NEO. I just read your reply to the woman going through a lot of stress in her life and I am right there myself. And you are right, I got guys as bad off or worse than me suddenly hitting me up so what you said about waiting makes sense because these aren’t the type of men I would want when I was doing okay. But how do I deal with the stress of my situation? How do I keep myself from stooping low for the company I desire while going through all this? What is the key to living a stress free life when your life is full of stress?– Rolanda

MY REPLY: That’s an easy answer. The easiest way to live a stress free life is to die. You see stress is how we live, how we learn, how we labor, how we love. Without stressing your life, you would never grow in wisdom. Without stressing your brain, you would never grow in knowledge. Without stressing your muscles you would never have learned to walk or run or play or swim or do anything physical. It is the stress of sex that gives you the pleasure of love. It is the stress of the mouth that lets you enjoy your favorite food. There is a difference between being stress free and being at peace with your life choices or the situations that have come your way. Paul wrote in scripture “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

Trying to capture the essence of Paul’s writing is why the Serenity Prayer asks for peace to handle the stress of change. It says quite simply “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” However where the Serenity Prayer falls short is in helping you to know the difference between good stress and bad stress. It simply asks God for the wisdom to know the difference.

It kind of reminds me of that scene from the Matrix Trilogy when The Oracle says “We can never see past the choices we don’t understand” and Neo says “Are you saying I have to choose whether Trinity lives or dies?” and The Oracle replies “No, you’ve already made the choice. Now you have to understand it.”

So many of our choices that have led to stress in our lives were made long ago. The stress is in understanding why. Once we begin this process of discovery, we can start to have peace through knowing what needs to change and how to change it if only within ourselves. I remember as a young man I was so determined to get a car that I made a choice on one not really considering everything the person who owned it told me or the things my father had already educated me to look for. I didn’t understand at the time, the amount of stress I had chosen to invite in my life that would affect so many things by one single foolish choice.

I didn’t understand that I had chosen to pay a tow truck driver to get me home in the middle of the night. I had chosen to lose a job because I couldn’t make it to work. I had chosen to put myself in a position of economic stress when I could have waited and saved more money and even taken my father with me. The pride of thinking I was grown was the choice I came to later understand. I would invite you to take an honest stroll through your own life choices. You will be surprised how much of that stress you can turn into peace just through understanding your choices. This spring I chose to really get back into working out and it has been stressful on my body. But as each day has passed, I am feeling more and more fit because I am running toward solutions rather than running from or complaining about problems. It is all in what you choose to understand. -NEO