There is a lot of talk that having stress is unhealthy. Being calm, cheerful and having peace in your mind and in your heart is healthy.
A cheerful heart brings good healing, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov.17:22
There is also a promise from our Saviour that He can give peace like nobody else can.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. John 14:27
But living our daily lives we do lose this peace and we get stressed and we do get irritated and lose calm and get short and angry.
One of the ways I have learned to regain and keep calm and peaceful is by forgiving people. In fact forgiving anybody and everybody all the time. Even if they do not ask for it. Even if they are not around, or dead or far away.
Growing up in the Soviet Union we had a government that enforced political correctness and did not tolerate any speech or belief that did not conform to their doctrine. I was nine years of age we started to get frequent visits by the police to our home (underground) church meetings. My dad was one of the leaders. Discrimination and public attacks and critique increased dramatically on those who did not bow dawn to the Beast – Government.
Teachers in schools harassed kids from the “sectarian” homes. (Not aligning yourself to the fundamentalist doctrines of the secular atheistic faith of the regime you became automatically a sectarian, independent of what faith or religion you adhere to). Men and women were discriminated in their workplaces. Higher education was denied to anyone who did not subscribe to the “true” and “scientific” theory of evolution, and believed in a loving God who masterly crafted this universe and each human being. “Father in Heaven” they laughed, “Your Father, Husband and Brother is the communist party, that will usher in very soon a communist paradise! All the world will be envious. They all will come and learn from us how to live”.
My parents taught us the Lord’s Prayer. Emphasis on “… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … “, as the only way to keep calm, keep peace and have strength to go on in our daily lives.
One summer morning at 5 am our house was surrounded by police, secret service and the local government officials. It was the time my mother let our caw out, when the village shepherd-boys would lead the cattle for a day out to feed. She opened the door and the officials flooded our home. It was laud, shouts, small kids cried, orders given, serious face, hateful glances and fear. Self satisfied official were standing in their clean and beautiful uniforms watching their orders executed in a proud pose of a job well done. House was searched. There was nothing private anymore. Anything that had a hint of being a religious object or literature or a hand written piece of paper was piled up on the kitchen table in front of an angry man (in my kids eyes).
Few months later there was a three-day court proceedings. Five people from our church, mostly leaders, where sentence to prison, home arrest and labor concentration camps. My father was one of the prisoners. This was his second imprisonment. Only three years, this time.
Next Sunday in church service I saw those believers who were regulars. Among them also those who testified in court against my father. These were the key witnesses collaborating with the persecutors. But, on Sunday, as usual, they sang the hymns and prayed and listened to the sermons. Going home our kids eyes (we were 6 siblings) were filled with questions. “Mother, why are they here?” “ Aren’t they the traitors?”
“Remember the Lord’s prayer”, she would say, “ … forgive us our debts as we forgive … “?
This is the only way you can stay sane in this crazy world. And it did work!
Ten years later when I had returned from my military service home, we moved to Estonia. But the Estonian KGB also talked to us and said there is prison time coming. But then they have asked my parents to leave the country. Being of a German descent it was natural for us to flee to Germany. We settled dawn in central parts in West Germany.
One day a young men by the name of Hans came to the church where I was now a leader. He said he wanted to speak with a pastor. So, I took him into my office. “How can I help” I asked.
“My wife divorces me and I want to become a christian,” Hans said. “Well, both are possible”, I replied. “Let’s deal with each issue separately”
“ I am under a lot of stress”, Hans explained. “We are building a nice big house. We have a two years old son. My wife has an affair with her colleague at work. We are in the process of a divorce. At my workplace I work with Walter (A believer who attended our church) he is the most calm and peaceful man I know”, Hans continued. “ I asked him – Why are you this way? Being around you gives me calm. Somehow you radiate happiness? What is it?” Now Walter was a man of few wards. So, he looked at Hans and said “Wait until tomorrow”.
The next day Walter gave Hans a New Testament and said “Everything you are looking for is in it. Read it”. Then Walter turned around and went to do his job. Hans shrug his shoulders, took the NT home and read it from cover to cover three times.
Now sitting in my office Hans asked “ I understood that to have that peace and fulfillment in life I am looking for I need to become a true christian. I am paying church taxes and in my papers I am a christian, but not in my heart. How do I do it?”
“You tell the Savour Jesus Christ that you lived your life as good as you could and it doesn’t work out, does it? No! Living independently from God is already a sin in itself, plus all other stupid things you did, it all adds up. So, ask Him to forgive you your sins and come into your life / heart and that you wanna be His child.” Hans kneeled down in my office and prayed. His prayer was personal, honest and of a man who really needed a miracle. He actually did not pray the words that I wanted him to pray, he kinda talked to Jesus in his own way. I felt that I was praying on a private conversation and almost should leave the room. But, then Hans said “Amen”, and I asked “What do you say now?” “Something rolled of my shoulders, I feel lighter, I think I feel good.” Hans replied. “Okay,” I said “ From now on you talk to Jesus every day. Don’t neglect this relationship”. Hans nodded.
“ Now to your second question. Your wife.” I suggested. “ I do not know all the headaches of your relationship, and honestly spare me the details. You will go home now and you will treat her from now on as a princess”. “What?” Hans surprised “Do you understand what she did and did not do? How can you ask this of me?” I said:” I understand your feelings, but switch them off for now. How much did Jesus forgive you just now when you prayed?” “Everything” Hans replied quietly anticipating the logical conclusion. “So, … forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … the prayer we just prayed together. Remember?” Hans gave me a hug, which is quite unusual for a German men and left.
I have not seen Hans for a year. We moved on and started a new church plant in a neighboring city. On Christmas we visited our first church that we started. In the foyer a young couple approached me. “Oh, Hans” I recognized, “Nice to see you”. Hans standing tall proudly introduced me to his beautiful wife and son, and said “We are now members of this church. We got baptized. We like the people here. We are so happy.” And then he added “Thank you!” Looking me straight in the eyes.
Walking out of the building I thought, it is nice to participate in God’s miracles. It is fulfilling to see people find their way out of life’s challenges. It is great to have had parents who taught me to listen to the bible. There is peace and calm and healing in a simple “ … forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … “