In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says, “I want you to be free from anxieties” (I Cor. 7:32). Constant anxious concerns are characteristic of unredeemed existence. We often pray, “Deliver us Lord from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety.”
That’s quite a phrase: “Protect us from all anxiety.” What does that mean? Why are we asking God to protect us from anxiety? The obvious answer is that God doesn’t want us to become anxious. The Almighty wants to protect us from all harmful realities. Nevertheless, how does our faith in God keep us from becoming anxious?
What is anxiety? When we are becoming anxious about something, we become so concerned about that situation that it takes over our lives. It’s like someone else is living inside us, controlling us. When we are anxious, we have lost our freedom and our peace.
Is it unreal to think that we should be freed of all anxieties? This is what God wants for us if we believe that God is really a God of love and has our ultimate concerned in the Divine heart.
Trust is the only adequate response to anxiety. We are talking about a trust that is so deep that it goes beyond death. Jesus told us, “Do not worry about him who can destroy the body; fear him who can destroy even your soul.” This is a basic stance that Jesus has asked us to cultivate.
What is a basic stance? When we get away from our daily routine and arrive at a place where life is totally different, we see life from a different perspective. We often see the “big picture.” Well, we are talking about a horizon that we carry around with us, a trusting inner horizon. Something out of which we see everything.
Jesus had many strong emotions. However, below the surface of those emotions is the basic horizon that Jesus had. He was in touch with his Father through a deep trust. He also told us, “What good does it do to worry about our life. We cannot add one minute to our lives simply because we are worrying about losing our life” (Matt 6:27).
We do not fully understand all of life. There are too many contradictions, too many problems, too much evil. If we think that by developing our intelligence we will can finally shed light on everything that happens in the world and to ourselves, we are doomed to failure from the start.
I have always been impressed that the saints could spend so much energy on doing good for others and yet not be totally discouraged by the evil that they encountered so frequently in their ministry. It was because the horizon they were working out of was that of Jesus. They could see a horizon that looks beyond what with the human eye could see. They put on the mind of Christ.
How do we move toward this kind of freedom from anxiety? First, we must become aware of our anxiousness. Maybe we didn’t even know we were anxious. Start becoming aware of how much anxiety we carry around with us.
Secondly, what is our horizon? What is our basic stance out of which we see everything? This is not an easy question but one in which we must grapple.
Thirdly, we have to try to put on the mind of Christ. We can do this by getting to know Christ better and better through prayer, Scripture, discussion, meditation, wondering, reading, loving him. Our knowledge should not just be a head knowledge but a knowledge from the heart.
This vision of existence is a lifelong goal, but as followers of Jesus, we should not be afraid to seek it.