The More Things Change...

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:7

"The more things change, the more they stay the same." So said 19th century French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. Karr's epigram came to mind as I was reading about the fascinating life of Samuel S. McClure.

McClure, who founded McClure's Magazine in 1893, was a wildly successful publisher though his breakneck pace of life practically broke him. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1900. McClure recovered. Many would not.

McClure's condition was not unique to him. Plenty of his contemporaries suffered similar meltdowns. In her book, The Bully Pulpit, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin addressed the issue and its cause:

This extreme treatment was among the proliferating regimens developed in response to the stunning increase in nervous disorders diagnosed around the turn-of-the-century. Commentators and clinicians cited a number of factors related to the stresses of modern civilization: the increased speed of communication facilitated by the telegraph and railroad; the "unmelodious" clamor of city life replacing the "rhythmical" sounds of nature; and the rise of the tabloid press that exploded "local horrors" into national news. These nervous diseases became an epidemic among the "ultracompetitive businessman and the socially active women."

As I read Goodwin's words I saw us in this 21st century. Substitute "mobile technology and the internet" for the telegraph and railroad. Throw in the automobile and air travel and you have their stress on steroids.

Stress wears a million masks. It is alive in every town.

Jesus speaks to those of us facing the the storm troopers of stress. He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV). Then God puts his gentle finger on our furrowed brows with these words from Paul:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

Yes, the more things change the more they stay the same. So change the day, the month, the year, the century -- it doesn't matter -- stress is not going away. But then, neither is Jesus. He is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 3:8).

Today, he bids you to come and find rest in the midst of your stress.

Peace awaits.


This extreme treatment ... from The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, And The Golden Age Of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2013. Pages 328-9.