Saturday, July 3, 2010


Fr. Dale Matson
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1st Peter 5:7)

Anxiety is defined differently than fear. Fear generally has an object, immediacy and a means of avoidance. Anxiety is more of an uneasiness, an apprehension about the future and a sense of the unavoidable. Anxiety is often associated with depression. While Depression is often the primary diagnosis, Anxiety may be the presenting problem. While depression gets “top billing” and treatment dollars, it is anxiety that takes the quality and the could-have-been out of far more lives than depression. Anxiety extinguishes dreams and paralyzes plans. It is the primary ingredient in the opposite of the Peter Principle. Most people will not become who they could be.
Anxiety rubs against our thoughts until it creates an open wound in the soul. To some extent we do it to ourselves. We fail in the basics of eating, exercising and resting. Some dither until they must rush. Some multitask, doing nothing well. Some become addicted to frenzied activity in an effort to fill a life devoid of meaning with substitutes.
We also live in a virtual world that does not wait for us to catch up. We are simply inundated with information beyond our ability to process and absorb it. We are suffering from virtual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How many times have we seen the jet airliners fly into the twin towers of the World Trade Center? How many times have you seen the seemingly unstoppable crude oil bubbling from the well deep in the ocean headed toward pristine beaches and fragile estuaries? We no longer live in small isolated communities. We live on and experience a planet’s worth of trauma. We brace for hurricanes and blizzards days in advance with some never arriving. We are informed by scientists that there could be an asteroid that would collide with our earth and we would all perish. Anxiety makes us cautious. Everything we buy including the morning coffee comes with a warning label.
We have a world’s worth of trauma delivered to our home and portable viewing screens twenty four seven with updates on the ten. We are like BP. We cannot plug the leak so how do we survive the spill? At its core, Anxiety is an ego state. It is the ego awfulizing at the prospect that it may perish. It is an existential drama where the individual is continually in a state of “What if”? It is the ego trying to control what cannot be controlled. The worst part of anxiety is that we have no control yet we are responsible. We are shocked no matter where we jump to in the cage. We cannot avoid or escape the shock.
Anxiety is not an uppercut to the jaw. It is a series of body blows that wears us down. It masks the ego vulnerability and manifests itself as road rage, frigidity, autoimmune disorders, social isolation and self medicated fugue states. It is the primary disease of self and the prognosis is morbid. The prescription is divestment of self not destruction of self. It is time to step off the throne of self and surrender to God. We must stop trying to be God. We are vulnerable because life is all about us, our wants and needs. It is our ego that requires applause.
Instead, we must put ourselves in the least honored place, the place of the servant. It is not about acquisition. It is about pouring ourselves out on behalf of others. How much of our time, talent and treasure is wasted building an edifice of straw to ourselves. Our legacy is those we have helped not a curriculum vitae filled with self promotion. The self we keep propping up and defending is a golden calf and a false god. We have fashioned ourselves into idols. We are not only idolaters; we are the worst kind of idolaters because we are the idols we worship.
As St. Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit has told us, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). So what is the release from this prison of anxiety? It is the decision to die to self and live for Christ, for He is our authentic self. It is not our story. It is His story and He is the author. I believe this is not something that happens overnight. It is a daily giving over of ourselves to Christ. Sometimes it is expedited by a “Dark Night of the Soul” like Cancer or the death of a child. It is something I struggle with too but less so as I age in Christ and the new man comes forth. Each time there is anxiety, we can ask ourselves, “Is it my ego that I am defending here?”. If it is then let go and let God as someone said. Amen

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6).


Sibyl said...

To reinforce your last point about letting go, in the Scripture, "Be still and know that I am GOD." (Psalm 46:10), the Hebrew word for 'be still' is 'Rapha' means to let go, lie back, cease, even decease, and is close kin to the word heal.

Jehovah Rapha is our healer and our deliverer from anxiety and care, our burden bearer. In my experience, worship/communion with God (in prayer, Scripture, song/Psalms and in real Christian fellowship) has been the only relief from anxiety, fear, etc.

We really are sheep. Sheep cannot carry heavy physical or emotional burdens, cannot right themselves when they fall, are prone to wander, cannot find their way home, are vulnerable to predators and pestilence...need the protection and oversight of a strong wise caring Shepherd.

Dale Matson said...

Wonderfully said, informed and insightful. Peace to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It helped me. Peace to you.