The following blog post is written by guest writer, Kim Shippey.
The June 12 edition of ABC TV’s Good Morning America cautiously asked: “Are we living in an age of anxiety?” The program referenced several studies concluding that forty million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety. It also noted that Google searches into anxiety have doubled in the past eight years.
“This is not fluff,” warned ABC’s senior medical correspondent, Jennifer Ashton. “It’s a legitimate medical and psychological condition, and a top mental health concern, greater even than depression.”
Ashton went on: “Watch your environment. Find relaxation techniques, including meditation. Drop the stigma and seek help. Keep the lines of communication open.”
Those lines of communication have been opened up in a new book by journalist Andrea Petersen, which I am not anxious to read: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety (Crown, 2017).
She apparently deals with the kind of anxiety that is all the rage these days, and that might be largely related to the ubiquity of information at our fingertips, our excessive consumption of such information 24/7, and the difficulty in assessing whether it’s true or false.
At worst, suggests Petersen, such anxiety paralyzes people, and at its mildest still sabotages them from living fully and joyfully.
So how can we break through this gloom? How can we live fearless lives and find pure joy?
Dr. Ashton provided direction of a kind when she spoke of meditation and open lines of communication—though I prefer to use the word prayer, and the phrase oneness with God—which confirms our bond with our heavenly Father-Mother.
My study of Christian Science has taught me that anxiety over the outcome of human hopes can make us thoroughly miserable if we don’t counteract those hopes with the truth that God is infinite Love and that every moment of our lives is under Love’s control.
I have found that the recognition of this spiritual truth removes any personal sense of existence. Our everyday tasks lose their intensity and we experience an essential change of consciousness.
We rest in the scientific understanding of our unity with God, dwelling, as a well-loved hymn puts it, in Love that cannot change. There, as William McKenzie writes, “from anxious fear man finds release; no more his homeless longings range, God keepeth him in perfect peace” (The Christian Science Hymnal, No. 93).
But one of my favorite spiritual solutions lies in the Bible story of two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha (see Luke chapter 14). Martha was the epitome of anxiousness—“careful and troubled about many things,” yet lacking the one thing Mary had recognized and that Jesus had said was needful—the “good” part, a joyful life of intimacy with his character and teachings that would flow naturally into loving service.
Service was what Martha seemed keen to offer yet, like so many people today, she struggled with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy. Conclusion: We should try Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (the title of a book by Joanna Weaver, published by WaterBrook in 2007.)
How, then, do we find the time to follow Mary to the feet of Jesus? asks Weaver. How do we choose the better part and still get done what really has to get done?
She suggests that we explore the intimacy that Jesus encourages us to share: “He invites us to know him, to see him so clearly, that when we look upon him, we see the face of God as well.”
I would add that it was Jesus who insisted that we need not be anxious (see Matthew 6:25-34), which, as Smith College professor Carol Zaleski said in a June 27 Christian Century column, amounted to a command: “We are simply being ordered not to worry—an impossible task were we not simultaneously given the grace to fulfill it.”
And that grace, she added, flows from Jesus’ own assurance (John 14:27, NIRV): “I leave my peace with you. I give my peace to you. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid.“
No room for anxiety there!