God Does Not Want You Anxious
Fear and insecurity
They were never meant for me
– Riley Clemmons
Yet, here we find ourselves as a society shrouded in both of those. It’s one thing to feel uncertain. Uncertain about who to listen to, what to wear, how close to stand, what the future holds—uncertainty is unavoidable. But fear, insecurity, anxiety—those emotions ought to be squashed because they don’t serve us at all.
We’re at our best when we’re at peace, and that’s what we’re craving. Not the counterfeit kind that comes from everything around me falling flawlessly into place as I sip a whiskey sour on the beach at sunset, sans all COVID concern.
No, we need real peace. The kind that isn’t dependent on outside circumstances. The kind that has me merrily humming Just Another Day in Paradise as I sweep up broken glass with a screaming baby in the Bjorn, a toddler ready to rip off his feces-filled diaper, and a five-year-old asking for a snack.
What we need is true, inner-contentment amidst the chaos and lack of predictability. And yes, it’s totally possible.
Let’s visit a scene.
the Titanic’s most relaxed passenger
My all-time favorite passenger about the RMS Titanic was Wallace Hartley, an actual historical figure who also appeared as a character in the movie.
Fondly called Wally, he was the violinist who led the band. They were responsible for the soft instrumentals during teatime and dinner parties where Rose’s mom always said things that made you want to light her hair on fire.
Wally strikes my fancy because of his outstanding tranquility amidst calamity. As the ship is sinking and 99 percent of the passengers are going absolutely bananas, Wally and his boys are standing on deck calmly playing soothing music.
Finally, he declares, “That’s enough,” and all the musicians hurriedly say their goodbyes and disperse. All except Wally. He keeps his feet planted, peacefully lifts his violin and on his own, begins a beautiful rendition of Nearer My God to Thee.
Upon hearing it, the other band members can’t bring themselves to depart. One by one, they make their way back to Wally and re-join him in playing, even though it means they all go down with the ship.
Don’t worry. I’m not hinting that this coronavirus means we’re as doomed as the Titanic. Not at all.
I just think we can learn a great deal from this historical character.
God does not qualify us for “what if?”
First off, let’s remember what anxiety is. It’s an emotion. Even the American Psychological Association calls it an emotion. It can be a real disorder and I absolutely believe therapy and medication have their place.
But generally speaking, anxiety is an emotional reaction to our thoughts and if there’s anything we’re really bad at, it’s managing our thoughts and emotions. What we’re really good at is letting our imaginations run wild with possibilities that terrify us and have us panicking over how unfit we are to handle them. And you know what? We are unfit to handle them, because they’re not our reality.
When I hear stories like Wally’s, I’m sure I could never act so courageously. If I’d been part of that band, playing music amidst the sinking would’ve been the last thing on my mind.
I’d make like Rose’s pitiful fiancé, declare, “I have a child!” and weasel my way onto a lifeboat, even if it wasn’t my turn.
But you know what? I can’t say for certain how I’d react because the Titanic is not my reality.
God has abundantly equipped me to handle my present reality and that’s all. He hasn’t qualified me for the role of passenger aboard a sinking ship because I’m not one. He doesn’t give grace for hypothetical situations.
So likewise, when I imagine the economy crashing, grocery store shelves more bare than Rose posing for Jack’s drawing, and my entire family on the verge of COVID-caused death, I have to remember that is simply not my reality.
be right where you are
Too often, we take our minds off the abundance of the present moment and fixate on the uncertainty of the future. We let fear of what we don’t know blot out confidence in what we do know, and thus become part of the panicky problem instead of the levelheaded solution.
So the most obvious and simple approach to combat anxiety is to reel ourselves back to reality. I need to mentally be exactly where I am, instead of projecting myself into some scenario that terrifies me (like running out of toilet paper, apparently, for some weirdos).
the crucial question
But obviously, a lot of people aboard the Titanic did go gaga even though it was truly their reality. What made Wally and the band so different? What kept them calm? And what keeps me calm amidst that broken glass / screaming baby fiasco?
I think the answer to this has to do with asking, “What can I do right now?” And this varies exponentially from person to person. As a mom of young kids, if I’d been aboard the Titanic, it actually would’ve been wisest for me to hustle onto a lifeboat.
But here in my present reality, when my mind is going bonkers, the answer to “What can I do right now?” is usually super simple, like getting all that glass in the trash, or changing that despicable diaper.
I think Wally answered that question with, “I can play music to pacify this crowd.” And that’s what he did. When we fail to answer that question or even ask it, we become hopeless victims of circumstance, like the passengers who responded to the sinking by simply going berserk. Don’t do that. Don’t let erratic, outside events define your disposition.
Amidst this COVID crisis, people are finding the coolest, most creative ways to answer “What can I do right now?” Seamstresses are manufacturing masks. Neighbors are organizing socially-distanced driveway cookouts. Families and friends are doing window visits with the elderly. The ingenuity and goodness of humankind always amazes me.
know this is not God
An invaluable lesson I’ve learned is that if a thought induces fear and anxiety, it is not from God. We’ve been led to believe that what God communicates to us inflicts terror, making us want to run and hide, like Jonah.
Let me put your mind at ease with the soul-sweet words of Fr. Jacques Philippe: “God is a God of peace. He does not operate except in peace, not in trouble and agitation.”
The thoughts that have your heart racing with worry are not from your Father. Rest assured of that. He knows you through and through and loves you tenderly. If he wants to tell you something, he’ll do it in a way that entices—not terrifies—you.
we are commanded not to worry
You know what the most frequent command in the bible is? Wash your hands and don a mask. Seriously, it’s do not be afraid. You can find this statement in some form hundreds of times in scripture. Not because fear and anxiety are severely evil, but because they so effectively prevent us from flourishing. And that, you guys, is exactly what we were created to do, even, and perhaps especially, amidst something as nutty as a global pandemic.
Fear and insecurity
They were never meant for me.