It was pointed out to me recently that if you take the word “stressed” and spell it backwards, you get, “desserts.” At first, I did not dwell too much on the idea beyond the idea that isn’t it interesting that one of the ways we humans deal with stress is with what we sometimes call, “comfort food.” And desserts are one of the great, equalizing, comfort foods. Of course, in the English language, there are lots of words that when spelled backwards are other words (live/evil; tort/trot; and denim/mined to name a few), and such words are called “palindromes.” Yet with most palindromes, the two words have very little relationship to one another, which makes this pair a bit of an exception.
So, I began to reflect on this connection, wondering how it applied to the Christian life. Certainly, there is no question that we use food to relax us and ease the pressure of a conversation. There is a significant difference, for example, the tone of a business meeting around a table at a restaurant is entirely different than that of a meeting around a board-table. In addition, I have it on good authority that stress can raise hormone levels in the body, thus creating cravings for various things, often salty or sweet food.
So, how do cravings and distractions apply to the Christian life? To begin with, we must recognize that there is a spiritual aspect to pretty much everything we do, we cannot separate one from another. Thus, solutions to ease our troubles, stress included, need to include a spiritual component. In other words, dealing with stress purely on a physical level is not the most effective way to deal with stress, but instead, we must also deal with it on a spiritual level. Certainly, prayer is a tool that God has given to us as Christians, to aide us in managing our stresses (as well as the rest of life). The Holy Spirit’s indwelling us is a second help that we are given, for he is God dwelling in us. But third, and this is what I wanted to focus on, God also gives us the Scriptures to help manage our lives.
The psalmist words it this way:
How they are sweet to my mouth,
your words are honey to my tongue!
Such is the sentiment of much of scripture, God’s word is for us to feed our spiritual needs and to provide our spiritual nourishment and not only is it rich, but it is sweet to the tongue of the one who loves the Lord.
So, how do we apply God’s Word to the managing of stress in our life and how does this tie back to desserts? To begin with, just as having a meeting over food can reduce the stress of said meeting, so too can beginning a meeting with God’s Word reduce the stress felt at that meeting, particularly if Scripture is used within the meeting to season the conversation (pardon the pun). Even when such meetings are not held formally as a “Christian” gathering, such wise counsel as the scriptures offers, in my experience, can be appreciated by Christian believer and unbeliever alike. Years ago, I used to purchase materials from a non-Christian gentleman who built his entire philosophy of doing business from the book of Proverbs; his interest was not in the faith of the Bible and he obviously was not proselytizing, he simply recognized the wisdom for life the Bible contained. Christians especially have reason to salt their conversations with Scripture, especially when speaking to other Christians. Can you imagine the church strife that could be avoided were all Christians to intentionally seek scriptural support for all they would say and do? Sadly, it seems that many if not most Christians have fallen for the lie that we need to do things the way that the world does them, and the word of God is never brought to bear on the problems found in life or business.
The second, and most critical element for Christians to grasp is this idea of craving. When we get stressed, we typically crave comfort food–particularly sweet or salty items. Just as we have physical cravings, though, we sometimes have spiritual and intellectual cravings as well. I have shared in other contexts that I enjoy science-fiction novels and movies—there are times when I just get an itch or a craving to put something on (one of my favorites is Dune). As we deal with stress in our own lives, we need to work to engender a craving for God’s Word. Jesus, in the Beatitudes, speaks this way:
“Blessed are the ones who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness,
For they will be filled.”
Recognizing that the Scriptures teach us the meaning of righteousness according to God’s standards, the implication is that we will have this hungering satisfied as we give ourselves wholeheartedly to a pursuit of God’s Word. How then do we engender this craving in our lives? To begin with, you must recognize that it is sweet to the tongue—sweeter than anything this world can offer, as the psalmist is pointing out and you must intentionally use the Bible as a means of relieving stress (trust me, it is better than chocolate or television), and thirdly, you must seek God’s face within it (and he will reveal himself to you), recognizing that this book we call the Bible is no dead text from an ancient religious tradition, but that it is living and active, sharper than a two edged sword, and that it will be able to not only cut you bone from marrow, but also suture you back up to the glory of God on High.
Stressed? Yep, this life is full of it. Dessert? Well, you may look to the delicacies of this world; I commend to you the one true delicacy of eternity—the very word of God, breathed out through faithful men for our edification and growth.