Stress is nothing to monkey with… – Faith and Reflection

“Stress” is one of the most commonly referred to and gravest concerns of our day. It adversely affects our health and negatively impacts productivity. Stress is harmful to families and relationships in general and interestingly, is significantly higher for supervisors and care givers.

Joseph Brady, wanting to prove the theory that stress escalates in proportion to the care given to others, conducted laboratory tests on monkeys. One monkey was strapped into a chair with his feet on a plate capable of giving him an electric shock. A nearby light came on 20 seconds before each shock. A lever was placed near the monkey. If he pulled the lever after the light came on, the light would extinguish and there’d be no shock. Monkey #1 quickly learned to avoid the shock and he remained healthy.

Brady then placed monkey #2 across the room with the same apparatus, except that this monkey’s lever was non-functional. Amazingly, monkey #1 soon learned that his lever could also turn off the second monkey’s light and protect him from shock. Monkey #1 had become an executive/caregiver; he was responsible for preventing harm to himself and monkey #2.

Monkey#1 was as benevolent as he was intelligent. He accepted responsibility for protecting both himself and his colleague from electrical shock and responded faithfully to both lights regardless of sequence or timing.

With no visible change to either monkey the experiment continued, but after a while, the care-giving monkey developed stomach ulcers. (Some #1 monkeys actually died.) The second monkey’s health remained stable.

As someone having served in the monkey#1 role for a number of years, I admit to having experienced stress. I’ve felt like imploding, exploding or simply fading away, but some simple, yet powerful biblical principles have kept me steady. (Guaranteed to help both #1 and #2 monkeys.)

If my stress level is dramatically increasing, then my trust in God is probably significantly decreasing. If God is God and truly in charge, then He will (as He has innumerable times before) bring me through.

And if this is so, then I need to examine my devotion. Philippians 4:6ff says I should, “…not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer…present my requests to God. And the peace of God…will guard…my mind in Christ Jesus.”

I also need to examine my motivation. Am I seeking recognition and approval from others, or is my desire to serve and please God? Jesus taught that whatever deed we do, however small, when motivationally pure, is done for Him (Mathew 25:40).

My devotion and motivation determine my decisions and direction and inner peace displaces stress. So, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).

— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church