We are in the season of Lent, a period of 40 days before Easter when Christians traditionally lament over their sins and then, in response, choose something to give up such as chocolate or Facebook or alcohol. The idea is to daily turn away from what distracts us or derails us and turn back to God. Instead of giving up something for Lent, this year I encourage you to let go and let God. This material was first published in 2016; you can see how much worse the problem has gotten in 2020.
She was anxious, that’s for certain! She was eager to fly to another state for a weekend visit, but the weather forecast was promising several inches of snow. She was worried about the flight being canceled or delayed and about missing her connecting flight. And everyone who came in the room added to her apprehension with their own weather-related flight disaster stories – including me. And yet no one, least of all my friend, could do anything about the situation. She would just have to wait until the next morning to see how much snow had fallen and where and then make her decisions.
We all experience anxiety and its first cousins: uneasiness, apprehension, fretfulness, dread. We know the feeling of “butterflies in the stomach” and we are pros at pacing back and forth. Intellectually, we know that our inability to set aside a worry about an imminent event or about something with an uncertain outcome will only make our lives more difficult. So where does all this inner turmoil get us? Nowhere!
Anxiety is different from fear. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat and provokes the famous fight or flight reflex. Anxiety is the expectation of and usually an overreaction to a real or imagined future threat – a discomfort that is hard to set aside. We can choose to dwell in the world of anxiety, or we can look at what our Master Trainer, Jesus, did. We don’t read about him pacing the floor or even expressing verbal concern – except in the Garden just before his arrest. And then what did Jesus do with his anxiety? He let go of it and gave it to his Father.
In his book The Good and Beautiful Life, (p. 184-5), James Bryan Smith recommends this soul-training exercising for letting go of anxiety:
- Set aside ten or 15 minutes each morning
- Reflect on the things you are anxious about.
- Write each one in a journal or notebook
- Ask yourself what you can do about each of the situations.
- Make a note to yourself to do the things you can do
- Turn everything else over to God.
- Write your request to God and be specific.
The answer to anxiety is to turn your cares into prayers. Seeing your worries from God’s perspective will put your concerns in a new light. Remember, too, that you live in the unshakable Kingdom of God; no matter what happens you are safe. Remember that God’s strength and power are available as you pray. Remember that you do not have to be burdened by anxiety. You can choose to walk away from anxiety and leave it with God who will bury it in the farthest sea.