The most inspiring article I’ve read recently comes from an unlikely source.
Johnathon Carrington graduated from Georgetown University with a double major in management and finance. While he was valedictorian of his high school class, that school was in an impoverished, drug-infested community. But Johnathon chose to view his challenges as opportunities: “Given where I come from, giving up wasn’t an option. I wasn’t going to stop.”
“Cognitive reframing” is a way of seeing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives. We can view our challenges as insurmountable, or we can find a positive way to interpret and conquer them.
A recent article in The New York Times illustrates this concept in relation to stress.
Research indicates that having a lot of stress in your life is not linked to premature death. However, having a lot of stress and believing it is taking a toll on your health increases your risk of premature death by an astounding 43 percent.
How can we handle stress in healthy ways? Consider the following examples of reframing:
• When your heart rate increases under stress, you might fear that your risk of heart attack is increasing. Instead, be grateful that your heart and body are mobilizing energy to respond to this challenge.
• When your breathing rate increases under stress, you might fear that anxiety is affecting your mental and physical health. Instead, be grateful that faster breathing means more oxygen is getting to your brain, improving your thought processes.
• When your blood pressure rises under stress, you might fear that your health is being damaged. Instead, be grateful that the extra blood flow is fueling your muscles, making your stronger for the challenge ahead.
Will these reframing techniques work? A Harvard study proved that they do, concluding that when we approach stress the right way, it makes us stronger.
Now let’s apply reframing to our culture.
We can grieve the moral direction of our society, but we can also reframe this spiritual crisis as a call to intercession and cultural engagement. We can lament the current decline in religious commitment, but we can also renew our commitment to personal witnessing for our Lord. The popularity of abortion is a call to pro-life engagement; the legalization of same-sex marriage is a summons to defend biblical marriage.
Jeremiah grieved for his culture so deeply that he yearned, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1). But his compassion led to courage as he proclaimed God’s word fearlessly to his fallen nation.
The next time you encounter troubling news, reframe it as God’s invitation to prayer and action. Billy Graham was right: “We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.”
Preach well today.