“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve.
Find another way. And don’t pray if it rains if you don’t pray
when the sun shines.” (Sachel Paige)
What can we do when the bottom falls out of our world? This is a big question with no easy answer. No matter who we are, where we come from, young or old, most of us will experience times in our lives when nothing makes sense.
Yes, we have good days and bad days and, yes, they may even balance themselves out as we travel life’s journey. Author and theologian Ernest Fitzgerald reminds us: “Everyone has been sometimes up and sometimes down, but few people have known which was which at the time…everyday may not be a good day but if you hang on, things float to the surface. It helps to remember that when the news coming in is all bad.”
The Anglo-Saxon word for worry – wyrgan – literally means to strangle or to twist. And when we think about it that’s exactly how we feel when we are anxious or stressed.
Living with constant worry is a horrible feeling. But as human beings, it is almost impossible to escape it. It is a fact of life that a human being is the only one of God’s creatures who worries. Trees and animals don’t have that problem!
These days there is so much amiss in people’s lives – individually and collectively. Suffering happens in a thousand different ways. Yet pain and suffering are an integral part of the cycle of growth and learning. How many times did we have to skin our knees in order to ride a bicycle?
Or to miss out on an important event in order to realize how much it meant to us? Or when we had to grieve over the loss of some-one close to us in order to learn how much love we felt?
We all know when children are tired, grizzly or unhappy, how they can make their feelings felt very strongly. They just sit down and give-up or throw tantrums. However, we are not tired little kids. We are adults dealing with responsibilities and commitments. So instead of giving up, we need to find ways to cope with our problems.
Some people struggle to be happy because they are born worriers, or because they feel easily discouraged, or lonely, or simply because they are too afraid to allow God into their lives. No wonder people ask that eternal enigmatic question: “Where is God in all this?”
Mother Theresa said shortly before her death: “When I see God, he has a lot of explaining to do.” Maybe she now has some answers. The rest of us will have to be patient.
Allowing ourselves to be overcome with anxiety can paralyse us, stifle our talents and potential which in turn causes us to become only half the persons we could/should be. We are unable to enjoy the present moment being too fearful of what may happen tomorrow. Yet Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow.
Ironically, most of the things we worry about never happen. That is why worry is such a waste of brain power and energy. Eliminating our worries, of course, is easier said than done. Mark Twain came to this realization when he said: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
Philosophers believe we are essentially anxious because we are contingent beings. Everyone worries at some time and no matter how hard we try to control it, it can become an all-consuming nightmare. The problem is that most of us do not realize we are under siege until worry has become deeply rooted into our psyche.
I read somewhere that worry is like a rocking-chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere! As Jesus said: “Which one of you by worrying can add a single inch to your height?”
On a more personal note, perhaps one of the most distressing sources of worry comes from the past. In our low moments, past fears can come back to haunt us like ghosts. Maybe we have failed often in the past so we worry that we will continue to fail. Maybe we have been rejected by people, or in a relationship, or by someone we once trusted so we worry about being rejected by others who come into our lives.
As long as we hold on to these fears, we make it difficult to become positive and secure people. Jesus said: “Forget the past and look to the future.”
One way is to lose ourselves in prayer. Not the sort of prayer that tells God what he has to do in our situation. No, we need to pray so as to reassure ourselves that we and our problems are in God’s hands. The well-known spiritual Mystic, Blessed Julian of Norwich summed this thought up beautifully:
“When the soul is tempest tossed, troubled and cut off by worries, then it is time to pray.”
Prayer is one of the greatest antidotes against recurring problems. Throughout his life, Jesus continually told the people: ”Do not be afraid. Do not be anxious. Do not be worried. I bring you tidings of great joy”.
Unfortunately, we too often forget to put our trust in God mistakenly believing God is on leave. The essential message of Christ’s life was always Peace. Peace in our world, peace in our families, and especially peace within ourselves.