Faithwriters.com challenge – Advanced level – 25 January 2018 – Stressed
When Cass Jennings is asked to help bring back the body of a colleague from the Antarctic ice, she assumes the death was down to a moment of carelessness in a hostile environment. But when the power briefly fails part way into the long Antarctic winter, then returns just as the crew get hysterical, Cass smells a rat – like a lab rat. Someone is testing the supposedly stable scientific minds, measuring how they respond to stress.
The stakes are suddenly raised by a series “accidents” which even the station commander can’t explain. Who is causing the mayhem? And does Cass have the inner strength to escape the deadly trap? Michael Iden’s novel “The Winter Over” explores how individuals and groups respond to extreme stress – and the result isn’t pretty. All kinds of hidden demons lead to a mixture of fight and flight responses among the crew.
Although few people will face such extreme natural or human dangers, there are situations in everyday life that push our buttons. And when they come in quick succession, it can be difficult to maintain an appearance of calm control. Our words and actions too readily reveal the hidden darkness inside: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew 12:34b NIV)
But Jesus doesn’t want us to be overcome by the inevitable stresses of life. In a beautiful call to balance our work and rest, he offers to share our load with us:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The importance of this offer lies in the picture of two oxen ploughing together. Oxen are by nature slow and steady beasts, not easily stressed. The shared yoke means they must work at the same pace, usually that of the larger, older, slower beast. By choosing to work with Christ in all we do, we may find ourselves working more slowly, perhaps doing fewer things. But we will survive the stresses of daily life and perhaps even accomplish more than we ever dreamed.
 Michael Iden (2017), The Winter Over, Seattle: Thomas and Mercer