This week someone in the IT department of my law firm died. No details were provided regarding the cause of his death, but it appeared his death was not unexpected even though he was only a middle-aged man.
Attorneys in the firm responded to the email of his death by recounting stories of how he had helped them with their computer issues, and how he was always patient with them. That was about as personal as it got.
At first it seemed sad to me that the best we could do was talk about his IT support skills, but then I realized that was the only way we knew him.
I’m sure his family knew him more fully as a person because they related to him as a husband, father, son, or sibling, but they are only a handful of people. We are a law firm of 750. In short, at work he was known more widely but less fully. And that is the case with most of us.
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:
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.
As you know if you are regular here, I am a lawyer. On occasion, I volunteer for the local bar association’s program to provide legal advice to those who cannot afford it. As part of the program, I field calls from people asking questions touching on various areas of the law.
This is a change for me because I am a trial lawyer, specializing in trying employment law cases. What amazes me each time I volunteer is the sheer number of callers seeking legal advice regarding obtaining divorces. It is literally every other call. I always pass the call on to another lawyer because it is not my field of law and because I don’t want to participate in putting asunder what God has joined together.
It would be easy enough to scoff at the world and the fact that those who reject God and talk so romantically about visualizing world peace, and imaging a world without religion can’t even get along with those they vowed to love forever, but Christians fare only a little better.
“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.