Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stress: A Family Destroyer

Family of Five Eating Breakfast at Kitchen Table
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Many paintings depict groups of happy people gathered around a table, eating a meal. The feeling is of comrades sharing together in peace and good will. Today, however, fewer families than ever seem to be eating together and sharing those comforting feelings of family togetherness.

Probably one of the most important actions a person can take, yet one of the easiest to do, is to share a meal. In years gone by, meals together were a standard feature of family unity. At the dinner hour, the family gathered around a table, said a blessing, and ate a meal. As they ate, they discussed family activities. Sadly, in too many homes today, eating is an “on the fly to somewhere else” activity, or someone at the table may even be on the phone, talking or texting.
This causes stress, and can have a lot to do with disrupting family harmony.
Stress is not a new enemy, but it is especially deadly in our modern society. Years ago, when I was earning an advanced degree, my dissertation was titled: “Stress: A Family Destroyer.” I looked at the factors that cause stress in an average family. The simple act of eating a meal with others turns out to be a helpful stress reducer.
But what, exactly, is stress—and why should it concern us? The word “stress” typically makes us think of something horrible, yet there is both good stress and bad stress. “Stress” simply means that the body is experiencing some type of demand. For example, we shiver when we are cold and perspire when we are hot. This is normal stress that helps us stay alive. When we hear startlingly loud noises, smell foul odors or sense uncontrolled danger, we feel bad stress. When we get insufficient sleep, our bodies are also taxed by stress. Such stress makes a demand on our systems that destroys our health over time. The idea is to get rid of bad stress in our lives as much as we possibly can. Strong family connections are one proven way to do that.
The Bible has a lot to say about eating together. In Matthew 22:4 we read: “Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’” Eating together was considered necessary to fulfill the custom of friendship. Luke 14:13 tells us not to invite only our best friends, but also those in need: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” A meal can be a powerful tool to reduce stress and suffering.
In Proverbs 15:17, we read: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.” It makes a difference how a meal is eaten. Even a simple meal shared with love helps to keep a family intact. Dining is important enough that Christ Himself uses it to describe His desire to be with His Church: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Sadly, we know that the Laodiceans about whom Christ was speaking will in many cases not let Him join in their meal.
God is building a Family, and He wants His people to enjoy the peace and security of strong relationships that reflect their destiny of becoming Spirit-born sons and daughters at the resurrection (Galatians 3:26-29; 4:6-7). One way we can further this goal today is by remembering the importance of family togetherness. The family that plays together stays together, and the same can be said about family that eats together and whose members share their lives and activities—a practice so different from many of today’s dysfunctional relationships.
To see the true importance of family, and to learn how to better strengthen yours and bring it “together around the table,” order our free booklets, Successful Parenting: God’s Way and God’s Plan for Happy Marriage.

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