How do you deal with anxiety?

When anxious, a number of my Catholic friends and family imitate some of the customs of the cult to which they belong. Some light one of those supermarket candles decorated with what is referred to as a holy image. Others sprinkle a little holy water on the person or thing they are anxious over. A few finger their beads as they drone the prayers of the Rosary.

A friend of mine has a suggestion for dealing with anxiety.

Dealing With Our Anxieties

by Randy Davis

All of us, on occasion, will have a bad day. One wag has said, you know that it is going to be a bad day when you:
- You wake up face down on the pavement.
- You see a "60 Minutes" news team waiting in your office.
- Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
- Your twin sister forgot your birthday.
- Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell's Angels on the highway.
- Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.
- The bird singing outside your window is a buzzard.
- You wake up and your braces are locked together.
- Your wife says, "Good morning, Bill," and your name is George.

But, are you the type that expects every day to be a bad day? Some of us will allow life to grind us down to the point where we expect that life will always go wrong. We call it worry or anxiety. One person has said, An average person's anxiety is focused on:
40% – things that will never happen
30% – things about the past that can't be changed
12% – things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% – about health, which gets worse with stress
08% – about real problems that will be faced

Yet, most of us, in some form, go on worrying about things that we cannot control. Sometimes these worries will affect our health. Often it will affect our relationships. And always it will waste our time. Yet, we continue to worry, to fret, to be anxious.

We think worry and anxieties are modern problems. It was also an ancient problem. It was in the context of first century Palestine that Jesus made his comments. When Jesus addressed this subject, he knew the world in which he lived. Most of them lived in abject poverty. Their homes were nothing more than mud huts. They lived from day to day and often went without food. Most of their children never saw adulthood and their mothers would, as often as not, die in childbirth. Their men worked so hard and in such bad conditions that 40 years was an old man. It was in this real world situation that Jesus taught. So, when Jesus speaks to us about worry and anxiety, we need to listen. He knows our world too.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
– Matthew 6:25-34

The first words of this verse, "Therefore I say unto you," means that the thought for this passage began in the previous verses. Jesus said you cannot serve two masters. We must serve either God or Mammon. Mammon is possessions, wealth, money, and power. The one who serves mammon has all that he is going to get, he has no hope, no future, and his whole life is wrapped in the things that he can accumulate. All he has left to do is worry about losing what he has.

Not so for the Christian. We have a future that is not dependant on the accumulation of things in this life. We are more than the sums of our bank accounts. We are sons and daughters of God, we are residents of heaven.

But, what does Jesus mean? "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" What Jesus seems to be talking about is the act of being consumed with the basics of life as if our worry and anxiety can somehow produce what we need. We become consumed by the "what ifs." What if the car breaks down? What if I get cancer? What if my daughter runs away? What if I can't collect the money owed me? What if my grades are not high enough? Each of these questions really means, what if God really does not love me?

The word "worry" comes from the old German word wurgen which means "to strangle." The dictionary says worry means "a: to harass by tearing, biting, or snapping especially at the throat b: to shake or pull at with the teeth, a terrier worrying a rat. That is exactly what worry is, the belief that life itself is tearing us apart. We feel strangled. This kind of worry happens when we come to believe that God is not able to take care of our needs. In that sense, worry becomes an accusation against God that he does not love us or cannot help us.

Jesus said that fear and anxiety are unnecessary. "Look at the birds of the air, how beautiful they are and they don't farm and harvest and gather into barns. God feeds them. Are you not far more valuable to God than these?" You are of ultimate importance to God.

The Bible attributes our suffering and our sickness and our troubles to the fact that we live in a fallen world. Yet, God came among us and suffered with us and experienced the troubles of this life with us and reassured us that he loves us. But, God did more than just suffer with us. He became our substitute, He died for us so that we might have eternal life, a quality of life that transcends the suffering and sickness and troubles we experience.

Jesus calls on us to place our trust in the Father who loves us and will take care of our needs. He said that worry will not add one inch to your height or one minute to your life. And as to clothing, look at the flowers how beautiful they are. God made them that way, will he not do much more for you? Anxiety is a lack of faith and trust in God. George Mueller said, "The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety."

We have been called to seek first the kingdom of God, first, before anything else and all of the other things will be added to us. It begins by placing God first and to follow him in faith. His promise is that no matter what we walk through, no matter what tragedy happens to us, God is with us and will take care of us.

I think the problem is we tend to be short sighted. We have such a glorious future, such a wonderful hope. But, we fail to understand that God's future provisions extend into the present age. The same grace that anchors our future hope, covers us in our present needs. Whatever our difficulties, whatever our failure, whatever our sufferings, when this life is played out to the last hand, God wins and we win. Paul said, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." (2 Corinthians 4:17) He was not trivializing our present suffering. But was telling us how much greater our future will be. This is not all there is to it! We have to follow him by faith.

As people of faith, we are made to operate in a different way. If you are a Christian, God has equipped you to live by faith. The Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones said:

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath– these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely– these are my native air.

A John Hopkins University doctor says, "We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact." But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.

In the mean time, Jesus said that God will be with us in our troubles, his future grace covers us even in our present time. We will have troubles. But, Jesus is with us in our troubles, even in our suffering, even in our dying. And most certainly in our resurrection. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow. Take each day's troubles as it comes and do not live with tomorrow's troubles until tomorrow. How is this possible? Because our lives are oriented toward Jesus and not toward our troubles. The promise holds, that if we seek first the kingdom, these things will be given to us.

The best way to deal with our anxiety is to live by faith.

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