Jesus asked, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he pointed to his disciples and said, "Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!"
-- Matthew 12:48-50
We probably don't need the American Psychological Association (APA) to remind us, but the stress we tend to experience at home, in the workplace--and even on vacations or Christmas--can test our relationships, job performance...and even our health. A recent APA survey reveals that about 75% of respondents experience physical or psychological symptoms from stress. And it turns out that the leading causes of stress include job issues, finances, nutrition and relationships. Media overload from television, radio, the Internet, E-mail and social networking are also culprits. What's more, you could be especially vulnerable to increased anxiety during the holidays if you're already experiencing stress in these areas.
Whenever families gather--for just about any reason at all--tensions can peak. Sometimes it's because of intrusions into precious personal space--like when the in-laws spend the night (or week) in a house that's already too close for comfort. There's also that outcast teenager who perceives their older relatives as judgmental, critical or demanding. And let's not forget those pleasant conversations over Christmas dinner about relationships, politics and religion! As stress expert Elizabeth Scott, M.S., rightly observes, "Many a happy holiday has been found by groups of people who have decided to celebrate with friends instead of family."
If this hits too close to home, you're in good company. Jesus Himself--the Son of God--was often misunderstood by those closest to him.
"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family," Mark's Gospel records Him telling His disciples.
We know that our friends and family can misinterpret our words and actions. But what about God? Does He really understands all of the problems, annoyances and trials we face every day? Luke's Gospel tells us that Jesus came into this world in the poorest of circumstances: with a manger--an animal's feeding trough--as His first bed. It was an unusual entrance. As the King's Son, Jesus could have lived in a marble palace while enjoying only the finest things in life. And God could have commanded His creation to worship and obey Him.
But something would have been missing. As a loving Father, our God refuses to force anyone to accept His free gift of forgiveness and salvation. And since He knew that mankind is without hope because it consistently falls short of His perfect standards for living, God decided to demonstrate the perfect life by entering the world in human form. That meant living among us through the sin-free Jesus Christ--the only acceptable sacrifice to pay for our countless offenses.
That's the way it had to be. And because Jesus fulfilled this mission (one that God had planned since the foundation of the world), our sin debt was paid in full. God came not only to live out the turbulent human experience, He came to understand both you and me.
Jesus knew all about stress and conflict centuries before the American Psychological Association released its survey. "In this world you will have trouble," He says. But there is a solution.
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls," Christ explains. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."