What Do We Believe?

September 2014

Its officially autumn, and I couldn’t be happier about the change of seasons. Fall brings all of my favorite things, including Cornel and Duncan’s semi-annual visit, and a huge season of events and celebration for the CARE for AIDS team. If I’m honest, though, I have to say that along with the celebration and cooler weather, fall can sometimes bring an added layer of stress. I know I am not alone in this feeling- it seems to be the time of year when work ramps up, the holidays are just around the corner, and everyone’s to-do list doubles in size over night.

In an effort to turn this increased stress level into a positive, I recently watched a brilliant TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, a popular health psychologist. What I learned has largely changed the way I think, not only about stress, but also about my everyday worries and habits.

One of Kelly’s points is related to a recent stress study conducted by the University of Wisconsin that tracked 30,000 adults in the US over a period of 8 years. Researchers asked how much stress people perceived in their lives, and whether or not they thought that experiencing stress was harmful for their health.

“Here’s the bad news”, McGonigal says “people who experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increased risk of dying…but that was only true for the people who also believed that stress was harmful to their health. People who experienced stress, but did not believe that it was bad for their health, did not have any increased risk of death. In fact, their risk of death was lower than those who had little to no stress in their lives.”

The rest of the talk was also brilliant, and you should certainly take 15 minutes today to watch it. This particular point, though, is the one that stuck with me.

What we believe dictates what our body does.

What we believe impacts our daily thoughts and actions in a very practical way.

What we believe can be the difference between life and death.

This makes me rethink the actions, thoughts, and beliefs that I carry around every day. If I truly believe that God is a God of abundance, it will show up in the way I live. It will show up in the way I serve, in the way I give, in the way I interact with others, and in the way I perceive and respond to stress.

Take a few minutes to watch the rest of the talk below, and ask yourself this week; what do my daily actions and responses to stress tell me about what I believe? How can we better believe in God as a God of abundance, and show it in the small ways we live life every day?