In the course of his ministry, the Apostle Paul was ridiculed, rejected, exiled, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. When he wrote his letter to the Philippians he was under house arrest in Rome chained to a Roman guard. He was likely to be put to death. Yet, his letter overflows with joy. Listen, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Ph 4:6-7)
We seem to live in an age of anxiety and angst where worry and the fear of impending doom wear us down. Our politicians in Washington fight like children while the problems of our nation continue largely left alone. Mass shootings, living aborted children murdered by doctors, opioid addiction and lack of economic opportunities cause us to lose our children, and people we should have been able to trust betray us. Would that we could dismiss all anxiety.
Briefly consider with me what’s wrong with worry and what we can do about it.
- Worry is foolish because we most often worry about stuff that is not of lasting importance like clothes, toys, and keeping up with the Joneses. How senseless to be more concern about what other people think about us than what God thinks of us!
- Worry is futile because it doesn’t help the situation. Someone put it this way, “Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.” Or as Saint Teresa of Avila scolds is, “For pity’s sake, don’t start meeting troubles halfway.”
- Worry is faithless since it is a sign that we don’t believe we are beloved sons and daughters of God. We have this crazy idea that our all-powerful and all-knowing God can’t handle it, but our worrying somehow will help!
Worrying is a choice. Choose NOT to worry. Try these four things instead.
- Trust in God. The First Letter of Peter tells us, “Cast all your worries upon the Lord because the Lord cares for you.” (1 Pt 5:7) Jesus has promised not to allow us to have so great a burden that we can’t carry it with his help.
- Put God first. “Seek first the reign of God,” Jesus teaches in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. (Mt 6:33) We need to get our priorities straight.
- Don’t give into fear. Jesus commands us, “Do not be afraid.” (Lk 12:32) Elsewhere Jesus declares, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Lk 8:50) Whenever feelings of fear to arise, don’t give into it by adding fuel to the fire. Pray, “The Lord is my shepherd… I shall not fear.” (Psalm 23) “The Lord is my light and salvation; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27)
- Consider down-sizing. Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell us to sell everything, but we can all likely benefit by selling or giving away some things. The more we have, the more we worry about losing it. The more cluttered our lives become, the less room there is for God. In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus warns us to be rich in what matters to God.
I will close with these words of our Patron Saint Francis de Sales: “Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”
Here are more words of Saint Francis de Sales to consider:
Do not look forward in fear to the changes and chances of this life; Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God, to whom you belong will in His love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life, and He will lead you safely through all trials; and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
— Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622)