Living in a Stressed Out World

by Bernice Gudgel

I LOVE ALL THE TECHIE THINGS that are now so much a part of our day-to-day lives thanks to people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. It’s made it so easy for me to keep in touch with family and friends who live anywhere in the world. And to find directions to anywhere I want to go. Or to go shopping without ever leaving my house. But I’ve also come to realize that all that technology has exponentially increased the stress that can so easily overwhelm us as we try to keep up with all this new information that is so readily available.

People say all this techie stuff has made the world smaller. And I get that. We can easily connect with people from all around the world. Within seconds we can know about something that’s happening right now anywhere in the world. But I think the bigger impact on our lives comes from seeing that from the opposite side. All this technology has made our personal world so much bigger. Sometimes way too big.

For thousands of years, until around 150 years ago, an individual’s personal world was very small. They pretty much only knew the people who lived in the same local area where they lived. It took days or weeks for the average person to find out what was happening just 100 miles away from where they lived. And it rarely even crossed their minds to worry about what was happening on the other side of the world, because it didn’t touch their lives.

Back in those days, a person’s day-to-day concerns were pretty much centered around their own life and their family: making sure they had food and clothes and shelter; a safe place to live. Quarrels with in-laws or neighbors or other nearby settlements would add some challenges to life. But basically the scope of their world was very small.

Today we know what’s going on everywhere. And we can easily connect with anyone through Facebook or Twitter or Gmail or whatever new networking system comes along. Even with people we don’t know! And we feel the pressure of all that. Since we can know about all that stuff, we somehow feel like we need to know about all that stuff. Like we’re responsible for so much more now simply because we know about it.

But I don’t want my world to be that big. I don’t want to live that way. To be honest, I don’t want all that responsibility! And I don’t think God expects me to live that way either. In fact, I don’t think He wants me to live that way. In the Bible He tells us we should try to live a simple and quiet life. For thousands of years that was a lot easier to do than it is today. But now, with how big our personal world has gotten, it sometimes seems impossible. A simple and quiet life? I wish.

So every now and then I make myself stop and think about what’s really important to me. About who’s really important to me. In my case the inner circle of my life is pretty small: my husband Dave; my son Brent & his wife Danielle & their little Anabelle; my son Brian & his wife Mary & their kids Cam, Ander, Kayley, & Tenley; my daughter Katie & her fiancé Brachen & his kids Hailey, Micah, & Tyler. That’s it. That’s the core of my world.

Of course there are other family members and friends that I care deeply about. And people all around me that God wants me to share His love with in tangible ways. And they’re all important to me too. But at the bottom line, this little core group of people is my world. We’re committed to each other in a way that is unique from the rest of the world. And when the world gets too big for me, and my stress level starts heading out of control because I’m feeling way too responsible for so many things and so many people, I center myself – my heart and my mind – on that inner circle. And for just a while I let the rest of the world take care of itself.

Edith Schaeffer once wrote a book called, What Is A Family? For me it was the most impactful book I ever read about raising my kids. One of the chapters is called, [a family is] “A Door that has Hinges and a Lock.” I love that thought. There are times when our families should have the door open wide. When we’re involved with friends and neighbors and people in the community and organizations that are making a difference in the world. But then there also need to be times when we close that door and lock it. When we take the time to just be us, together. Making our world smaller for a while. Centering ourselves. Reminding ourselves about what and who is really most important.

When you find yourself stressed out because your world has gotten too big and it’s overwhelming you, and you feel all that responsibility weighing you down, take some time to get away from it all. Lock the door. Ignore the news and flipbook and facebook and twitter. Even if it’s just for an hour. Take some time to center yourself. Take back control of your heart and your mind by making your world smaller by reminding yourself about the people and things that are really the most important to you.