Hurry, hurry, hurry! You ought to see my calendar. I have tasks to be completed, sermons to prepare, visits that need to be made, mail that needs to be read, and correspondence that needs my attention. It is incredible how many otherwise “little” things can cause stress when multiplied in number and urgency. I can tell you from practical experience that there is nothing that can stress a person out more than selling a house, buying another one, and getting all your goods from one location to the next with the least amount of damage and in a timely fashion. But moving is not the only thing that can cause stress; in fact, life is filled with unexpected events, uncaring people, and uncontrollable circumstances, all of which can (and often do) rob us of the peace and serenity that all of us desire, and for which we strive. Unfortunately, for many, peace is like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; so near, yet so far away. Tragically, the great majority of our world will never realize the true peace “that passeth all understanding” and which will “guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). The kind of peace that Paul was speaking of is not simply inactivity in a busy world; though sometimes it might do us good to slow down and be less active from time to time. I have known some people who were very active, maintaining a full schedule, with little time to actually do some of the things we might classify as recreation. Mack Lyon shared the following incident in his life that illustrates this very point:
I was preaching in another state when I was trying to come up with a clear and understandable definition of peace. I was staying in a motel and eating some of my meals at their restaurant. The waitress who served my table that Saturday was a middle-aged lady, very ordinary looking, modestly dressed, and she did a good job. I had an idea she was not there for the same reason I sometimes play a round of golf and others go fishing. She was there because she had to work. She was busy, but she seemed orderly. You and I both know, not every customer is pleased with the food or the service in any eating establishment, but she maintained a positive and peaceful attitude through it all. I watched her and I thought, how can she be so calm and composed in all this confusion? Sometimes even humming a little tune. How can she maintain such a good attitude in spite of what people are saying and doing? How can she go on like this, just being a waitress, knowing that someone else owns the place and is making the money? How can she keep from being a bit self envious? How does she avoid self pity? Or bitterness? How does she maintain a pleasant smile? And it came to me: That’s it! That’s what I’m talking about! Peace within—the peace that passes understanding is that serenity to accept the unavoidable and inevitable in life with grace and gratitude! (FW Lectures, Standing On The Promises of God, page 263-264).
Right on target! Peace is not non-involvement. It is not the “ability to sit in apathy and idleness and watch a needy, suffering world rush off in every direction in pursuit of its own destruction” (Mack Lyon). As Phillip Keller noted, “The path of peace is not strewn softly with rose petals. Rather it is a tough trail tramped out with humble heart and lowly spirit despite its rough rocks of adversity (Phillip Keller, A Gardner Looks At The Fruit of the Spirit).
Perhaps one key to overcoming stress and capturing the peace we so desperately desire is found in the ability to take a few precious moments along the way, slow down, and count our blessings. The following was written by Orin Crain: Slow Me Down Lord.
Slow me down, Lord. Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Teach me the art of taking minute vacations—of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to smile at a child, to read a few lines from a good book. Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow toward my greater destiny. Remind me each day that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed. Let me look upward to the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.