Looking to God

Currently I have been struggling with a new source of stress in a year–actually two, to be honest–of great frustration. As I caught myself starting to sink under the weight of the stress I reached out to God via all my characteristic ways of coping and held on for dear life to the assurance that God is in control. Still, the sense of being overwhelmed did not leave. Thoughts of the stressor constantly invaded my mind–thanks ever so much, anxiety disorder–and despite my repeated use of my faith tools I found myself sinking.

As soon as I could this past week I consulted an older and wiser dear friend who has seen much suffering in her life. Her observation was that perhaps I was looking at the problem too much and not at God enough. I reflected on that and realized she was right. In the necessary course of things there were tasks I had to complete as a result of the change in circumstances and yet once those were complete I was still wrestling with the whole thing instead of giving it to God. Clearly this was enough of a stressor that I would need to keep giving it back to Him in surrender to Divine Providence, which reminded me of a beloved book, Abandonment to Divine Providence. (NB–It is also translated as The Sacrament of the Present Moment and my preferred translator is Kitty Muggeridge.) Time to pull it out and start steeping myself in its truths as yet another tool to fight the battle of doubt and worry about how God will provide for us in all of our needs.

Is there anything you’re struggling with today? Perhaps you are–like me–getting a little too focused on the problem and not enough on the solution: looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). As we approach Thanksgiving and then the end of another liturgical year, with the feast of Christ the King to look forward to, may we be thankful that our God truly is ordering all things in our life together for good (Rom 8:28).

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At Ease in God

“Let God be the air in which your heart breathes at ease.”

St. Francis de Sales

Wowzers! What a difference that would make in the life of those of us who struggle with—okay, are plagued by—constant anxiety and/or depression, self-doubt, a lack of purpose, etc. I can barely imagine that as I’ve had anxiety issues all my life but only recognized them for what they were during the past few years. Whether they are neurological in origin or related to trust issues (with God and/or other people)—or a need to control or have everything perfect—anxiety issues will suck the life right out of you without you even realizing it.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a loving family member or friend who can help you to see this and you get help, things will get better. I promise. But you will always have to work at it, because that’s just the way anxiety is. It’s not going to give up its hold on you because it doesn’t want to and in a way you don’t want it to either—it’s probably your modus operandi, your coping mechanism, your safety net. You somehow convince yourself if you just think enough about these things—especially all the things that might happen—it will somehow help. Let me assure you that it won’t. But if you work at not being anxious, you will learn to be less anxious.

Here’s the best authority I know on the subject. Jesus told us,

“I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?…So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Mt 6:25-27, 34

Interesting “coincidence”: when I went to my new Bible–not one that’s been opened to favorite passages yet–to verify my reference and flipped forward to Matthew, being pretty sure it was there in the Sermon of the Mount–it opened immediately to the page for chapter six; I love it when that happens!

I’ll also share a couple of my favorite authors’ writing on this topic because they are also worriers who have learned many valuable lessons from their own struggles and have been willing to share them with others. The first is my choice of spiritual reading for this Lent. It may seem like an odd choice for that purpose but I believe the more practical we are in applying our faith the faster we can grow in union with Christ. The second choice is by a well known author who has also written extensively about ADHD, which also often comes with anxiety, as do bipolar disorder, depression and other mood disorders, something I know about firsthand.

For Lent I’ll be rereading writing coach, novelist, and general all around great guy Marshall Cook’s excellent How to Handle Worry: A Catholic Approach, along with its companion workbook, HTHW: ACA—praying your way through anxiety. As Marshall says in the introduction:

“If you’ve been suffering for a long time, change may seem impossible. By yourself it would be. But with God, all things are possible. Use this book as a guide as you surrender yourself—including all those worries—more fully to God.”

Disclosure: from what I recall from my first read a few years ago—as a convert to the Catholic Church from Protestantism 10 years ago—this book and its workbook can certainly be used by non-Catholics. There are just occasional times when there will be references to faith practices which differ.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Handle-Worry-Marshall-Cook-ebook/dp/B005F1Q7U6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1423158101

The second book, Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition—Turn chronic worry into a positive force in your life, is an excellent read in its own right by the wonderful writer and well-known psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell and concludes with a wonderful chapter on “50 Tips on the Management of Worry Without Using Medication”—not that the author is against medication, as he is not, but he brings a whole person approach to the problem because that is what it as well as other neurologically based conditions require.

http://www.amazon.com/Worry-Edward-M-Hallowell-Md-ebook/dp/B004JHYRQI/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1423159941

I hope you will find something in the above that will help you to breathe more easily in God.

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