According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.
Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.
Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arch communities, has spent his life loving those often ostracized by society. L’Arch creates living communities for those with disabilities or those who, because of their need for intense care, would be institutionalized if they didn’t have such a home. Vanier talks about how the communities are centered around the most basic acts of caring for the physical body—bathing, dressing, and feeding residents who can’t do those things on their own.
Lorenzo Quinn’s 900-pound aluminum sculpture called “Hand of God” features a gigantic open hand with a man seated on the highest part of an upturned palm. The man appears to be troubled and his posture reflects deep discouragement. But the hand that holds him up is much larger than he is.
Look at what you’ve done by becoming a Christian. You’ve deserted the family tradition. Your father feels like a failure. He couldn’t keep the family together.” My mother tried to reason with me to forsake my newfound faith. And I wavered. It pained me to see my parents’ sadness and disappointment. In my collectivism-based culture,group is esteemed greater than the individual. So I thought, By becoming a Christian, did I become a bad child?
In 1977, Chris Bonington and Doug Scott became the first mountain climbers to summit an infamous peak known as The Ogre in Pakistan. During their descent, however, Doug slipped and broke both of his legs. Chris also had a mishap resulting in several broken ribs. Doug, who crawled for 12 days over rocks, snow, and ice to make it back down the mountain, said he did so by focusing on “one feature at a time. A nub of rock, a pinnacle. Get there and then think about the next bit. Because to think about the whole thing was a bit mind-boggling.” Amazingly, both men survived.
It’s winter in New York City. The air temperature hovers just above freezing. A man puts on his wet suit and prepares to ride the waves at Long Beach, an area southeast of Queens where he lives. As he faces the water, he meditates on avoiding danger and prays to the ocean gods. His surfboard—a 9-foot Hawaiian-made job—features a picture of his now-deceased spiritual guru. The man says of the image, “It keeps me centered.”
George Whitfield, the Anglican preacher who was part of the Great Awakening in the American colonies, once said, “Come away, my dear brethren—fly, fly, fly for your lives to Jesus Christ, fly to a bleeding God, fly to a throne of grace . . . beg of God to give you faith, and to enable you to be close with Jesus Christ.” Long before Whitfield encouraged believers to fly to Jesus, the writer of Hebrews encouraged weary believers to approach Him boldly and confidently as their Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14,16).
While watching the orbit of Uranus, astronomers noticed that the planet didn’t seem to orbit as expected, almost as if there was another unknown planet nearby whose gravity was pulling Uranus toward it. Using mathematics, the scientists were able to compute both the position and the mass of this unknown object and then observed it for the first time in 1846: the previously unknown planet Neptune. Math allowed them to identify Neptune before they could even see it!
Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.
The legacy of Lottie Moon lives on more than a hundred years after her death. Originally from the US, she traveled to China as a missionary and later established the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has raised more than $1.5 billion (US) for missions since 1888. Many received salvation in Jesus during her years of ministry, but she endured difficult circumstances in the process. She suffered discrimination as a single woman and also faced illness, famine, and war. Lottie remained resolute, however, as she continued to share the good news and urged others to do the same.
Recently, while I shopped for an appliance, a store salesman showed me two models. The less expensive one was a knockoff—a cheap imitation. The other had a sticker affixed attesting to its value and quality. Because it had been vigorously tested to stringent industry standards, I was assured of its safety and reliability.
If I’m hiking and camping out for several days, campfires are vital. And the most important thing I carry with me as I begin each day is a handful of charred sticks from the previous night’s fire. They’re the very best fire starters—no need to find tinder or other sticks. I just spark the charred ends, blow on them, and pile on a few fresh logs.
When my wife, Miska, and I were dating and our relationship grew serious, marriage became the obvious next step. For more than a year, however, I hesitated and pushed the conversation aside. We even broke up twice as our communication faltered and expectations diverged. Through several difficult conversations, I had to face how afraid I was of commitment. I loved Miska, but I wanted to keep my options open. And I found myself haunted by all the “what ifs” and all the unknown future possibilities. My fear of commitment wasn’t unusual, but it was immature. Love requires a risk. To say yes to one person, we must say no to others.