Brother Moore was a retired minister and one of my flock in a church in north Louisiana. I always enjoyed visiting with him, sitting on the porch, and listening to his “preacher-war” stories. He told me about the time he went fishing late one afternoon, after a stressful day. Just as he was relaxed on the creek bank, his cork bobbled up and down, and when he tried to stand up, he slipped and slid into the muddy edge of the water. Finally, he jerked his pole out of the water and his fishing line wrapped itself around the tree limb behind him. Exasperated, he cut the line and went home. He said, “I never found out who bobbled my cork.” “Don’t you mean what instead of who?” I asked. “No,” he said convincingly (with tongue in cheek), “it was one of my demons trying to test my patience, and make me lose my religion.”
All of us have our demons or everyday hassles. Webster defines a demon as an “evil spirit”. Rollo May says a demon is any natural urge or drive such as hunger or lust that can dominate the whole person. Whatever it is, we have to be on guard about the things that can tempt us or rattle our cage. I think I can handle most of my demons okay and keep them in check, but it’s the small things—the little everyday hassles that can be hard to cope with. One day, I thought I lost my glasses. I looked everywhere they could possibly be. Finally, I was told they were on my face.
To use Brother Moore’s metaphor, demons do bobble our corks. We have those things in life that disturb our peace of mind, destroying our boundaries, causing mild to severe frustration. Our country has lost a lot of talented young entertainers because they couldn’t’ cope with their more serious demons. The first step in overcoming a demon is to name it. I know a man who refused to name his demon. He was told he was an alcoholic and that he needed help. He didn’t go beyond the “denial phase” and it finally tore his world apart. The human ego can keep us from admitting that there is anything wrong.
Jesus was always trying to help people with their evil spirits. We are told that, “He cast out demons.” He had a lot to say about not being anxious and troubled. He was also tempted by the evil spirit in the wilderness. He was tempted to turn stones into bread, and he said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” The voice tried to get Him to worship power, but Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and only Him shall you serve.” He was tempted to defy the law of gravity, but He said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Luke 4:1-12).
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he said, “Be angry, but sin not.” Anger can be an explosive emotion that poisons the whole body. It can translate into a headache, high blood pressure, fatigue or any number of ills. It’s like that bulldog that got into a fight with a skunk. The bulldog won, but it was not a pleasant victory. I like the words of the poet:
“I watch my words from day to day,
And try to keep them soft and sweet.
I never know from day to day,
Which ones I’ll have to eat.”
A Canadian firm did a survey to determine what annoys people the most. Here are the top ten hassle-producing annoyances:
1. Concern for weight
2. Health of a family member
3. Rising cost of common goods
4. Home and yard maintenance
5. Too many things to do with too little time
6. Losing things
8. Worry about crime
9. Physical appearance
10. Bad weather
Hey, that may be a good idea in observing the Lenten season. Make a list of your hassles, and make an effort to overcome them with patience and prayer. I think I will do what they said Thomas Edison did when he was annoyed. He would go fishing late in the afternoon, and most of the time, he wouldn’t take any bait with him because he didn’t want anything to disturb his peaceful thoughts. Amen.