I hear a lot about anxiety disorders in children. After all I have 465 of them in my school, and a good number of them are on one medication or another. That’s so common these days we hardly think about it. In our homily at All Saints this morning, Fr. Davidson shared from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount – “Don’t be anxious…” Here are four things I heard:
1 – Get to know God better through prayer, Bible reading and worship. God may not fit our pre-conceived notions either as a harsh judge, or someone “out there” playing a big game of “gotcha” when you’re trying to have fun. Allowing ourselves to be shaped by the Scriptures and the faith community is better for the soul.
2 – Break enslavement to possessions by giving to the poor. Alms-giving is a little-known aspect of Christian piety, but the Church has encouraged it from the beginning (no, the money the government takes from you to fund welfare with your taxes doesn’t count). The point is that most of us are enslaved in some fashion to our possessions, and we worry about them. Billionaires worry as much as middle class soccer moms. And did you know that heroin use is up 400% among white middle class women over the last ten years? Wow. That’s a symptom of a growing problem with anxiety and pressure. By giving to others less fortunate than ourselves we can not only bless them, we can receive by faith the truth that the birds of the air and the lilies of the field really are less important to God than we are.
3 – Have a financial plan. That means no debt. Overcoming anxiety is not a matter of carelessness. Jesus didn’t say that we shouldn’t plan. The Proverbs send us to the ant to observe provident behavior, noting how she lays up food for the winter, and does it with high efficiency with no apparent captain to tell everybody what to do. Don’t have a plan? Make one. Need a will? Get one. You do have a future. Get about creating it thoughtfully.
4 – Finally, tithe to your church. Seeking first the kingdom of God is message about getting priorities straight and subordinating our personal kingdoms to what God is doing in the world. The work of God does not go forward without the support and the means that God’s own people provide from what he first gives to them. The Bible teaches this from cover to cover.
Feeling anxious? Maybe your body needs some medication, but you’ll have to see your doctor about that. It could be, however, that you’re suffering from something deeper. Before you make that doctor’s appointment, consider that your soul might need better habits of Christian piety.