Dealing with anxiety

This summer has been an increase of pressure in my life. Most certainly know this, and this summer has been one of those time periods for me. Add to that all the craziness in our world and what we have is a toxic mixture of anxiety. 

In prayer, as I sense anxiety, I am challenged to continually roll those anxieties onto the Lord.

A particular column by David Brooks of The New York Times gave me some words of encouragement. He was talking about our current state of fanaticism in our country, but his solutions were downright biblical. His topic was how to deal with fanaticism because we struggle with wanting simple responses. We too often respond to anger with anger. His answer is modesty. And then he explains what he means by that term.

It means having the courage to understand that the world is too complicated to fit into one political belief system. It means understanding there are no easy answers or malevolent conspiracies that can explain the big political questions or the existential problems. Progress is not made by crushing some swarm of malevolent foes; it’s made by finding balance between competing truths — between freedom and security, diversity and solidarity. There’s always going to be counter-evidence and mystery. There is no final arrangement that will end conflict, just endless searching and adjustment.

But this paragraph is what impacted me most:

Modesty means having the courage to rest in anxiety and not try to quickly escape it. Modesty means being tough enough to endure the pain of uncertainty and coming to appreciate that pain. Uncertainty and anxiety throw you off the smug island of certainty and force you into the free waters of creativity and learning. As Kierkegaard put it, “The more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety.”

Too often I want to escape anxiety and my method of escape may not be outward fanaticism, but what ends up happening is that anxiety will still be there. I’ve only buried it for a time.

This is where I took some of Brooks’ words and began to meditate on what prayer really means. Prayer is the opportunity to be released into the creativity of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the place of learning. Prayer is the place of rest even in the middle of the storm.

We are called to cast our cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). Too often I may have thought, “I’ll throw that on the Lord and leave it,” when I should have been thinking, “I will roll this onto the Lord and his Spirit will help lead me to creative solutions.”

I have to admit the most creative solutions I’ve ever come up in my life have been that potentially deadly mixture of anxiety and panic. But I added in prayer. In those times when creative solutions came, I didn’t pretend to roll it onto the Lord and leave it. I stayed in the situation, prayed, heard the Spirit, and tried to see what could come of the mess.

Confession: I don’t do that enough.

But this was a powerful reminder to me this morning! I am thankful for the Spirit using all means necessary to get my attention and turn me back to the possibilities of prayer, listening, and Holy Spirit possibilities.


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