The Path from Anxiety and Stress to Lasting Peace

Let’s start with some good news out of Washington: Congress passed legislation last night to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The day commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday; forty-six other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit.

It is noteworthy that the House passed the bill with strong bipartisan support (415–14) and that the Senate had passed it unanimously the day before.

In more good news, New York and California have lifted most of their pandemic restrictions. New York City is planning a parade on July 7 to honor frontline and essential workers; California Gov. Gavin Newsom called Tuesday “reopening day” for his state. Two of our most populous states are now aligning with many other states as the number of vaccinated people continues to grow.

The Israel parliament admits its first-ever deaf member

In a day as fractured and divisive as ours, steps toward unity and peace make headlines.

Shirley Pinto was sworn into the Knesset, becoming the first-ever deaf member of the Israeli parliament. However, hostilities began again with Hamas as incendiary balloons were launched into Israel, and Israel’s fighter jets struck Hamas compounds in response.

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a polite summit yesterday in Geneva at what leaders agree is a “low point” in US-Russian relations. Twenty-eight Chinese military planes flew over Taiwan’s airspace Tuesday; the Chinese government claims that the island is a breakaway province. And Iran announced Tuesday that it has produced 6.5 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity, moving ever closer to the nuclear weapons–grade level of 90 percent purity.

Negotiating on our political differences is obviously important, but treaties cannot change human hearts.

"Your team is more anxious than you think"

In other news, “the great resignation” migration is taking place as a record four million Americans quit their jobs in April. According to one analyst, “We basically burned out the global workforce over the last year. One of the ways people deal with burnout is by switching employers.”

And Forbes is reporting that “your team is more anxious than you think.” The article recommends that employers encourage their employees to be honest about their struggles, exhibit empathy and compassion, avoid “cowboy” culture that rewards hard-driving success at the expense of collaboration, share their own struggles, take steps to reduce employee uncertainty, and customize approaches to individual needs.

Like the lobster diver who was swallowed by a humpback whale (which fortunately spit him out), we can feel consumed by an adversarial culture. We can submerge our faces in ice-cold water to slow down our heart rate (a response known as the “diver’s reflex”), but we can’t live underwater. We can pay $28 million to ride into space next month alongside Jeff Bezos and his brother, but after ten minutes of “space tourism,” our flight will return to the planet we left.

"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord"

How, then, can we best navigate the anxieties and stresses of these days?

Habakkuk’s testimony is one of my favorite paragraphs in Scripture. It begins by describing dire circumstances: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls” (Habakkuk 3:17).

In his day, this would mean the loss of every means of sustenance. But the prophet responded: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (v. 18).

How can we experience the joy Habakkuk knew? By doing what he did.

Scripture testifies that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), but a refuge can help only those who choose its shelter. A house built upon the rock of God’s sovereignty and word will stand amid the storms (Matthew 7:24-25), but that rock can sustain only those who stand upon it.

Jesus warned us that prosperity can make us so self-reliant that we refuse the grace and provision of God (Matthew 19:24). As I noted yesterday, adversity can also lead us to question God’s love and depend on our capacities while ignoring his omnipotence.

When we are well, we don’t need a doctor; when we are sick, we blame the doctor.

Our ever more secularized culture is doing all it can to persuade us that either is an appropriate response to the good news and the bad news of our day.

"Here I have no continuing city"

Scottish minister John Baillie prayed: “Let me remember that my mortal body is only the servant of my immortal soul. Let me remember how uncertain my hold is on my own physical life. Let me remember that here I have no continuing city, but only a place for a brief stay and a time for testing and training.

“Let me understand the vanity of what is time bound and the glory of the eternal. Let my world be centered not in myself, but in you.”

In whom will your world be centered today?

Publication date: June 17, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Montinique Monroe/Stringer

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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