rest. One of wise financial practice matched with great generosity.

We are stressed, in part, because we are holding so tightly to production and possessions. Maybe we would be less stressed if we held them more loosely and chose to follow God’s ancient pattern.


2 Responses to An Ancient Cure for Stress and Anxiety
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