In 1976, the antacid company Rolaids released an advertising campaign so successful that it lasted more than 5 years. Beginning with the question, “How do you spell relief?” we heard first from individuals. A trucker would say “For heartburn and gas, I spell relief…R.O.L.A.I.D.S!” A barber assured us “When I get acid indigestion, I spell relief…R.O.L.A.I.D.S!” Soon, the same refrain was coming from groups of people all over America; “In Detroit, auto workers spell relief…R.O.L.A.I.D.S!” The message is clear. Eat anything you want, we promise relief.
Two years later Sammy Davis Jr. recorded a commercial jingle for Alka-Seltzer. Backed by big band sound, he crooned, “Plop, plop, fiz, fiz…oh what a relief it is!” That jingle went as viral as 1978 technology would allow. Again, the message was “Go ahead and eat the whole thing…we’ll give you relief.” Americans love the idea of relief. Live anyway you want to, don’t sweat the consequences, we’ve got your back.
Relief may be an American ideal, but it is not a biblical one. The biblical value is steadfastness, a compound word in Greek made up of the verb “to remain” and the conjunction “under.” It means to stay under a load, to endure, to persevere, faithfully and patiently. Steadfastness doesn’t offer a path to quick relief, but it does offer a road to character. James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4). Stay under the challenges you face because challenges have a way of finishing us and making us whole people. Challenges work to cultivate the character of Christ in us.
For most of us the ongoing effects of the pandemic continue to add weight to everyday life, political tension can be a daily, draining reality, and each of us have loads specific to us that wear on us. And yet, in responding to this experience, God is not prompting me to look for relief. He wants to complete His work in me, and that can only happen if I have the wisdom and courage to “stay under the load,’ embracing this challenge every day, expecting that when it has had its “full effect,” I will look a little more like Jesus.
May God grant each of you the same wisdom and courage.
— VP for Student Development, Dan Jarrell