(In the preceding entry I shared my continuing vexation about our nation’s leader. Today I want to explore the possibility that there might something useful embedded in that too-frequent fretting.)
Today I want to explore with you some ways in which being deeply worried could also compel me towards a life that’s practical and purposeful. See if any of these ideas match what’s inside in your own soul.
When I’m feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders at this stage in life, “purpose and meaning” becomes a lot more necessary. The anxiety requires that I see my life objectively.
When I get all bound up in worry, I can find both my powerlessness and my power. The anxiety helps me discern the difference, perhaps welcoming both attitudes.
When disquiet takes me to the brink of despair, I eventually come to realize how unhelpful and unhealthy those attitudes are. So I am motivated—usually by wise people around me—to re-discover humility, wisdom, love, care or righteousness. Without the experience of being brought low, I might not always realize that they are readily available attributes or gifts.
One useful effect of being overwrought with unease: Reading the Scriptures more earnestly. For me, new favorite parts of Scripture—but only in small doses—are the imprecatory psalms of David—see Psalms 63 or 64 as examples–where he lambasts his enemies and asks God to pour down punishment on them.
When the anguish gets too deep or sticks around too long, I find myself more sensitive to how these feelings are regular fare for so many people who would have otherwise been invisible to me. I can imagine myself into their lives, and regard them more highly—somehow they get on with life in spite of circumstances that constantly eat at their well-being.
Another useful outcome: I don’t seek the company of “ain’t-it-awful” people, conversations or news feeds. Knowing that these only compound the problem, I stay out of the way of that particular harm. I can sidestep a worsening spiral of despair that accomplishes no good.
Instead, I look for people who remain non-anxious—an example that I try to follow. When I’m down, one character trait I try to model is to be an appreciative observer, someone who can find good in others and share what I see in them that’s positive.
During these times, my prayer life has been anything but routine. More “praying without ceasing” and more honest conversations with God. A lot more confessing and a lot more petitioning for rescue. A lot of wrestling with God’s will, too.
Anxious times also invite me to remember my family history, recalling times when my ancestors faced similar circumstances and prevailed—and even prospered.
Even in the middle of worries that stick around too long, I still can cherish the blessings that surround me at every turn. Gratitude leads to generosity and empathy towards others. Sooner or later, anxiety intensifies thanksgiving.
I finally grow tired of my imagined low estate, and get stubborn and angry about my faithless thoughts. Deeper inside me is a core mindset: I can’t or won’t give up. Eventually I strengthen useful habits like exercising, eating right, finding pleasure in friendships and getting enough sleep.
To put all this into perspective—as an older adult still wanting to live out the Gospel—I am trying to marshal the Spirit’s gifts that have brought me thus far. My basic reasoning remains the same: I am not called to despair, but to God’s purposes.
That thought will remain stronger than any source for anxiety.
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