For those of you worrying about all of the studies that supposedly show that stress shortens your life, meet Yisrael Kristal, the world’s oldest man. Yisrael survived two world wars and Hitler’s Auschwitz death camp.
When asked the secret of his long life, he pointed to Heaven. “I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why,” he said. “There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men than me who are no longer alive.”
Whatever the secret, you cannot say that Kristal had a stress-free life. If you believe the stress headlines, he shouldn’t be here smiling; but he is! We are now learning there is more to the story. It seems that your response to stress is more important than trying to arrange a stress-free life. Because how stressful would that be?
So, how did Yisrael handle things?
Yisrael’s daughter commented,”My father is a religious man who observes the commandments and prays every morning. In my opinion, what has kept him going all these years is optimism. When something bad happens, he always says, ‘It could have been worse.'”
He was born in the village of Zarnow, Poland, on September 15, 1903, three days before the Wright brother’s first flight. Son of a Torah scholar, Kristal learned to read Hebrew at age four and still recites his prayers daily, from memory now, because of poor eyesight.
He was a confectioner by trade, a skill which helped him survive in Auschwitz. The Nazis wanted candy. He lost his wife and two children to the camp. There couldn’t be a more stressful situation on the planet. The stress gurus on the internet would have this man in an early grave, but Yisrael will undoubtedly outlive all the researchers and writers pronouncing his doom.
The Stress Killer
What some have called the faith factor has now generated hundreds of studies. Many of them try to create a provable scientific formula for achieving the goal of longer life or less stress. I believe this misses the point.
When a journalist told him beforehand that researchers were trying to verify his title of world’s oldest living man, Krystal answered,”Big deal.”
The point of Yisrael Kristal’s faith is not to extend his life. The point of his life is to live his faith. He didn’t do what he did to set a longevity record. And yet his belief helped him through life’s most horrible ordeals. His faith didn’t relieve him from life’s stressful circumstances. It changed the way he responded.
Stress is, after all, an internal problem. And if you change your internal response, you diffuse the effects of difficult circumstances into something other than stress. What causes unmitigated stress in some causes an increase of faith in others. Faith acts like a stress shock absorber.
I am not a Christian to try to hoodwink God into letting me have a few more years on the planet. I am not trying to trick stress and manipulate happiness into my life. I’m not using a business strategy to meet people at church to build my business. I’m not trying to avoid a gambling addiction by using services as a twelve step program. I’m not crowdsourcing my local congregation as a networking tool to build relationships to support me if something goes wrong.
Love just does all of these things. And God is love. How could it not be good for me.
God doesn’t promise me a stress-free life. In fact, some of my greatest life lessons only happened because of difficult situations. Let’s face it, I just don’t learn much when everything is perfect. I can’t find the motivation when I’m too busy having fun.
And by the way. All of the studies that show faithful church attendance will increase my longevity by seven years are wrong. There are no guarantees that any of us will have another day on this planet. Instead, the better promise I got from Jesus was forgiveness of my sins and eternal life with Him.
Eternal. How’s that for survival?