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.
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6 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.

  3. Allan says:

    “Having a good time is fine. Ignoring long-term consequences isn’t.”

    WHICH CAN’T BE IDENTIFIED ESPECIALLY WHEN AT THE HEIGHTS OF PLEASURE ON SIN.

    “Enjoying pleasure is a good idea, within reason”

    THAT’S VAGUE, BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME PLEASURES THAT OTHERS ARE ENJOYING WHICH THEY FEEL AS SOMETHING WITHIN REASON, BUT AREN’T WHEN TAKEN BY OTHERS. FOR EXAMPLE, SOME SIBLINGS INSIDE OUR HOME ENJOY SINGING AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS BUT SOME SHOW OPPOSITION, Lol!

    “Faith is easier when my emotions are in sync with my reason”

    IT CAME TO A POINT IN MY PERSONAL ENCOUNTER THAT NO MATTER HOW STUBBORN AM I IN SUCCUMBING TO MY NEGATIVE EMOTIONS, I ENDED UP RETURNING TO MY FAITH WHICH IS REALIGNING TO GOD’S WILL BECAUSE THE LATTER IS PLEASURABLE THAN THE FORMER.

    “I certainly don’t think God rewards good behavior with good health, and smites sinners with sickness”

    CERTAINLY GOD DOES, BECAUSE WHEN I YIELD TO HIS HOLY WORD NOT TO ENGAGE IN HOMOSEXUALITY WHICH IS MY SEXUALITY ISSUE, I’M MORE AT PEACE WITH MY INNER SELF BECAUSE I DON’T ACQUIRE ANY HEADACHE CAUSED BY ITS DOMINO-EFFECTS – AND ANY SIN FOR THAT MATTER.

    • I agree. Avoiding temptations to sin is a good idea. I don’t think clearly when I’m caught up in the short-term pleasures which make sin appealing. “Within reason” is vague.

      I am very glad to see that you appreciate the value of forgiveness. Very glad, indeed.

      About being vague: yes, I am. I also try to make these posts readable, which is why I am sometimes vague. Or excessively brief.

      “Within reason” is a very short way of summarizing my attitude – I use the phrase, and others like it, to express ideas and still keep these posts down to a few thousand words.

      I assume that anyone who reads “within reason” and wonders what I mean, or what the idea is, will either use this blog’s tag cloud or – better yet – something like Google to either find other references in what I write, which would answer the ‘what does this guy mean?’ question; or learn what the Church has to say on the topic, which I think would be a more useful effort.

      I am glad that you are more at peace with your inner self. I hope and trust that I will experience inner peace, eventually. In my case it is very much a work in progress. I also hope for the sort of emotional pleasure you refer to, again eventually. I trust that I will experience it, but but cannot reasonably expect it now or even in the immediate future.

      The inside of my head is, metaphorically speaking, a mess. Some of the damage is my doing, well-intentioned work by a teenager operating alone and without knowledge of what little had been learned about the brain and mind. I make no excuses, it happened and I did it. Part of my job now is dealing with that damage.

      That is, I realize, also vague. I have not written about much of what happened and my efforts to cope. Many key memories are either missing or lost, those that are available are very painful. Again, I have no excuses. What I did, I did. Discussing it in any detail is something which I may do, if I live long enough and find a way to put my thoughts in order. That has not happened yet, but I return to the task occasionally.

      About your last point, a trifle less vaguely than in this post:

      God smiting sinners and rewarding good people – – – I think that happens. I am sure that God is just.

      One of my habitual sins was drinking. Getting a hangover because I drank too much alcohol seems to me like a temporal consequences of that sin. (Catechism 1264) I can realize that the effect has as its secondary cause interaction of what I consumed with my body’s metabolism without forgetting that God creates my body and the rest of the visible world, and is the Primary Cause.

      I was also born with defective hips and – almost certainly – neurological defects which let me experience an autism spectrum disorder. An extremely traumatic event occurring when I was 12 started decades of depression, as well as PTSD and probably other effects.

      I could decide that I am a terrible sinner, and have been since conception. Or that God is smiting me for something my parents did. Or maybe the Almighty is finally getting around to smiting someone for a bereaved family keeping a “spirit photograph” several generations back. Or that my psychiatric issues are payback for the Viking raid on Lindisfarne.

      The first point, that God created me as a terrible sinner, might make sense in one of the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” spinoffs. I am, however, a Catholic. I must acknowledge my own sins, keep trying to avoid them, and asking forgiveness when I fail to do so. I must also acknowledge responsibility for sins committed by others if I cooperate in them. (Catechism, 1734, 1868) But I do not see an obligation to believe that I must be punished for sins committed several generations before I was conceived.

      I am, however, required to believe that I live in a world where we all experience consequences of a sin committed by the first of us – The Catechism starts discussing that at 388, and it’s not the “Angry God” version. I assume that Jonathan Edwards may have meant well, but that doesn’t make him right.

Thanks for taking time to comment!