Monday, November 26, 2012

Coping With Anxiety

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  -- Philippians 4:6 (ASV)
One of the easiest things in the world that I find to do is to be anxious.  My father was a worry-wort and claimed it to be a great spiritual gift by saying worry was a form of prayer.  I have known many worriers.  Almost all claim it is inherited from their parents.  Many claim to be from a long line of worriers.  The fact is we are not born worrying, we LEARN worrying from those around us.  We learn to worry and fear what is out of our control.  Worry creates stress which begets anxiety and before we know it some doctor is handing us anti-depressants and tranquilizers.  Worry, stress, and anxiety put a tremendous weight on our bodies to cope -- often this weight is literal.  Many writers of the Holy Bible speak indirectly of this physical damage to our bodies and souls from worry, and they offer the answer.  Worry is a sad condition considering that often the very people who lead us to faith in God are also the ones teaching us to worry.

Paul says the cure for being anxious is to put that all aside and focus on praying with "supplication and thanksgiving."  Supplication is not a common word in the modern English language.  Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible talks about supplication this way:
Supplication - continuance in earnest prayer. With thanksgiving, for innumerable favors already received; and for dangers, evils, and deaths turned aside. And let your souls be found in this exercise, or in the disposition in which this exercise can be performed, at all times, on all occasions, and in all places.
When we are told to pray earnestly and continually many find a problem with it.  I think many of us equate prayer with petitioning God and wonder how much petitioning one can find to do "continually."   YET, we can worry the same thoughts over and over for hours on end and it seems "normal?"  Paul, I think, is suggesting that we find a way to "repeat play" God's assurances over and over in place of the worries.  Place your heart and anxiety on God and stay on God for your focus.  There are at least a couple of ways to work at this goal.  

First, we can learn verses from the Bible and say them to ourselves over and over.  Each time they are said our brains hear it and grow to accommodate the tone and belief.  Modern science tells us this retrains our "neuro-pathways" so the habit of worrying and feeling anxious is changed.

The second is repeating a short prayer over and over.  An ancient prayer of the church is, "Lord Jesus Christ, son of David, have mercy on me."  The Lord's Prayer can be said.  The rosary can be said.  You can make up your own prayer that resonates with you.  Listing things you are grateful for like, "Lord, thank you for __________," can fill a day all by itself. 

Thank you Lord for season changes, for the beauty of your creation, for life, and help, and daily food.  Amen.

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