Overwhelming Stress: Part Four

A Broken Schedule)

Yesterday I addressed that we might not have the capacity to do all of our daily tasks, but we might be able to use some techniques to get through them anyway, such as shifting some to an every-other-day cadence, or quickly knocking out high-effort tasks that then become low-effort maintenance.

I acknowledged, though, that even this may not be sufficient for everyone. It is possible to simply not have the resources to do all the things that we need to maintain balance, no matter what strategy we employ. An example of this would be if one didn’t have enough income to pay off even the interest on their debt. Or perhaps if one suffered an injury that prohibited exercise. Or of one’s need for education and a regular day-job were mutually exclusive.

In situations like these, more drastic strategies are required. But as a prerequisite to any of these strategies, we first have to accept that we aren’t going to be able to do all the things that we want to do. Any solution at this point is going to require sacrifice and a change of expectations. Coming to terms with this disappointment is painful but necessary if we are ever to make the most of a hard situation.

Once we have made this peace, then here are two options to consider.

Ask For Help)

I am certainly one that wants to take care of everything myself. I want to prove that I have the strength and wherewithal to take care of everything on my own. Part of me feels that I would rather live a broken life by my own power than a fuller life by the power of others. But that part of me is simply pride, and now that I’ve tried both options I can tell you definitively which one is better,

For years I remained entrenched in my addiction because I insisted on taking care of it on my own. But the more I tried to handle it on my own, the more it became apparent that I simply couldn’t. My deficit wasn’t time or money, it was spiritual strength, and I had to finally accept that I didn’t have the wherewithal on my own and that I needed to reach outward for help.

I finally did so, and I have leaned on the strength of dozens of people since. My therapists, my group members, brothers in recovery that I’ve met along the way. I have an entire village of supporters who help me to do what I couldn’t by myself, who help make up for my spiritual strength deficit and then some.

The principle is the same if you’re talking about financial shortcomings, or scheduling conflicts, or simply not having enough time to do everything. If you really can’t do it by yourself, then can you swallow your pride and surrender some part of this plan to the care of another person? We are born into families and raised in communities for a reason. The resources are almost certainly there if we’re willing to just look outside of ourselves.

Make the Hard Cuts)

I have an entrepreneurial and hobbyist mindset. I always have a number of projects and developments that I want to work on, both so that I can learn new things and also create new sources of income. These endeavors seem justified by the fact that success in these areas would make me a more skilled individual and bring greater stability to my life. So I prioritize working on these projects, even trying to progress several of them at a time.

Of course, things of substance never come quickly or easily. The cost of doing this work gets higher and higher, other untested fields start to look more promising, I try dividing my focus into even more areas, and even my basic self-care starts to evaporate as I pour more and more time and effort into all these ventures.

Many times I have had to give myself a sharp reality check. I realize that optional projects have become obligations, hobbies have become jobs, and ambition has become obsession. At this point, letting these projects go feels like cutting out some of the essential parts of my life, but really they’re not. At some point I have to decide what genuinely is essential and what only feels like it is.

Obviously this is a problem of my own making. More difficult to deal with are the demands that have been put on us by duty and necessity. The principle remains the same, though. If you really can’t maintain everything that you want to, and you can’t get enough external help to make things manageable, then sooner or later you have to accept that some things need to go.

Maybe you really just don’t have the capacity for a relationship right now. Maybe you really do have to declare bankruptcy. Maybe you can’t maintain every friendship. Maybe having a clean house just isn’t in the cards for today. Maybe you just won’t be in shape to run the marathon this year.

None of these are happy sacrifices to make, but at least we can have the dignity of letting them go ourselves, rather than watching them shrivel from neglect. It’s better to throw the food you won’t get around to eating away than to let it grow moldy on the shelf. Better to stop making half-measures that accomplish nothing and preserve our strength for full-measures on what we can actually accomplish.

Conclusion)

Strategic management, asking for help, and making sacrifices, it certainly seems that everything would be nicer if we didn’t have to do any of these things, but these are the realities of life. All of us will need to take all of these steps many times through the years. Sooner or later we can have to make our peace with imperfection and make the most that we can of it.

If we do make our peace and move forward, we still may not accomplish everything we wanted in the way that we wanted, but I do believe we will all accomplish more than enough. Life can still be whole, even when it’s parts are broken.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:32-34

32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.

34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

Judah has explained how returning home without Benjamin might kill his father for grief, but it is his plea at the end that I find most moving. Judah does not rage against Joseph, he does not stubbornly insist that they’ve got the wrong man, he doesn’t even ask Joseph to let the matter go for pity’s sake.

No, humbly and selflessly, Judah only asks that he be punished in place of the lad. If there is a price that must be paid, let it be taken out on him, and let the boy go free. The symbolism here of the Savior is obvious, and it seems particularly fitting that Jesus would be descended of Judah, who was willing to sacrifice himself that his brother might be restored to his father.

A little while ago we saw a picture of Judah that was far less flattering. He had abandoned his covenant, sullied himself through lust, and was mired in a tawdry family drama. At the end of it came a hint of redemption, though, when he started to acknowledge his folly and accept its consequences. That spark of maturity seems to have continued to grow in him until this time, finally making him ready to fully surrender himself for the good of others.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:6-8

6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.

7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;

8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

Jacob received an update from his messengers, and it did not sound promising. Esau was coming with four hundred men, an army, more than enough to kill Jacob and his entire household. And this isn’t all. Apparently, Esau did not provide Jacob’s messengers with any response that might set his brother at ease. He set out with unspoken intent, leaving Jacob to assume the worst.

In this dire situation Jacob came to a most heart-wrenching solution. He would divide his camp in two, so that if Esau came with violence half of the camp could try to flee as the other was consumed. This would mean saving half of his home, but only at the sacrifice of the other. At least in that case he wouldn’t have to decide which would be the surviving half, chance would decide that for him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:16-18

16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

“The house of God,” was what Jacob called this place of holy visitation, and he was in a reverential fear of the place! This idea of a house for God will reoccur many times throughout the Bible. Initially the house of God was in the mountains, far and removed from the places of man. Later God instituted the tabernacle through Moses, a specially dedicated place for Him to come and abide while the children of Israel wandered through the desert. Next, God commissioned King Solomon to build him a permanent edifice: the temple. Of course, that temple was eventually destroyed, twice, and where the house of God is today is disputed by the different branches of theology.

I love the detail in verse 18 about Jacob making his altar from the stones he had laid out for his pillow. A common pattern among the “houses of God” is that they are formed through the sacrifice of His people. Here Jacob is in a place of extreme poverty, lacking even the most basic of comforts, yet he gives what very little he has to build a foundation for his God. By surrendering his all to God, he is becoming clay that the Master can form into whatever He wishes.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:11-13

11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

The day of Abraham’s offering had come, the altar had been prepared, and something needed to be sacrificed. But instead of it being Isaac, who is a representation of all humanity, the role was filled by an intervention of God instead.

But the intervention only came to Abraham when he was willing to surrender his all to God. Only by being willing to give God that which he loved best was the way opened for him to retain it.

Because if Abraham had withheld his son from God, what would he have accomplished? No matter how desperately he clutched to Isaac, he and the boy would eventually be parted by the grave anyway. Abraham was powerless to retain that which he loved any longer than mortal life allowed him.

But by giving up his modicum of control to God he invited powers that exceeded his own. Abraham couldn’t preserve his father-son relationship with Isaac, but God could. God could preserve Isaac and Abraham’s bond here and in heaven…but only if Abraham surrendered that relationship to Him first.

If there is anything that any of us want to hold onto forever, at some point we will have to surrender it to God, or else there won’t be any chance of it persisting beyond the grave.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:9-10

9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

Evidently Abraham had concluded that if he was going to follow through with this sacrifice, then he was going to do it fully and properly. Notice that he took the time to erect an altar, lay out the wood “in order,” and lay his son upon that altar, just as he would do for any other sacrifice. This was an offering to the almighty God, and he was going to do it with the same reverence and meticulous detail that he gave to all other such sacrifices.

It also stands out to me that the famous depiction of Abraham standing over his son, knife raised toward heaven, about to plunge it down may not be accurate. That, of course, is the most dramatic way to depict things, but all the record actually says is that Abraham had picked the knife up. Perhaps he did, in fact, step to the altar and raise his hand before the angel appeared, or perhaps not. In any case, it seems to be the grabbing of the knife that was the line Abraham had to cross before God was satisfied with his commitment.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:3-5

3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

It is hard to fathom what those three days must have been like for Abraham, traveling to the place where he is meant to sacrifice his son! That is a very long time for his thoughts to dwell on what is about to transpire.

We do get some insight into Abraham’s frame of mind from the passage in Hebrews 11:17-19. Here we learn that Abraham expected God to just raise Isaac from the dead after he had made the sacrifice. This would allow for both Abraham to keep God’s commandment and God to keep His own covenant that Isaac would become a righteous nation. After all, Isaac’s birth had been a miracle, so why not his rebirth?

Of course that solution would still require Abraham to go through the ordeal of slaying his own son, and God was going to spare Abraham from that as well. But while Abraham may have been mistaken in exactly what God’s methods would be, he was correct in his belief that God would somehow intervene to keep His promises. And that faith was enough to see him through what he had to do. So it is for us. We don’t need to know exactly how God will prevail in our lives, only that He will. If we accept that He will preserve good for us somehow, then that is enough for us to do what we have been called to.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:1-2

1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

The most famous of Abraham’s stories is this, the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. This can be a difficult story to grapple with. Yes, God doesn’t actually have Abraham go through with it, but even the suggestion to kill one’s own child seems torturous. God even stresses “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest,” as if to make this even harder on Abraham.

Killing is wrong, after all, especially killing one’s own flesh and blood. Destroying a child goes against every natural and paternal bond. When I hear this story it agitates me deeply, and I think the reason why is due to a key different between me and Abraham.

I just wouldn’t do it.

If I’m being totally frank and honest, I don’t love God more than my children. I don’t trust Him implicitly. I don’t assume that what He says will work itself out for good even if I don’t see how. My discomfort in this story is based around the incongruity of “I want to follow God, but I wouldn’t follow Him in this.” And that challenges and vexes me. He is a God that I am not ready to fully follow.

And honestly just acknowledging that helps me to surrender it. I’m not at that same level of trust and devotion, so I don’t get how to properly process this. I don’t have the answers, but I think for today I don’t need to. I’m still a work in progress. One day I hope to understand all, but I won’t get there by constantly agitating over things that are beyond me for now.

Solemnity and Joy- Doctrine and Covenants 20:75-77

It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus;
And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it—he shall kneel with the church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer, saying:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

COMMENTARY

He shall kneel with the church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer
Yesterday I mentioned Yom Kippur, a solemn day in ancient Israel with rituals that symbolized the coming sacrifice of Jesus. Now we are on the other side of that sacrifice, and we still have rituals that point backward to it.
One of those rituals is, of course, the Eucharist or sacrament. And notice in this verse how this practice calls for being “solemn.” Though different denominations may vary in the specific details of how they carry out their sacrament, they generally maintain this same solemn demeanor, due to the respect they wish to show for the sacred event they remind us of.

That they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son
And there is a second reason for solemnity in this moment. In addition to reverently remembering what has happened, we see in the words of this prayer an invitation to make a solemn commitment. All those that partake are able to renew a covenant to God to keep Christ’s sacrifice in their mind and live in a way that follows his example.
And we are best able to make a serious commitment when we are of a calm and quiet mind. Consider how it is the same with weddings. Yes those are known for their gaiety, but then everything becomes very quiet and still when the moment comes for bride and groom to make their sincere pledge to one another. It is still a happy moment, of course, but it is a moment of happy solemnity. So, too, we should be of a sober and steady mind when we make our pledges to God.

Solemnity and Joy- Numbers 10:10, Hosea 2:11

Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God.

I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

COMMENTARY

Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days ye shall blow with the trumpets
Her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts
When we talk about solemn occasions what first comes to mind might be a sad event, such as a funeral or a departure. And certainly those moments do call for solemnness, but they are not the only ones.
These verses make mention of Israel’s “solemn days,” and how they were part of their feasts, festivals, annual observations, and even celebrations. One of their “solemn days” was Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. On this day two goats were brought to the priest. One of them was set free, while the other had the sins of the people placed upon it. Then the scapegoat was sacrificed, making an atonement was made for the peoples’ wrongs.
Obviously this was all symbolic of Christ’s future sacrifice, which is certainly a good and a glad thing for all of us…but also something that we hold in reverent respect due to the great price he paid.
Thus we see, there is nothing paradoxical about the idea of a good solemnity. Yes, solemn can mean a type of sadness, but it can also mean being respectful, reverential, and in awe.