Anxiety Optional

Today’s second reading from Philippians 4 says to have “no anxiety at all,” praise God, and “make your requests known to God.” Then we’ll have “the peace of God….”

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
“Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:67)

I think that’s a good idea: but it’s not the whole picture.

I could take that snippet, find a few more ‘uplifting’ bits and pieces, and get something like the ‘prosperity gospel.’

There’s a little truth in it, which may help explain its popularity a few decades back.

I don’t think any idea would get much traction without a little truth mixed in with not-so-reasonable appeals.

In the short run, I think feel-good faith can be as much fun as Watt’s “factitious airs.”

Having a good time is fine. Ignoring long-term consequences isn’t. (July 7, 2017)

The ‘prosperity gospel’ isn’t physically addictive. But I think it’s not a good idea.

I realize that everyone seeks truth, or should. My search eventually led me to become a Catholic. I think I made the right decision, and I must believe that God will reach folks who are still looking. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 838848, 2091, 2104, 2467)

On strictly secular grounds, I think the ‘prosperity gospel’ is a bad idea for anyone who isn’t completely delusional.

A lifetime filled with nothing but a succession of pleasant surprises and satisfied desires might be theoretically possible. Make that hypothetically.

But I think an utterly stress-free life is unlikely, at best. Trouble happens. Adding a crisis of faith to stress resulting from one of life’s rough patches seems unreasonable.

I also think short-term appeal is a poor substitute for principles that work in the long run. Not that there’s anything wrong with short-term appeal. Enjoying pleasure is a good idea, within reason.

So is paying attention to principles that were making sense long before my civilization’s current iteration began.1

Those principles haven’t changed, and won’t. How we apply them must change. Faith doesn’t mean living in the past, or shouldn’t, and that’s another topic. (June 18, 2017; February 5, 2017; August 14, 2016)

Pleasure and Moderation

Some folks act as if they see pleasure as basically bad. The idea isn’t popular now, but I’ve run into a few folks who apparently take it seriously.

I figure they’re sincere, and think they’re wrong.

I see where they could get the idea that cherophobia is a virtue.

Following Jesus includes taking or carrying a cross. Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; and Luke 14, 27 talk about that.

There’s wisdom in remembering that doing what’s right and making self-centered choices don’t mix.

But “blessed are the miserable, for they shall spread misery” isn’t a beatitude.

I think that doing what’s right benefits me. Eventually.

Often not the way I expected or wanted. Some ‘doing what’s right’ most likely won’t have any obvious advantage until after the Last Judgment. My track record hasn’t been even close to perfect, and that’s yet another topic.

Anyway, I think enjoying life’s pleasures while expecting occasional problems makes sense. “Good things” are fine, in moderation. (Catechism, 1809)

“Human beings beget mischief as sparks fly upward.”
(Job 5:7)

“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and provide themselves with good things from their toil. Even this, I saw, is from the hand of God.
“For who can eat or drink apart from God?”
(Ecclesiastes 2:2425)

Noticing Emotions

Getting back to Philippians 4, I think prayer and thanksgiving are good ideas. (Catechism, 25582597)

Having “no anxiety at all” — that’s a good idea, too. Within reason.

That may take some explaining.

I believe Philippians 4, and the rest of the Bible.

Ignoring Sacred Scripture isn’t an option. But my faith isn’t just about ‘me, the Bible, and God.’ (Catechism, 7495, 101133)

It’s not all about emotions, either. It’s a matter of balance and thinking.

Emotions are part of being human. There’s nothing wrong with them, by themselves. Not until I decide what I’ll do. (Catechism, 17621770)

Sometimes emotions tell me that I should pay attention to something. My job is noticing feelings, thinking about what’s happening, and making a reasonable decision. (Catechism, 1767)

I’ve learned that my feelings are unreliable guides. Thinking before I act is a good idea.

On the other hand, not having or admitting emotions could be a serious problem.2 Humanity’s track record for handling emotions and decisions is not at all good, and that’s yet again another topic. (Catechism, 17071709)

Believing AND Using My Brain

Even extreme apostles of temperance like hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation had a little truth behind their beliefs.

I think the same goes for advocates who want to legalize or ban potentially-dangerous substances and tech.

That doesn’t make them right.

Drinking too much coffee can lead to psychosis or make it worse. Way too much. Avoiding a caffeine overdose makes sense. Banning coffee, not so much. (July 10, 2016)

I think folks who fervently embrace extremes are missing the big picture. I don’t doubt their sincerity. I even ‘feel like’ supporting their causes. Sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, I prefer making sense.

On the whole, I like being a Catholic. Now. But feelings aren’t why I joined. (July 30, 2017)

I’d have little use for a faith that stopped making sense when all the light and color drains from the world. (July 2, 2017)

I see faith as my willing and conscious decision to embrace all of God’s truth. All of it, not just the parts I like. (Catechism, 142155)

My decision commits my “whole being” to God, including my thoughts. But I didn’t stop thinking. I decided who’s in charge. Faith is making a “‘full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals’….” (Catechism, 143, 154159; “Dei Verbum,” 5 (1965))

Basically, I decided that God is smarter than I am. When we have a difference of opinion, I’m the one who needs to learn. It’s a lesson I’m still learning. As Philippians 2:12 says, I’m ‘working out my salvation.’

Faith is easier when my emotions are in sync with my reason. So is acting like it matters. Emotions can act as signals, but “…conscience is a law of the mind….” I’ve got a brain. Part of my job is using it. (Catechism, 17771782)

I depend on God for my faith. (Catechism, 30, 142150, 156159, 274, 1706)

Good feelings make it easier, but aren’t at the core. I see them more as accessories.

Fretting and Facts

Anxiety, uneasiness about something that hasn’t happened yet, could be a useful signal: warning of trouble ahead.

Like any other emotion, anxiety isn’t bad by itself. It’s seen as a normal part of life.3

Sometimes anxiety won’t go away, or starts interfering with everyday activities.

Chronic anxiety, living in a perpetual panic, doesn’t make sense.

Not unless someone’s constantly faced with unavoidable peril. Even then, I think dialing down the emotional response would make sense. I’m pretty sure runaway emotions don’t encourage good decisions.

Chronic anxiety is also unhealthy, and can lead to other health problems. Sometimes it’s a symptom of another health issue.4 I don’t think ignoring out-of-control anxiety is a good idea.

Neither is encouraging it. Making myself miserable isn’t a virtue, and fretting won’t solve problems.

I’ve got plenty to fret about. But diving into the most sensational news coverage of death, disaster, woe and misfortune? That won’t help. Neither will fretting over folks reading sensational news.

I’m concerned about environmental issues and justice. I also think separating facts from opinions makes sense. (September 1, 2017; November 29, 2016)

So does remembering that good citizenship and neighbors matter. (October 2, 2017; September 10, 2017; July 24, 2016)

Trust, Praise, and Prescriptions

Decades of undiagnosed depression and life’s occasional rough patches gave me opportunities to think about health, faith, and making sense.

I think being healthy is better than the alternatives.

Life and health are “precious gifts” from God. Taking care of them, within reason, makes sense. (Catechism, 2288, 2278)

In my case, that includes correcting neural glitches with prescribed meds.

One of them is addictive: something I’d never touch otherwise. I knew this before starting. I think it was a reasonable decision. (July 7, 2017; July 2, 2017)

I don’t see taking reasonable care of my health as ‘not trusting God.’ It’s more like taking care of the brain and body God gave me.

I certainly don’t think God rewards good behavior with good health, and smites sinners with sickness. (August 21, 2016)

My faith comes with no guarantee of an untroubled life. We are told, however, that praising and trusting God make sense.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.”
(Psalms 23:4)

“You are my hope, Lord; my trust, GOD, from my youth.”
(Psalms 71:5)

“Praise the LORD, my soul; I will praise the LORD all my life, sing praise to my God while I live.”
(Psalms 146:2)

That works for me.

More, mostly about feelings and making sense:

1 I matter, but it’s not ‘all about me:’

2 Emotions, normal and otherwise:

3 Just plain anxiety:

4 Not-so-plain anxiety:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
This entry was posted in being Catholic and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Anxiety Optional

  1. Peggy Haslar says:

    Works for me too! Thank you.

  2. I guess it’s easy to jump up and down and wave one’s hands in the air praising God when things go well in life. But when things go wrong and our faith can’t take it any more. What then? Does God frown upon or punish those with a weak faith when they crumble under pressure?

    God bless.

Thanks for taking time to comment!