OUR OPINION: Faith offers peace for calming stress

By NEMS Daily Journal

Many people have followed with interest and concern for several weeks as the nation’s political leaders battled over raising the federal debt ceiling and the broader issues of long-term deficit, entitlements, revenues and spending.
The issue may be resolved before the Aug. 2 deadline for default, but until then the issue for many individuals – and institutions, and investment funds, and nations – is stressful and problematic.
Most people probably wonder, “How will this affect me or hurt me?”
This week, Terry Stumpf, director of the Center for Whole Health at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, wrote a daily devotion for his 6,000-member congregation’s website. It’s about potentially damaging, persistent stress and worry, and dealing with it in the moment.
His scriptural text is Mark 4:35-41:
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (NRSV)
Many people of faith will immediately make a connection with current financial stresses that could affect millions of people.
Stumpf writes, “I don’t know about you, but when I find myself in the throes of chaos and confusion, my focus and attention become very acute, and I am not always able to notice what’s surrounding me or even what’s in front of me. Not too unlike the disciples in the boat with Jesus asleep in its depths when the great storm came upon them. They are overwhelmed, fearful and bewildered. So much so, that their actions and words convey a lack of trust and faith. Here in their very own boat is Jesus, the Good Shepherd and the one who has already demonstrated his miracle-working powers through God.
“All Jesus does is say, ‘Peace! Be still!’ and the storm ceases.”
Stumpf suggests that even if we cannot command a storm to stop, the opportunity for a calming prayer is present and helpful.
“In such action and release of our own fears and angst, we might even see the individual or cloud of witnesses God has already surrounded us with and placed before us, enabling us to go across to the other side,” Stumpf says.
Many Northeast Mississippians will know the hymn (“It is Well With My Soul”) which he quotes:
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll,
“Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”
For people of faith, every human episode can benefit from a longer perspective.
“Peace. Be still,” was a command for Jesus. For us, it is a prayer.