Anxiety and Trust, Part II

As noted in my last post, as we look out at world news, including our own backyard, there is much that provokes anxiety and hampers trust. Now, I’ve often noted: “If I thought that there was no God – no plan for my life or for my loved ones; no guarantee that however awful the circumstances, Someone was there to bring good out of it; life is just ‘one damn thing after another’ without rhyme or reason  – I’d be anxious, too!” Yet the anxiety that plagues us far more widely and deeply than Ebola ever could infects us as believers as well.

Part of this stems from our passion for data: bits and bytes of random info; endless “breaking news”, distressing headlines, whirlwinds of political commentary. As Stanley Hauerwas notes in his excellent book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, the evening news feeds us an endless stream of random, overwhelmingly negative situations. Disaster and misfortune are woven into a chaotic universe: no one is safe, and any one of us could be hit at any time. The media pound us with the unfairness and meaninglessness of suffering, gleaned from sources all over the world. There’s almost a gloating over how innocent, hard-working, deserving people get run over by freak accidents. The subtext, of course, is Godlessness – we’re all just part of the Darwinian struggle, fighting hopelessly against “Nature, red in tooth and claw” and “the evil that men do.”

Hauerwas goes on, however, to note that the media’s story is the antithesis of the Christian account of reality. We are, in fact, part of a Story that God is telling. He knows its beginning, middle, and end. The Story is fraught with meaning; we are essential characters in it with a profoundly meaningful part to play; and if I cooperate with the grace God gives, my story will be caught up in the Story of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to glory. C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” ends with a glorious reflection on how our lives are the barest first page to THE Story – our life with God in Heaven – that never ends and in which each page is better than the one before. Every human heart hungers for such meaning, such confidence, such hope: this is how God has built us.

Because we have such hope (“and hope does not disappoint” as St. Paul tells us in Romans 8), we can boundlessly trust God. A marvelous way to put trust into practice is not simply to endure my circumstances, but to praise and thank God for them, however difficult. I cannot overstate how fruitful and liberating such a stance is. I’ve had many opportunities to put this into practice.

About 18 years ago, my wife Mary was taking care of her mother (“Grandma D.” for Doman), who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). We moved in with my mother-in-law (a wonderful, saintly, impressive woman) while I was in the 2nd year of my doctoral program, and our son Michael was 3. Mary’s Aunt Alma stayed with us, too, for many months, and she was an immense help, making wonderful meals and keeping Grandma D. company.

As it happened, Aunt Alma had a family emergency back in Texas for which she had to return there. At the same time, Grandma D. had just lost the ability to feed herself. Michael, of course, required a lot of care and attention, too.My studies required that I be away most of each day. We were panicking: what were we to do? Mary couldn’t possibly bear all of the burden, and no other help was available!

Mary and I went up to the master bedroom (Grandma D. had been moved downstairs as she became unable to walk, much less do stairs) and prayed in some anguish. At some point I realized we needed to praise and thank God for precisely our circumstances, and we began to do so, Mary kneeling, I prostrate by the bed. “Lord, we give You honor and glory and praise for every aspect of our situation: Grandma D’s turn for the worse; Aunt Alma’s going back to Texas; the seeming impossibility of our situation. You know what You’re about. You foresaw this from all eternity. We trust you, Lord. We trust you.” We continued to pray in this way

Nothing changed immediately, but we felt relieved of a burden. We felt peace. It was somehow going to be all right. And it was: Mary’s sister Katie came to visit the next week, so that Grandma D’s prayer that she might see her new grandchild before she died was answered. She wanted to see her sons before she died; this prayer, too, was answered: John and Chris came to visit, leaving – as it happened – the day before Grandma D. died in her sleep, a week after our praise session.

Trust Him. His plans are perfect. He knows your situation. Resist (as I sometimes have to) the urge to say, “Lord, hasn’t it occurred to You that…..?” – it HAS occurred to Him. His plans are perfect; they ALWAYS work out. Say “yes”. “Cast your cares upon Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)” “Have no anxiety at all, but by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philip 4:6-7)” Trust Him.


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About admin

I am a Catholic clinical psychologist with a solo practice in Omaha, NE. In the Franciscan seminary, I completed about 2/3rd of an M.Div./MA in Scripture. In my 3rd year of temporary vows, I discerned a call to the married life. My lovely wife Mary and I have a son, Michael, as well as a number of children preceding us to Heaven through miscarriages. We are delighted to be in the Omaha archdiocese and love the Heartland.
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