62. Oh What A Relief It Is!

OH WHAT A RELIEF IT IS!

It’s one of the iconic TV commercials of my childhood….”Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, Oh what a relief it is!”  I don’t know if Alka-Seltzer sold a lot of their product because of those commercials, but the jingle certainly has passed the test of time. Personally, I have never used Alka-Seltzer, but I can still remember seeing the tablets drop into a glass of water and the look of relief on the face of the actor who drank it as the jingle happily chimed along in the background.  Some advertising executive should have gotten a raise for that one.

Right now it seems like the whole world could use a little of that magic fizz!   If there’s something most people are looking for these days it’s a bit of “relief”.  We’ve grown tired of the constant stream of bad news, political commercials, the lingering pandemic, and civil unrest.  In our day of electronic connection there seems to be no escaping the endless images of turmoil, natural disasters, war, sickness, crime, economic downturns, and pundits from every spectrum telling us who’s to blame for the mess we’re in. It’s enough to make anyone want to drop a couple of tablets of relief into a cooling cup of water, put their feet up, and retreat from the world around them……….. at least for a couple of hours.

Seeking relief from stress or pain is nothing new for most of us. In fact, there are numerous business enterprises built solely on that effort, just like good ole’ Alka-Seltzer.  I should know…..I’m a regular client of their products and services.  Products like Excedrin have become something like personal friends over the years when headaches come to visit. Going to the movies has provided an escape from many a stressful day, taking me away from life’s pressures in 2 hour increments. I’ve run up more than my share of doctor bills seeking resolution to one type of issue or another when my body has told me something was wrong.  Prior to my knees deciding I was getting too old for such things, participating in sports like racquetball, volleyball or basketball helped me enjoy the benefit of endorphins and work off pressures that may be weighing on me emotionally.  And speaking of those knees, I’ve recently discovered  Voltaren,  a product especially designed to bring relief to the arthritis that clamors for my attention virtually every day.

When things hurt, create stress, or put us in the pressure cooker of life we want something that will bring us relief. It could be a pill, a vacation, a positive news story, a visit with a good friend, curling up with a book by the fire, an unexpected blessing, or simply a change in our circumstances. The magic behind all those things is the recalibration of our outlook on our situation.  To be honest, things that were going wrong before may not actually change, but even a temporary reprieve from those things is a welcomed addition to our lives.  It’s those “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” moments that make the rest of our lives bearable…..and even enjoyable.

Life can be tough!   It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or what your overall circumstances may be.  We all deal with our share of struggles, problems, and unfortunate interruptions to our status quo.  Yes, we have different problems than what others may have, but really we’re pretty much all the same. We all seek safety and security, we want to feel well physically, we want to protect our family and friends from harm, and we’d like to see everyone treat others kindly. We desire enough income to provide for our needs, enjoy the blessing of a good night’s sleep, and live in a society that offers us all  “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.   As Americans we don’t have the corner on that market!  Black, yellow, red or white, we’re all a part of the human experience seeking to make our way successfully through this thing called life.  Whether we live in some remote village in the corner of the earth,  in an urban core,  a hodgepodge of suburbia,  the solitude of a rural setting, on a mountaintop or on a deserted island,  the reality is we all basically want the same things.  And when life gets tough, whatever that means for us,  we want “relief”.   Certainly I know one day I’ll cross that boundary between this world and the next, where most of us believe there will be no need for things like Alka-Seltzer, but between now and then I’d like to have some antacids,  Ben Gay,  captivating novels & inspiring biographies,  entertaining movies & good music, annual vacations & weekend getaways,  a great cup of coffee or a Diet Coke, and other creature comforts just for the “relief” they offer!

Of course, the concept of relief is much more important than whether or not we have access to things like Alka-Seltzer.  Those living in third world countries don’t even have a point of reference for such remedies….or perhaps even the causes of indigestion.  But the need for a pressure valve to release anxiety, deal with pain, and address the painful complexities of the human experience is very real.  Without some type of “relief” many of us would implode, either physically or emotionally. We know we are not indestructible, therefore we seek ways to survive and thrive.

One of the amazing things about being human is that we can endure an incredible amount of pain and discomfort physically, emotionally and mentally if we are strong spiritually.  In our essence we are eternal souls temporarily housed in physical bodies that are subject to all the limitations of the physical universe. That means we can suffer injury, become sick, be mistreated by others, get caught in untenable circumstances,  and be subject to a million other things that can bring discomfort.  Yet, no matter what happens to us  — be that from the inside of our own bodies or  by outside influences  —  we can move forward,  despite the pain,  and actually enjoy our lives.   When we find “relief” spiritually, we seem to be able to handle the setbacks that accompany life’s difficult circumstances.

There are countless example of this truth all around us every day!  It’s the person living with the debilitating effects of a disease like ALS or stage 4 cancer. It’s the single mom coming out an abusive relationship struggling to make ends meet and protect her children.  It’s the soldier living thousands of miles from home, heartsick and scared, but doing his duty each day on the front lines.  It’s the doctor and nurses working 20 hours a day and putting themselves at risk in the horrendous conditions of a natural disaster or a pandemic to save the lives of others.  There’s the amputee going through the painful process of therapy to learn to walk again or the police officer standing his ground despite the endless verbal abuse during times of civil unrest like we’re currently experiencing.  It’s the couple laying their baby to rest in a tiny coffin because of SIDS or a family torn apart by a tragic accident.  It’s the elderly couple facing the unknown future as the reality of dementia or Alzheimer’s begins to bring an unwelcomed separation from reality.  It’s the survivors of the  latest disaster, natural or man-made, struggling to pick up the pieces of their shattered life or the pastor having to go once again to family gathered in the waiting room to tell them that their loved one had passed away.   You don’t have to look too far to see than pain and discomfort are a common denominator  for the human race…….no matter who you are, where you live, what color your skin is or how much money you have. But if these individuals are grounded by their faith in God it seems these difficulties can be faced with confidence and conviction.  They may be shaken, but they’re not shattered.  As Paul said to the Corinthians,  these are people who “…..are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

While I’m a Christian and I believe faith in Jesus provides the best answers for life’s many problems, my sense is that those who have a personal faith in God, even outside of Christianity, will always do better in life’s difficult moments than those who do not.  The vibrancy of our spiritual lives provides an unmatched resource to handle adversity.  Faith helps us see beyond the inconvenience or pain of a given moment to something that’s bigger and more important.  That conviction alone can provide the “relief” we need to get past the latest hurdle, find some meaning in the midst of the chaos, and once again experience true joy.

I don’t think the makers of Alka-Seltzer had any of this in mind when they first produced their iconic commercial, but that’s OK with me.  They were promoting the fizzy bubbles of their product for people who needed “relief” for their indigestion.   Most of us need “relief” from a lot of things going on around us on a normal basis.  I’m grateful God has given us a direct connection to Him to help us handle life’s big and little hurdles.  While I would love to do without such things completely,  with His help I think I’ll be able to face whatever comes my way.  I may need to pop an Alka-Seltzer or two at times, use a little more Voltaren on my sore knees, and know where my Excedrin bottle is, but I know real “relief” is always just a prayer away!