BRADY COLUMN: So Life Is Tense
Published 9:30 am Friday, September 22, 2023
Many of us are familiar with the frequently quoted comment: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That was Henry David Thoreau’s judgment of life in the early part of the 19th Century. However, if Thoreau were living today, he would undoubtedly revise his observation: “Most men, women and often times children, lead lives of quiet desperation.” For sure, we are a nation under stress. We are a tension-ridden people who take aspirin for our headaches, tranquilizers for our nerves and sleeping pills to make us sleep. In addition, we take countless other drugs for various kinds of relief related to uptightness. The late Quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood described our time in one of his books when he said: “Whatever the course of history may be in the next years, it will not be a course of tranquillity. Therefore, our task is not to pine for calmer days but to live wisely and well in the midst of continuous strain.” And it is Isaiah the prophet who reminds us of how we can live wisely and well in the midst of continuous strain. He says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (30:15). Of course, here, Isaiah is pointing out the centrality of spiritual awareness. He’s urging faith in the Lord and the Lord’s reliability. Essentially, Isaiah is saying that our salvation and strength (ability to live wisely and well in the midst of continuous strain) is in the Lord.
So how do we manage tension?
First, to manage tension, rid your life of emotional poisons! Tensions are often the result of destructive venoms that become lodged in our interior lives. A few weeks ago I had a severe pain in my abdomen. I suffered with it for a couple of days before finally going to the hospital and being informed by the doctor that I had appendicitis. Surgery was immediately planned in a race to keep the appendix from rupturing and discharging poisons into my body that might become even more serious. Now, these physical poisons are deadly alright, but these interior emotional poisons hatred, envy, jealously, greed, bitterness, and resentment) can also be just as deadly. The tensions from these poisons can also be excruciating and destructive.
Second, to manage tension, mix self-help with the help of the Lord! Now, a number of folks won’t agree with that statement. They argue that our problems are resolved by trusting God, period. But that picture is simply not true to the history of our faith. God expects us to trusts Him alright, but He also expects us to work with Him as well. At any rate, the following are some of the things we can do to alleviate tension.
Focus on the “musts”‘of life!
Live one day at a time!
Don’t do everything yourself!
Remember the importance of humor!
Keep a quiet time!
Rarely do people who know that they are “God’s Work” in progress succumb to tension. They are too busy “practicing the presence of God” and loving others than to be stressed out.
Isaiah said it well: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.