ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON STRESS/ PRESSURE
The Orthodox Church teaches that the human being is complex and consists of both soul and body. Furthermore, the early Church Fathers explained that people have innate natural passions, such as hunger for food, thirst, sleep, fear, and so on. However, after the fall, these passions began to dominate human life. In this way, they divert attention from their true intention and distract man from his original intention - to build a relationship with God. Our goal is to reorient our life toward God. For the Orthodox, a healthy relationship with God builds a healthy relationship with society.
The pressure of daily commitments and duties often brings unrest into one person's life. The downside of stress is that intake breaks focus and creates physical and mental tension. Where is the advantage of the Church experience in calming this negative type of stress? There are some interesting observations that can stimulate our thinking in the right direction.
Building a relationship of trust in God- The relationship with God is always personal due to the fact that God is the Incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ. The relationship with God is built gradually throughout life with real ups and downs.
In stressful circumstances, being peaceful is important, which is challenging. Why is it important to be peaceful? The Holy Apostle Paul mentions the fruits of the Holy Spirit. On that list of virtues, patience takes a high fourth place and immediately follows love, joy and peace. Peace brings clarity in moments when our thoughts are vague. This virtue remind us of Christ's peace, which He brings to the hearts of those who desire it.
Let aside all earthly cares- Participation in the Holy Liturgy is an invaluable experience for every Orthodox Christian. Basically, at the Holy Liturgy we give thanks to God for all the goods we receive every day. How is participation in the Holy Liturgy related to the issue of stress? At the most important point of the Holy Liturgy, the priest offers prayers and says to put aside all the worries of life. Thus, the Church also recognizes care as a burden. Strong and sincere prayer to the Lord is the most effective means of overcoming stressful situations.
Be joyful, be positive - Prayer gives birth to spiritual peace, strengthens positive thoughts and emits healthy energy. The experience of monastic experience teaches us that only a good thought comes from God. Biblical experience says that God created everything well and for the benefit of every human being. A healthy relationship with God gives birth to healthy and positive thoughts.
Conversation as therapy - Every person faces stress every day. Conversation with a priest (spiritual father) should always be taken into account. It usually helps when we entrust our thoughts, hopes and (or) stressful situations to the priest. The role of the clergyman is not (only) to give us a lecture, but to listen to us and then to remind us that God is the one to whom we should entrust everything that burdens us and that sometimes we cannot solve problems alone. Spiritual advice and well-meaning criticism is always in our favor.
Text prepared by: Deacon Jovan Anicic, Director of the Department of Christian Education of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America, Lessons for St. Sava Virtual Camp 2020