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Anxious and afraid?

Let God clothe you with truth
 

People carry many anxieties: worries about the future; fears about family issues, health or finances; concerns about the past. In nearly every facet of our lives, anxiety shows its frazzled face. Many of those concerns and worries may be realistic, but our problem is that we do not deal very well with them. It’s a little like the man who was out digging up his garden for weeds – he hit a metallic cylinder he believed to be an unexploded World War I bomb. In his absolute panic, he picked up the bomb, called the 9-1-1 operator and told her what to say to his grieved family – that he loved them. She listened patiently and kept trying to reassure him that everything would be OK. “Just put the cylinder down on the ground, let go and walk away!” He said to her, “That’s easy for you to say – you’re not the one holding the bomb!” He thought he could control it by holding on to it.

Eventually, the bomb squad arrived and identified the “bomb.” It was an old car part! The truth set the man free, and also showed him how unnecessary his worry had been.

Whether our anxieties are a result of real circumstances or imagined fears, they cause real problems in our spiritual lives. Anxiety distracts us from remembering the love, care and strength of our Protector. We can feel so out of control that we clutch our fear all the tighter, instead of giving it to God.

Let go. It’s not a bomb, and you’re going to be OK!

 

Spiritual exercise:

This month’s exercise will have two parts. In the first, we will focus on letting anxiety “uncover” truth. In the second, we will pick up that garment of truth and clothe ourselves in it as a protection against anxiety.

Like the man in the bomb story, we have anxieties that often stem from a distorted perception of reality. We are focused on whatever is creating fear in us and we forget to see the bigger picture – and even more importantly we forget to see God. In John’s Gospel, Jesus was getting his apostles ready for his departure. He could see they were anxious. He said to them, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

Our Lord knows we struggle with anxiety. At Mass, we pray, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy, keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.”

Part 1 letting anxiety uncover truth:

To begin this exercise, go to a quiet place where there will be no distractions. Turn off the cell phone. Turn off the TV, radio and computer. Bring a pad and pen to jot down some reflections. Be still and listen to Jesus say to you, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid.” Spend a few minutes until you feel this seep into your soul. Identify your anxieties – What makes you nervous? What makes you afraid? What are you worried about? Name them. Write them down. Pray, “Lord, protect me from these fears and worries.”

Choose the most troubling anxiety and go a little deeper. Do you understand why you are afraid? Sometimes, we are afraid because of a good we believe we have is being threatened. Or, we are afraid of failure.

When I did this exercise, I wrote down “anxious about my messy desk.” It uncovered a few things in myself – self-image, how others view the mess, and even the gnawing thought that I may have forgotten someone in the pile who needs God’s help. OK. Talk to Jesus about it. Our anxieties can uncover truth and truth sets us free.

During this exercise, you may realize that you are standing in the highway with a Mack truck coming at you. Don’t just stand there – God is using your anxiety to tell you to get out of the way!

Write down what you have learned about yourself and write down any resolutions that come to you. In my case, the messy desk will have to go.

When we pray for protection against anxiety, we need to be willing to cooperate with means to gain that protection.

Part 2  Clothing an anxious heart with truth:

In the second part of this exercise, the power of God’s word and love strengthens and heals us.

Pray, “Lord open my heart to your truth.” Now listen to God’s word.

• You are worth far more to God than you realize.

Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34 – “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? … Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

• You belong to God’s household and your sins are forgiven in Christ.

Read Ephesians 1:3-8 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.”

• God does not change his mind.

Read Romans 8:31-39 – “If God is for us, who can be against us? … What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

• God wants you to give your cares to him.

Read Philippians 4:6-7 – “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

End the exercise by praying the Our Father. And may the peace of the Lord be with you.