According to a 2000 report published in American Psychologist, 26% of Americans felt "an impending nervous breakdown." Many say this is a feeling most people nowadays experience periodically. This seems frequently to be triggered by a divorce, a death, or financial and job stress. In addition to the feeling of going crazy, some of the symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pains, shortness of breath, uncontrollable crying, dizziness, disorientation, exhaustion. Unfortunately this condition is becoming more normal. We live in times when personal crisis are quite common. Such anxiety is a result of our separation from God. To cope with today's tumultuous world we must grow spiritually.
With a strong Orthodox faith we can better deal with this over stressed condition. This requires a faith that is more than the notion of "Faith Alone" preached in many Protestant churches. It is a faith that is linked with works, with our personal effort, working in cooperation with God's grace. It is a faith where we desire and have great zeal to be with God. It is faith of unbounded love of God.
The Orthodox way of life provides a time proven structure for developing such faith. With the ongoing practice of repentance and forgiveness it demands, one does not keep as much "stuff" bottled up inside. One who lives a true Orthodox way of life when faced with stressful uncertainties learns to call on God for help when faced with uncertainties. One who lives a life of repentance learns humility and is ever aware of their fallen and sinful condition, knowing they cannot cope with life's trials and tribulations alone. They know death is at the end of this earthly life, but beyond is what they hope for, eternal life in Paradise. They learn to seek forgiveness, to admit their weaknesses and know that God will help them. They participate in Confession and regularly partake of Communion, the true Blood and Body of Christ, by properly preparing themselves. They develop self-disciple through fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as the special fasting periods like Great Lent. They have a daily prayer life and are able to communicate with God for help in times of need. They have a Spiritual Father for guidance and a spiritual family of believers whose love they can count on. They have developed a spiritual relationship with several saints, who now reside in heaven near the throne of God, who they also call on for help, especially Mary, the Mother of God. They are never alone.
Stress comes when we lose hope in a situation, become fearful, and do not have faith that we will be able to work through the difficulty we face. We only see our limitations and believe that all things are dependent on our own efforts which seem inadequate. We feel alone. We lose our vision of the spiritual aim of life. We no longer see the struggles of life as part of the ongoing development of our faith in God. We forget that God loves us no matter what and supports us by His promise of eternal life with Him if we only continue to act out of love for Him as well as others.
The Orthodox way of life is like an insurance policy against stress where we feel like we cannot cope. Like an insurance policy we have to remember to pay the premiums. In the Orthodox way of life, this involves prayer, fasting, worship and participation in the Sacraments. It is a life of repentance lived with a zeal, a desire, an intense love of God.
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