Today's sermon was on letting go of worry.
Not that I would have had any reason to listen to that particular sermon..... ;)
According to our pastor, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder; anxiety disorders are the number one mental health concern in the country, surpassing substance abuse and depression. Even though we are now living longer, living better, and have more access to the 'benefits' of the world, the amount of anxiety in our culture has multiplied 10 times in the last forty years.
None of that is any surprise to me.
I have battled bouts of depression, anxiety, and OCD for the majority of my life. Luckily, these issues have only interfered with my life in minor ways. Except for when my stress and exhaustion levels are at extreme highs, I can normally mitigate the effects of these issues on my daily living.
But still, I suffer from anxiety. I worry, I over think, I let concern for things that have happened, are happening, or could happen consume my thoughts and detract from living in the moment.
During my vacation this week, I was given the opportunity to see the Blue Man Group at Universal. Not only that, we upgraded to the VIP package for less than what a normal ticket would have cost us (Thanks Jason-the-ticket-salesman). In the VIP lounge was an electronic sign with a scrolling commentary. Hilarious (particularly after consuming alcohol), but also thought provoking. Our favorite train of thought regarded living in the moment. Can you really be in the moment and simultaneously be aware that you are living in the present without concern for the future? As amusing as it was reading an electronic sign argue with itself about this fact, it struck a chord with me the entire the rest of the trip. I struggle with being in the moment. I struggle with letting myself relax and enjoy my surroundings without immediately jumping to what is coming up.
Our pastor today spoke on worry and how it consume our lives. This is not to say that healthy concern is not beneficial. We get through life by planning ahead and focusing ourselves when need be. Rather, his argument was that when our focus shifts from productive planning to obsessive worry, we give ourselves over to the anxiety. He states "You will never get to worry-free living by trying to change the circumstances of your life". Problems are always going to be there, rather it is how we handle our selves in that situation, and the power we give our emotions that will influence our emotional stability.
Worry comes from focusing on the problems, and letting a desire for control become crippling fear in our daily lives.
Interestingly enough (or at least I think so), I recently read in a book (When bad things happen to good people) a statement on how human beings are the only creature truly aware of our own mortality. The argument the author mentions, and I would expand upon, is that it is this awareness that makes us human, and gives us the opportunity to truly appreciate life.
I sunk into a bout of depressed mood when I got back from vacation. After the high of those three days, feeling relaxed and free, truly enjoying myself, to come back to the humdrum of reality was stark and unforgiving. Life felt hollow and meaningless, and I was increasingly aware of how unhappy I am with my present circumstances. However, it is because of the direct contrast of vacation and reality that I can appreciate the fun that I had. If every day of my life was easy, free, and fun, without a care or worry, I would not have appreciated my time in Orlando the same way.
In the same way, it is in going through the struggles and pains of life that grants us the ability to appreciate when things are good. You can't understand hot without cold, light without dark, in the same way a life without pain is also a life without appreciation of pleasure.
It is the knowledge of our own mortality that gives us the ability to search for meaning elsewhere, and to fully embrace the love of God. Matt 6:26 states that we should not be worried about our daily lives, just as the birds of air and flower of the field are not concerned. I agree that we should not let stress about the every day trials take away from our ability to fulfill our purposes, but I would argue that the very mortality awareness that makes this concern a reality is also the very thing that allows us to commune with our creator. Birds do not worry about their next meals, because they are not aware that if they do not eat they will die. However, birds can also not appreciate the way God fulfills their needs and provides for their wants in the same way people can.
Human Consciousness is the key to humanity, and what simultaneously drives our need and offers proof of a spiritual eternity. I have to wonder if our need for immorality, through long life, legacy building, "making a difference", is truly just an indicator of our eternal souls' responses to being contained in a temporary confinement.
I tend towards the worrying side of the spectrum. I let myself think about all the things that could go wrong, and obsessively plan for how I would handle them if they were to pop up in my lives. I do think having a back up plan and being prepared is important, however I'm getting sick and tired of letting that fear dictate my life. The pastor started the sermon by asking "what are you worried about?" and a list came flooding to my mind. I'm tired of that.
So I'm making a pact, with myself, to shift my focus. If the power of worry truly comes from letting our frustrations and concerns become the primary focus of our thoughts, than I am changing what I spend my time concentrating on. First off? Making a point to list the things I am thankful for. To allot more awareness for the blessings I have in life, and the positive things coming my way, than the things I am scared about.
It won't be easy, particularly as I go for my wisdom teeth removal in five days. But it's needed.
So here, for today, are the things that stick out in my mind for which I am grateful.:
1) My amazing family, particularly my parents, who have always loved and supported me. Who are constant presences in my life, and go out of their way to make sure I know I am not alone.
2) For friends, all over the globe at this point, who seek me out and save me from myself when I need it.
3) Florida Football, and the ability to enjoy watching a team grow and struggle, but come out triumphant.
4) That despite the trials and tribulations of my current situation, I have the resources and support to face everything that comes my way.
Thankfulness is the best way to combat worry, a far as I am concerned, and I intend to be deliberate in my discipline for as long as I am able.