I remember my dad saying, “I never thought I would see gas at $1.00 per gallon.” Of course that was many years ago. But now, wow! $2.00 per gallon…then $3.00 per gallon…now where I live its on the verge of $4.00 (and might just be there by the time this is out on the web). And the price of diesel has skyrocketed. I talked to a trucker friend of mine and asked him how he’s making it. He just said it’s really tough when it costs $1,000.00 to fill up. Unless you’ve won the lottery, for the average Joe out there you almost want to close your eyes when you pull up to the pump.
I obviously don’t have a magic cure for high gas prices. I haven’t figured out how to make that Mr. Fusion thing they had in “Back to the Future.” We tried cow magnets back in the 70’s, but that didn’t work. And I emailed my brother about a contraption out on the internet that is supposed to give you a big increase in gas mileage. He said our uncle Bruce tried that back in the 70’s also and it didn’t work.
Yes there are some things we can do to conserve, but if you have a fairly long commute or maybe you and your wife work separate shifts, or you can’t afford to buy a hybrid or higher mileage car right now, filling up at the pump can be pretty stressful. You sometimes feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, between filling up the tank or putting your money somewhere else very necessary. And you sometimes feel like there is no solution and no where to turn when you’re so squeezed financially.
Stress. If you were to ask 10 people to define “stress” you may get 10 different answers. Hans Selye first coined the phrase back in 1936 but wrestled all his life to find a satisfactory definition. Eventually he redefined it as “the rate of wear and tear on the body.” In 1983 Time magazine’s cover story called stress “The Epidemic of the Eighties”; it has been estimated that anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of all doctor visits can be attributable to stress.
There is an encyclopedia worth of information available to anyone about the definition, causes and cure for stress. This short article will focus on one little aspect of coping with stressful situations in general. One of the reasons I like reading the Bible is because there is so much practical information that helps us out in our every day world. The Bible isn’t meant for just Sunday sermons, its meant to give help and wisdom to working people on working days in working places.
David (the Old Testament character David) had to deal with stress a multitude of times in his life. Fighting giants, hiding in caves, fleeing from enemies, facing political storms, hounded by family members who wanted to kill him, all brought terrific times of stress to his life. And the deepest feelings of David’s heart during these struggles have been recorded for us in the book of Psalms.
One such passage is in Psalm 18. Let me point out something interesting in verse 6 and verse 19. Verse six says, “In my distress (or stress) I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.” And verse 19 says, “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”
The word that’s used in verse 6 for distress is the Hebrew word “tsar.” It literally means this: a narrow or tight place.” It is used in Numbers 22:26 in an interesting way that gives us some insight into what stress is all about. “And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place (our word “tsar”) where there was NO WAY TO TURN TO THE RIGHT OR TO THE LEFT. That graphically displays what stress is all about – being in a narrow place (a tight spot) without being able to turn to the right or left. In other words – I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, I don’t have an avenue of escape, I don’t see any way out of my predicament!
Strained relationships, raising children, financial problems, trying to find a job, high gas prices, illnesses, the loss of a loved one, the list goes on and on. All things that can bring terrific stress to our lives. And sometimes it seems like there is NO WAY OUT of our dilemma (which is a cause of depression).
But King David didn’t just say, “I’m Stressed!” He said, “In my stress…I called to the Lord, and cried to my God for help!” One of the reasons why David was so successful in his life was because he was always praying about his problems (and he had lots of them). God cares about you and the difficulties you are going through! Bring your problems, your concerns, your worries, your unbearable situations, and your stress to Him in prayer. He is genuinely concerned about the “stuff” you are going through!
This is the progression that’s recorded for us in Psalm 18: First, “I was in distress” – I couldn’t find a way out of my problems, I was stressed out. Secondly, “So I prayed about it” –I called to Him in prayer. Thirdly, “He listened to me” – He heard my prayer! (The second part of verse 6). Do you realize that the God of the Universe longs to listen to your prayer? And fourthly, “He gave me an answer.” David was stressed, he prayed, God heard, God gave him an answer!
And the answer is recorded in verse 19, “He brought me forth into a wide open field, He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Being “brought forth into a wide open field” in the Bible is the opposite of distress or choke point of verse 6.
Have you ever been in a large crowd where you were so constricted that you almost felt claustrophobic? And how did you feel once you were free from the crowd and had plenty of room and were able to breathe freely again? This is exactly the scenario that is spelled out in verses 6 and 19. In verse 6 problems are pressing in upon David to the point where he has no where to turn – he is at a choke point and feels claustrophobic in the midst of his difficulties. But then God answers and brings him into a “broad place.” Spiritually speaking, he is taken from the crush of people in an overcrowded subway to the wide open spaces a Dakota prairie! He now can see multiple avenues of escape from his problems and can see a way out of his predicament.
High gas prices are probably here to stay. And I am obviously not saying that if you begin to pray that your SUV is going to suddenly start getting 50 miles to the gallon. But God cares about the smallest details of your life – he is concerned about your stress, distress, and worry. Take your problems to Him in prayer. You will be amazed at what He can do in you and for you!
Dan Vander Ark
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