In 1993 I began to have chest pains that then migrated down my left arm. I got a stress test done, but it did not indicate that there was anything seriously wrong. However, I took the pains as a warning and decided that I needed to begin eliminating some of the stress present in my life. The Lord helped me to identify what I now call “junk stress,” that is totally unnecessary stress that I caused myself.
Stress, I learned, is actually an inward response to an external stimulus. Two people can be in exactly the same situation, with one being totally stressed out by it and the other completely calm.
For instance, two drivers come to a stoplight. One sits there, looking at the cars around him, observing the people in them. He does some small motor exercises while waiting, and prays for his family. He experiences zero stress.
The other driver nervously drums his fingers on the steering wheel, looks repeatedly at his watch, fiddles with his tie and talks to the light, telling it to hurry up and change. He is very stressed. His reaction to his wait at the red light is intensified because he left home late, meaning he would be late for his next appointment. Plus his wife was unhappy with him when he left. All of this adds up, so now he is stressed to the max. That was a picture of me!
As the Lord led me through a time of looking for the stress that I unnecessarily manufactured for myself, He showed me them one at a time. Primarily, I was trying to fit too much into my days. After a full day of meetings and visits, I would try to squeeze in a stop at the bank, a stop at the gas station, then buying something from the grocer’s and dropping by the printers to pick up work I’d left for him. Of course, this would make me late in getting home, which would create even more stress for me and my family.
With the Lord’s and Barbara’s input, I learned to be more realistic in my scheduling and to cut back on spontaneous additions to my day. This made a definite difference— my chest pains went away.
There was also a hereditary factor in this chest pain scenario: all the males in my family have high cholesterol–it doesn’t matter how healthily we eat, our bodies just produce it. As a consequence, most of the men in our family have had heart surgery or have died of heart attacks or both. So my doctor put me on a statin. I hoped that this would protect me from any serious heart problems. But in the long run it didn’t.