St. Francis de Sales famously declared: “Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul EXCEPT sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”
Feeling judged at all? Who chooses to be anxious? Note that St. Francis says EXCEPT sin. It is not a sin to be anxious, but if the devil is unable to tempt us into breaking our relationship with God then the devil is content to turn our focus away from Christ and the love of others and onto our fears - our world becomes very small.
Just the other week we heard in our second reading, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil. 4:6-9).
St. Paul would not need to keep reminding his audience to “have no anxiety” if they were not suffering from it. How are we to respond to the avalanche of very real concerns, both personal and in our broader world, that confront us daily?
We are invited to consider what the Lord is asking us to do in the present moment, who are the people and what are the tasks in front of us, and to be faithful to them. Writing after the atomic bomb was created and many were living in fear, C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching…not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies, but they need not dominate our minds.”
There is a place in our lives for news of the world, but perhaps far less than most of us consume. It is one thing to learn of, say, the status of the Holy Land, and another entirely to spend hours watching footage of the recent attacks. The first might well motivate us to pray, but the second only feeds anxiety.
We all need an identity check, to remember that we are not the Savior. We grow in our ability to live with uncertainty precisely by being faithful to our duty to love God and love our neighbor in challenging times. When we are afraid, Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts. And we have two choices: we can worry about our problems, or we can open the door and let Him into our lives. One option brings misery, the other brings peace and eternal life. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Rev 3:20).