By Dr. Kevin Jackson
1 secret that can dramatically reduce your stress
Editor’s note: Grenada pastor Kevin Jackson is writing a monthly Bible study through Psalm 119. Find the first installment at MSChristianLiving.com.
Stress. Strain. Pressure. Tension. These do not sound like good things to experience.
However, 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress; 73 percent of people regularly experience mental symptoms caused by stress; 33 percent of Americans indicated that they live with extreme stress; and 48 percent stated their stress had increased over the past five years. *
What is going on?
We can define stress as mental or emotional strain. Stress has to do with the way a person thinks and feels about life, about people, about work, and about the world in which they live. So why do people experience stress?
According to the Psalmist, there are “two ways” to live — God remembrance and God forgetfulness. The writer of Proverbs 28:23 perfectly encapsulated this viewpoint in this verse, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool; he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
In Psalm 119:9–16, the Psalmist explained that meditating on God’s way produces happiness. To put it another way, meditating on God’s way “causes” happiness. Happiness and stress appear to be a case of simple cause and effect.
In Psalm 119:9–12, the Psalmist emphasized that the heart is the main issue in the discussion of happiness and stress. He asked the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” The basic interactions of daily life emanate from the inner thought life — the heart. So the Psalmist stated, “By guarding it [way of life] according to your word.”
In order for the young man [or woman] to keep his way pure, he must guard his heart. In Hebrew, the heart is not a reference to one’s emotions only. The heart is a reference to the totality of one’s being, namely, the mind —one’s inner ideal. The mind is where all of life originates for that individual. The inner thought life guides an individual to assign meaning to people and events. Therefore, the believer must guard his mind.
The believer must recognize his or her tendencies, inclinations and proclivities towards self-centeredness (119:10–11). The believer must also resist the temptation to impose self-centered tendencies toward the world and other people. When these tendencies are imposed on the world and the world does not respond the way the believer wants it to, they experience mental and emotional strain — which is stress.
Additionally, the believer must guard his mind with the Word of God. This is the believing discipline called meditation. Biblical meditation means to “fill” one’s mind with God’s truth. Other types of meditation emphasize “clearing” one’s mind.
The Psalmist called his readers to remember and to fill their minds with God’s truth. God revealed His truth through His covenant(s) with Abraham, Moses and David. For the readers of this Psalm, God’s covenant interaction with mankind gave meaning to life.
In Psalm 119:13–16, the Psalmist emphasized that out of the overflow of one’s heart, the mouth speaks. He said, “ I will meditate … I will fix …” Meditating is realigning one’s mind to God’s thoughts. The believing discipline of meditation enables the believer to recognize his or her self-obsession. It also strengthens the believer’s ability to realize their constant need for God’s grace.
In Psalm 119:16 the Psalmist said, “I will delight … I will not forget …” According to the Psalmist, delight — which is happiness —happens when the believer meditates on God’s thoughts. This involves speaking the Word of God to oneself. Believers from a different period of time used to say, “Preach the Gospel to yourself.”
We experience mental and emotional strain when our outer world does not conform to our inner ideal for the world. Our inner ideal —our meditation — is what we think the world should be or do. We impose that meditation onto the world and when the world does not conform to our ideal, we experience stress. Happiness is the result of meditating on God’s way and forsaking our way. May God grant us remembrance of Him and repentance for our forgetfulness of Him.
* Statistics from The American Institute of Stress
Dr. Kevin Jackson became the senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in 2009. He and his wife, Mary Ann, have two daughters, Perrin and Mary Pinson, and one son, Seth.