Do you know why people were originally classified as Type A and B? It’s because two cardiologists wanted to identify who was most stressed and therefore likely to have heart disease. They learned that Type A folks fit that bill and Type B folks were less likely to get heart disease because they experienced lower stress levels. This was an observation of how people were naturally. Type B’s hadn’t learned strategies to “let it go,” and Type A’s didn’t seek out stress. They just had more of it.
When a Type A person experiences church, they hear things like, “Great peace have those who love your law,” and, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” and, “You will keep (her) in perfect peace who’s mind is stayed on you because (she) trusts in you.” These verses are absolutely true, but when we teach people they should only experience the emotion of peace, Type A people are likely to feel bad about themselves. Not only do they not experience peace very often, they see others who seem to have a lot more of it. What do we make of that?
I can’t speak for all Type A’s, but I concluded my faith was faulty. Peace was a rare visitor and the picture I heard painted of people of faith was as follows. People who didn’t get ruffled (nope), people who were super patient (nope), people who didn’t complain (sometimes I didn’t do it out loud – can I get partial credit?), and people who were confident God had a wonderful future for them (I wasn’t sure myself). I heard these folks didn’t question what God was doing or get discouraged or emotionally spin out. I did all those things.
As a young Type A, I wanted to perform well, especially in the most important area: God. All my hopes and dreams depended on me doing this well, and here I was failing. At faith.
I couldn’t go two steps without feeling feelings that meant I didn’t trust God enough. I was, shall we say, stressed about my stress.
I married a Type B husband who had enormous faith (was not stressed by as many things as I was). I interrogated myself, trying to find reasons for my lack of faith and didn’t come up with anything. It seemed to just be the way he was wired and I wasn’t, which didn’t exactly console me.
Here’s a couple things that did:
- No one experiences the feeling of peace constantly. Jesus was sad when He cried outside Lazarus’ tomb. He was angry when He cleansed the temple. He was delighted when He encountered the lady with gobs of faith. He was frustrated when He cried over the temple. In the garden of Gethsemane, He felt fear and anguish. It’s not evidence I’m doing something wrong when I experience a variety of emotions.
- It takes faith to hang on when your feelings aren’t peaceful, so the amount of peace you have is not directly proportional to the amount of faith you exercise.
I’ve stopped berating myself for being prone to stressing out. Do you know how it feels to stop fault-finding inside yourself? It feels like my chin lifting from its cramped, navel-gazing position and my eyes uncrossing. Once my head balances lightly on my neck, I look in front of me and notice that God’s peace promises are not just for naturally peaceful people, but for me. I would never experience peace if it weren’t for God touching the surface of my life and sending ripples of peace out to disrupt the constant stress.
And I have experienced peace I don’t understand. God has sent cocoons of peace in times when my next step was unclear and things I held dear were in peril. In those moments, the peace was perfect (complete) and I had solace from the difficult feelings. God kept me in peace then, but not forever. Do you notice that’s not what the verse promises anyway? It doesn’t say how long She will keep us in perfect peace and it definitely doesn’t say forever.
The gift of peace is for all of us, and maybe especially Type A people who are naturally peace-impaired. These promises weren’t given to add to our guilt pile. They’re there because God is saying, “Those times when you felt peace? That was Me.”
*Ps. 119:165, Phil. 4:7, Isa. 26:3