I have a stressful job. In fact, U.S News & World Report’s 2022 survey ranking the top 25 most stressful jobs lists the job of a lawyer as the second most stressful job in America. On top of that, I am a trial lawyer, which is by far the most stressful of lawyer jobs.
There are many reasons being a trial lawyer is stressful, including the public speaking and arguing and that millions of dollars can be at stake, depending on how well one performs. It’s a lot of responsibility. I once lost 20 pounds during a two week trial, and it wasn’t because I was working out more.
Someone else who knew something about stress was the Apostle Paul. Paul was imprisoned, beaten on multiple occasions and often in danger of being killed, was stoned, shipwrecked three times, and once spent 36 hours floating in the open sea, wondering whether he would be rescued or drown. See 2 Cor. 11:23-25.
In addition to these external stressors, Paul had the daily pressure of responsibility for the churches he had planted or oversaw. 2 Cor. 11:28. It’s hard to imagine another person, save Jesus, who has lived a more stressful life than Paul.
Here is what Paul said about how to deal with stress:
The other night, I ate dinner at the hotel across the street. I ordered “The Gobbler,” which. as you guessed, is their version of the turkey sandwich. When it arrived, I was immediately disappointed. It was one of those triple-deckers, with an extra piece of bread in the middle, all-in-all about 5 inches thick.
They would have had to call the local fire department for the Jaws of Life to pry my mouth open wide enough for me to get a bite of this sandwich.
So there I sat trying to figure out how to get what should have been a simple turkey and cheese sandwich into my pie hole. Was I really supposed to eat it with a knife and fork?
After sixteen years of driving the same car, I bought a new car. It’s a car I have wanted since I was a kid, and I am actually enjoying driving again.
But as I was in the processing of purchasing the new car, I had to decide what to do with my sixteen year-old car. As I considered what I might get trading it in, the thought came to me: restore it and keep it.
Some part of this impulse may have been nostalgic. When I was a teenager, my parents bought me a well worn car and my father demanded I spend a month restoring it before he would let me drive it to school. That feeling of taking something worn and making it new had always stayed with me and curiously it seemed to resonate in my spirit.
So, as an adult I set about restoring my sixteen year-old car. When I was a teenager I had time and no money, so I did everything myself. Now I have money and no time, so I paid others to do what needed to be done. I started with replacing the floor mats, followed by replacing the sun worn slats on the retractable roof, and then the headlights, all of which had become discolored beyond repair. I then had the wheels refurbished.
My mother has not walked in over a year. She has been in a wheelchair, the victim of severe arthritis and a fall that broke her hip. The pain was so persistent and severe she could not sleep at night, and over the last week she told me three times she just wanted to die.
The orthopedic surgeon in Indiana told her there was nothing he could do for her. She would not walk again, and her pain would only get worse.
But on Tuesday, I watched her take her first steps in more than a year, and by Wednesday, the pain-inspired frowns and forced smiles she had worn for the past year had been replaced with a joyful smile, and the ebullient attitude of one who had begun to live again. This transformation happened because an orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas was skilled enough to do what many other good orthopedic surgeons could not—perform hip replacement surgery on an 86 year old with a fused, severely arthritic hip.
Ezra returned with a group of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem under the imprimatur of Persian king, Artaxerxes, where God would use him to restore the Jewish religion in Judah. While Artaxerxes gave Ezra permission to lead, the Bible makes it clear the Lord was behind it and that He chose Ezra “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:9-10. In other words, the Lord chose to work through Ezra because Ezra had developed the skills necessary to make himself useful to God.
“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” “You can achieve anything you want if you believe in yourself.” “You can be whatever you want to if you put your mind to it.” We’ve all heard these sayings, and they make people feel good. Unfortunately, none of them are true.
There is, however, a truth hidden amongst these facile, feel-good statements. While it is not true that what you believe can make everything achievable, it can certainly make anything unachievable. For example, if you think something is not possible, you might not even try, or if you try, you might give up prematurely because you think further effort is futile. What you think is possible matters.
In his letter to the Roman Christians, the Apostle Paul said:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:11-13. Paul is reminding the Roman Christians that because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in them, even though they are living in bodies marred by the effects of the Fall of Man, they can put to death sin in their life. This is not a statement proffered by a motivational speaker but one guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus.