Here's a news flash: People who live in big cities tend to experience more stress.
That may seem like a common sense observation, but you don't want to take anything for granted. So researchers in Germany have been able to create conditions which normally would be expected to create stress - someone criticizing you while you're trying to solve a problem - and they've discovered that city folk really do stress-out more than others. The longer one's experience in a city environment, the easier it is to become stressed-out.
The study "may help explain how city life can boost the risks of schizophrenia and other mental disorders" (Stressed in the city? Urban life may change your brain, " USAToday, June 22, 2011). It also suggests "that city dwellers are at heightened risk for mood and anxiety disorders."
Can city life make you crazy? Well, the study doesn't go that far. But it does seem to make people more prone to experience stress, and stress, we know, is related to mental illness.
So where we live can affect how we think and how we react to pressure and other kinds of stress.
But is where we live merely a function of place? Temporal place?
Take Stephen, for example (Acts 6,7). Talk about stressful situations! Talk about crowded cities! Talk about people criticizing you!
But Stephen didn't seem particularly stressed-out during his ordeal. Could it be because his primary place of dwelling was somewhere other than the streets of Jerusalem? Some place that furnished him with the kind of toughness and peace that nothing on earth could shake?
As is clear from Stephen's glimpse into the throne room of Christ, Stephen occupied a larger realm than that of his accusers. His mind was focused on things greater and more permanent than the daily grind and the scramble of getting by and stayin' alive. Stephen lived, as it were, in another realm.
As a result, he seems to have been immune from the stress of even the most trying of situations. We even see him praying for the forgiveness of those who were crushing his body with stones.
As believers, we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places and commanded to set our minds on the things that are above. This is not just mystical spiritual talk. It is reality - even if you don't experience it. But if we can learn to live like this, traveling in an envelope of thanksgiving and praise, living from the vantage point of Christ's eternal throne, not only will our stress levels decline, but our boldness levels will rise, right along with our joy, peace, hope, and effectiveness as witnesses for Christ.
What about the street where you live, where you will live today? Is it strewn with obstacles, challenges, chores, and threats?
Or is it paved with gold?
Additional related texts: Acts 7; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-3
A conversation starter: "Stress seems to be a big factor in people's lives. How do you deal with the stress you experience each day?"