One of the movies I watched the most often when growing up was Man of La Mancha.1 It seemed that every couple of months, some parent, youth group leader, or teacher decided it was time for a rerun. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but I do have a soft spot for this film.
Life is hard sometimes.
When you’ve worked as hard as you possibly could and yet you failed to make the grade, your dreams remain out of reach, and you feel you just can’t do it anymore, you can feel like giving up.
All of us have probably felt that way at some time or another. Maybe you’ve been in that situation recently. In fact, maybe you feel that way right now.
Stress relief has become a multifaceted, multi-billion-dollar industry. Armies of experts have emerged, dispensing advice of every sort. Some say the key is better time management—reduce stress by doing a better job of juggling everything we need to do. Others say the key is patience—be ambitious, but focus on less daunting short- and mid-range goals. Others tell us to reexamine our priorities from the quality-of-life angle and major on the things that count most. Still others take a more spiritual approach: Relieve stress through yoga, meditation, or other disciplines. Who are we to believe?
“Everything is falling apart!” My outburst came one day after a visit to the Kurasini Orphanage in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where our team of volunteers has been working with the staff to raise the children’s living standard. We had begun by improving sanitation in the kitchen and dormitories, and some progress had been made. But it seemed that there were always more things that needed to get done. As the to-do list grew, so did the list of needed materials and supplies. There was also the matter of funding. How would we find enough sponsors to help meet all of these needs?
Not long ago, I confided to a friend that I felt overwhelmed with stress and anxiety over my work. She suggested that I spend more time meditating on God’s goodness and studying His Word as an antidote. “But I don’t have time!” I protested.
“What do you mean, you don’t have time?” she queried with a twinkle in her eye.
What amazed me the first time I saw an oil refinery up close was the intricate maze of pipes. Besides the complexity of it, one wonders how it can all be maintained safely and still be financially viable.
Proper pressure must be kept in every pipe to ensure that the oil flows at just the right rate—not too fast lest it burst the pipes, and not too slow. The designers were clearly ingenious, and it takes an army of experts to maintain and monitor it all.
Weary. That used to be my word for December. Yes, I know it doesn’t convey the true wonder of the season. But the days are hard and long, and by this time of year, I have 300-plus behind me. I just wish the year wouldn’t race past me and leave me feeling totally spent—and still coming up short.
A few Christmases ago, as I was standing in the doorway of a department store, enjoying a lovely Nativity scene in a store window, a mother and her little girl came hurrying by. Catching a glimpse of the beautiful scene, the child grabbed her mother’s hand and exclaimed, “Mama! Mama! Please let me stop for a minute and look at Jesus!” But her mother replied wearily that they weren’t even half through with their shopping list and didn’t have time to stop. Then she walked on, dragging her disappointed daughter behind her.
Most of us are pretty busy people. We usually have more to think about and tend to than we can actually fit into our day. We all want to stay on top of our lives, but for me at least, keeping my priorities straight regarding the many things that I want and need to do can sometimes be a challenge, and my days are usually filled with more than I can fit into them.
I’ve always been an accomplishment-oriented person. I prided myself in knowing what to do, having my to-do list all prioritized, with the most important tasks highlighted, circled, or written in large print. I’d zip around town, stopping here and there, knocking off the “minors” while on my way to accomplish another “major.”