I could not begin to number the amount of times I’ve said with boldness that “pride” is the chief sin of man, the singular sin that brought about the fall, and that continues to bring about all the evils we see in the world. I still believe pride and self-centeredness is inherently destructive. However, after reflecting on the issues of my own heart, I wonder if another sin might not sit rather close to pride, if not sharing pride’s throne.
I’m incredibly anxious. I’ve seen anxiety work itself a myriad of ways in my heart. Frankly, I’m disgusted. Why? Because the anxiety I’m referring to may or may not be a technical definition, but who cares about definitions when the thing yet to be defined is destroying all it touches?
Anxiety as I experience it is multi-faceted. The most simple definition would be an uncontrollable fear of those things outside of my control. Whether we’re talking about people’s opinion, cataclysmic events, or anything in between, I’m anxious because I fear I won’t be dealt the hand I want. I have this belief that my life ought to go a certain way, and I fear to think it won’t go that way.
When I read Genesis 3 which describe the fall of man from his state of glory and communion with God, I wonder if at the moment of temptation there was both pride and anxiety. What if Adam and Eve thought, “What if I’m missing out on something better? What if this offer will take me to the ‘good life’?” While there is pride in those questions, there is also a great deal of anxiety. All was well when Adam and Eve understood their place within the cosmos. There was contentment. But, anxiety robs contentment by creating false realities built upon false hopes. In my journey I’ve watched contentment vanish precisely the same time when anxiety arrives. The most basic problem with anxiety is theological. I don’t trust God has my best in mind. In a real sense, though, that’s true. God does not have “my best” in mind.
Follow me here. . . I’d be willing to be that if I were to answer honestly about what I believe is “best” for me, I’d probably sound little (if any) different than a non-Christ following neighbor. I’d bet I’d include answers like life-long health, plenty money in the bank, successful children, a happy marriage, ability to travel the world, maybe even a vacation house? But, God’s best for me is likely a good deal like the life of Christ, who was “made perfect through suffering.” God’s best for me probably includes a continual process of humiliation. Others and their needs will likely rise in importance throughout my life. See what I mean?
My anxiety is that God’s best for me is not what I want as best. Yes, there’s pride there, but right next to pride is an anxiety that I cannot shake. I’m anxious about letting God be God.
I need not be however. God has what is best in mind for me. God’s best is himself. All the things of this life will fade, like summer fades into fall, then into the coldness of winter. Yet, God remains. His grace and love never change. And, He not only invites me to himself, but will use the whole of creation as means to rid me of my worldly attachments so that I might be free to rest in him.
So, how do I combat anxiety? Pray. St. Paul said “pray without ceasing.” Prayer is our journey of never forgetting who you are and who He is. That’s actually not an easy feat. I believe I struggle with anxiety because I don’t struggle enough to pray. Prayer is hard work. Praying is a labor. Yet, our greatest weapon against anxiety (or any evil) is by our prayerful, honest acknowledgement we don’t have it all together. We are invited to cast our cares on Him. When we do, we’ll find He cares for us.