Worried to death

 

wordswag_1495710382644Do you ever worry?  Of course you do. We all do. Anxiety is the common cold of American mental health.  The constant stream of negative news creates a sense of doom for far too many. To hear some talk one would think that these United States have never had a political climate like we do at this time. We have (and worse!) and the nation survived. Some of us can remember Nixon and the Watergate crisis that ended his presidency.  Some would think that race issues, which are serious, are something new. They aren’t!  Anybody recall the 1960’s and the civil rights struggles?  The problems we face – socially, politically, spiritually – are real but we need perspective to keep ourselves from descending into crippling anxiety.

Some of our anxiety, perhaps most, comes from the frenetic pace of life in which so many of us are caught. The competing demands of job, family, and church; combined with high expectations we put on ourselves, mixed in with the constant stimulation of our ‘wired’ lifestyles – keeps the motor racing and we get worn out. Throw in an experience of helplessness, an encounter with illness, a death of a friend or family member, the loss of a job – and you have all the ingredients for a real crisis!

In spite of being invited into the ‘peace of God’ Jesus’ followers can experience anxiety because we live in the same world and deal with the same issues as everyone else! A terrible choice, made by too many well meaning Christians is the one in which they ‘bury’ their feelings underneath the words of faith, believing that if they face up to the reality of their emotions they are somehow sinning against God. Do you think you lack faith if you’re experiencing elevated levels of anxiety?

The better choices are to admit if we are worrying ourselves to death and to take steps towards the wholeness that we can find in faith.  What can we do with our worries?

Know your limits. Most of us cannot exist for any length of time on 4 hours of sleep, so turn off the TV or PC, put the phone away, take a hot shower, and go to bed! Fatigue is fuel for anxious thoughts.

Finish something.  A dozen unfinished projects create tension.  Focus on one, sticking with it until it’s done.  Then, enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that follows.

Accept imperfection. I don’t mean compromise with sin or do shoddy work but accept the fact that nobody gets everything they want every day. People will disappoint us. Illness will come our way. Plans will go awry. There is a ton of peace in letting go of the need to ‘fix it.’

PRAY! Yes, actively engage yourself with God’s Presence. Speak honestly with the Lord about the state of your heart. If you’re afraid, tell Him. If you’re feeling hopeless, tell Him. Remember to include praise and worship in your prayer time. It is tragic that too many of us use prayer only as a kind of ‘shopping’ list. Set aside time to simply be with God– perhaps in silence, perhaps in song, or maybe with your favorite worship CD playing.  urges us to get active in dealing with our anxiety! The Spirit invites us to peace. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

GATHER! Anxiety amplifies in the echo chamber of isolation. So, we need to join with other Christians, family, and friends. God never intended for us to ‘go it alone.’ That foolishness about standing tall and self-sufficient is an American romantic idea far removed from real life! We need each other. Talk with others. Worship with others. Help your friends by allowing discussions go beyond superficial jokes and laughter. Do not be afraid if emotions bubble to the surface. Galatians 6:2  (NLT) teaches us that we must “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”   Paul tells us that “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other.  Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary  people. And don’t think you know it all!” Romans 12:15-16 NLT

GET SPIRITUAL, look up! We can lower our eyes until even the molehill in front of us looks like a mountain. Jesus teaches us to shift perspective. When things pile up, look higher, He says.  Take time to savor the truth here.  Pause to prayerfully process it.  Discover new peace for today. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans  (people who do not know God) run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33, NIV)

Let’s not just accept that anxiety is unavoidable. Let’s not deny the reality of it when it visits. Instead, be proactive and find the peace of God.

Here’s the word from the Word.  “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)

_______________

What a fellowship what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms

 What have I to dread what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning (leaning on Jesus)
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Anthony Johnson Showalter | Elisha Albright Hoffman© Words: Public Domain

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