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Bible Reflections View Comments

Stop Anxiety Before It Starts
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 2, 2014
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“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” Jesus puts this question to his listeners and we can almost picture them scowling a bit as though preparing to argue and then realizing the truth of what he’s saying.

We know that worry is more often than not completely pointless. And yet overcoming anxiety seems to be something that many of us struggle with our entire lives.

Infants grapple with separation anxiety, a sudden sense that the person they rely on for their very survival is suddenly no longer attached, not near enough to see, smell and touch. The seemingly vast emptiness around them is terrifying.

When we start school we have to deal with peer pressure and fitting into a social world that doesn’t revolve around us and our needs. Children adapt to this in different ways. In high school and college we’re anxious about tests and grades and having a social life. As young adults, we face concerns about starting a career, a family and all the responsibilities that go with making our way in the world.

As we move through middle age we begin to worry about health and retirement and younger people passing us up and dismissing us in the workplace. Then we retire and we worry that all our friends are dying and our families are too busy to care about us and we become acutely aware that death is just around the corner.

If all these things (and a hundred others) aren’t enough to worry about, many people struggle with free-floating anxiety and dread that grabs hold of them in the middle of the night and they find themselves worrying about something to which they can’t even put a name or face.

Sometimes anxiety becomes so much a part of us that when we’re not feeling worried and anxious, we worry that we’re not worrying. Anxiety can become a habit, and we all know how difficult it can be to break habits. It’s difficult to know what to tell people when they’re caught up in anxiety.

But one of the most effective things— whether for ourselves or others—is to simply stop the worry before it gets started. Whether we use a few words from Scripture or a quick prayer or just a few deep breaths, it can be enough. It may not always work. It might take some time before it becomes a habit.

We might also return to Jesus’s words in the Gospel. So much of what we worry about is in fact the very things he addresses with his first-century audience: food, clothing, shelter. Granted, these are the basic necessities of life. But it’s rare that most of us are truly without these, at least for any length o f time. We might wish they were more elaborate, fancier or tastier. But this isn’t cause for anxiety.

It’s no accident, I think, that Jesus sets the natural world against our material, production-oriented concerns. Study after study has shown that time spent in nature, even something as simple as looking out the window or stepping out the door, can calm our anxious minds and hearts.

The natural world is one of the clearest signs we have that the same God who set the planets—including our own blue marble—in motion continues to watch over us and provide for us. If we can focus on this, most of the things we dread will never happen. God will see to it.


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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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