I met with a young father this week to make funeral arrangements for his grandmother and aunt, who both died suddenly two days apart last month.  He is responsible for making the arrangements because his grandmother was a widow and his aunt never married.  And in case you are wondering, his father is deceased, his mother has been bed-ridden since she broke her neck some years ago, and his only sibling is confined to a wheelchair with MS.  In spite of all these stressors, he seemed to be functioning quite well.
Then there is another household from the day before.  The man and his roommate are both disabled.  They recently moved because of flooding in their previous rental residence.  We had arranged for a washer and dryer to be delivered and installed on Monday, but the truck broke down, delaying things until Tuesday.  The delivery people came on time, but with no tools for installation.  They put the washing machine in place (but did not install it), however they could not get the dryer through the door – so they left it on the patio.  I received the phone call at 7:55 a.m. asking, “Can you help?”  An hour or so later I arrived at their home – my trip was delayed because I was also responsible for opening the building for voting that morning – with a few tools (theirs were all lost in the flood) and a dolly.  Within the hour, weather stripping and a door had been removed (and reinstalled) and the dryer was safe within their home.  Their only stressor that remained was installation.
And if you are looking for additional individuals to add to your prayers, you might consider these three friends of mine.  One is a mom who has had multiple health issues for years.  She tested positive for covid a month ago and is still feeling lousy – she was supposed to see her doctor yesterday (again).  The second is a matriarch of a family who has some early signs of dementia.  She is in rehab following a broken hip and has a granddaughter getting married in two months.  She’s not sure she wants to be around for the wedding.  The final one is a young mom who asked my opinion of a prophetess she likes to listen to over the internet.  While I think the stress here was more on me, I expect similar and diverse stressors are all around all of us.
I am also sure everyone who reads this could add multiple names and descriptions to what I have listed above.  In fact, it is likely that many who read this would like to add their own names to the list.  I am told that a stressor is “something that causes a state of strain or tension.”  A quick google search listed 8 examples of stressors:  death of a loved one, losing a job, illness, starting university, work promotion, birth of a child, marriage, winning the lottery.  Wow – this reminds me that I have a wedding this weekend, and four additional memorial services in the planning stage.
What I find interesting about this list is that not all the things on it are negatives.  Good things in our lives can cause just as much stress as bad things.  And, I think, fitness trainers would suggest that rightly managed stress is actually helpful in building strength and health … at least that is why I include short episodes of jogging in my daily walks – I think it’s good to get my pulse up into the “cardio” range on my Fitbit.
The last few months I have taken two different “oldy but goodie” hymns to those who are homebound.  I expect the words will be familiar to many of you.  “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!  Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear – all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.  Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?  Precious Savior, still our refuge – take it to the Lord in prayer.  Do your friends despise, forsake you?  Take it to the Lord in prayer.  In his arms he’ll take and shield you; You will find a solace there.”  “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee; Let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure:  cleanse me from its guilt and power.  While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyelids close in death, when I soar to worlds unknown, see thee on thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”  Though I generally prefer many of the newer hymns, these two seem to have helped relieve some of the stressors in many.
I wonder who is feeling relief today among the many winners and losers in Tuesday’s primary elections?  And aren’t you curious about what is going on with that one ticket worth $1.28 billion?  I mentioned earlier that stress can come from good news as quickly as from bad.  I might also suggest that sometimes something that looks good is not, and vice versa.  In other words, stressors can come in many, many different and surprising ways!
What does our friend Jesus have to say?  Well, through his friend Solomon he writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will bring healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3.5-8) Through another friend of his, Paul, we are urged to “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5.17-18) And from his own lips we hear our friend say, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28) Somehow, I think his goal in coming to us is not to add to our stress, but to offer relief … which is what I pray this little refresher might be giving to you.