by Bill Denton
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil. 2:3-4).
A pastor was counseling a woman on the verge of nervous breakdown. She was powerless against the multitude of problems she faced, and she asked her pastor, "What can I do? What can I do?" He asked, "If I tell you what to do, will you do it?" She said, "Yes."
Knowing that her schedule included free time during the week, and that she loved to cook, he said, "On Monday, I want you to bake some bread. On Tuesday afternoon, take it to the nursing home. Go into the common area where everyone watches TV and plays checkers, pass out the bread and talk to people. Stay for at least an hour. Don't worry about not knowing anyone; you'll know them all before you leave. On Wednesday, bake cookies. On Thursday afternoon, take them to the children's hospital and find a worker to help you pass them out to the kids who most need a visitor. Talk to as many of them as you can. Stay for at least an hour. On Friday, come back and see me."
It was obvious, as she left his office that day that she didn't think much of his plan. The following Friday, he was disappointed that she didn't keep her appointment. About three weeks later she came to see him again. "Sorry I haven't been back sooner," she said, "I'm working at the cancer center everyday, and I've been so busy. Our Sunday school class is taking on this project together."
He said, "But how about you? How are you coping?" "Coping with what?" she asked. "Everything's fine. All those things I was worried about before, I've forgotten them."
Steve May, "The Heart of a Servant," www.preachingtoday.com
What a wonderful story, but not really surprising. One of the most effective ways of coping with the stresses and worries we face daily is to just turn them upside down. What I mean is that we need to do what the lady in the account above did. She got busy with others instead of stewing in her selfish, empty conceit. She learned what it meant to be humble instead of continuing to focus only on herself. Rather than camping out on her own personal interests, she began showing sincere interest in other people, and when she did that she suddenly discovered that not only were her problems not so bad, but that life took on a zest and purpose she had missed before.
The best medicine for a lot of people is stop dwelling in the tiny little world that is them. They should get out and do something helpful and productive for others. There is nothing like setting aside all the demands we make for ourselves and to start blessing others with our efforts.
If depression or anxiety is causing a problem, or if you seem overwhelmed with worries about one thing or another, take the advice above to heart. Find your own version of the nursing home or children's hospital. It may not be the same where you live, but there are any number of similar opportunities to help people. Invest yourself by putting a bit of yourself into the lives of people who truly can't do for themselves. Rather than adding to your problems, you might discover that the way to lighten your load is set yourself down for awhile.