Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
How do you respond to pressure? Whilst some of us may thrive under pressure, others feel the strain. Of course, it depends on the type of pressure, how long it has been operating, and the support we have.
The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as an adverse reaction to pressure. My own definition of stress, however, is quite different: stress is forgetfulness. We forget one or more of three things. We forget who God is: loving, compassionate, all powerful, the Almighty. We forget who we are: God’s beloved children, forgiven sinners, indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. We forget that there is an enemy whose job description is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). When we forget these truths, we become vulnerable to the lies of the enemy.
Moses, speaking to the Israelites on the verge of the promised land, warns them of a fatal lie: ‘You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me”’ (Deuteronomy 8:17). Once we have decided that our own abilities have secured our wealth, health, favour, and blessing, we are much more likely to focus all our energies on protecting these advantages. If these things are jeopardised, we can easily default into drivenness, self-recrimination, or a victim mentality, failing to recognise the spiritual dynamics at play.
The psalmist offers us a different strategy – remembering. In the Bible, to remember is to control our consciousness – to have something so central to our thinking that it affects us completely and steers our behaviour, mind, and emotions. What are we to remember? All God’s benefits: his forgiveness, his healing, his redemption, his love and compassion, his provision of good things, and his renewal of our youthfulness and strength. We are to acknowledge God as the source of all the good in our lives.
And remembering stimulates thankfulness. Research has shown that people who practise gratitude are able to cope more effectively with everyday stress, show increased resilience, and may recover more quickly from illness and benefit from greater physical health. There is great wisdom in the old adage to count our blessings – especially when we make it a daily practice.
Prayer Journeys Project Leader, LICC