The best time to get run over in interstate traffic, I have decided, is the morning rush hour. Five mornings a week, I’m crossing town between 7:45 and 8:45 am and risking my life in the process. This morning, I was headed out of town for a meeting in Alexandria and noticed the same phenomenon in traffic headed the opposite direction. People are dying to get where they are going. I’ve come to a conclusion as to the root cause.
Some drivers are late to work or to class, some of afraid of being late, and the others are early and trying to stay that way. So they rush. They tailgate the motorist in front of them, they cut in front of the fellow to one side or the other who dares to leave a gap between him and the next car, and they dart in and out incessantly. A couple of miles up the road you notice they’re stuck in traffic in the lane to your right or left, all their frantic lane-jumping having done them absolutely no good.
The problem is not their car’s motor; it’s their own inner motor. Something inside them is racing, dying to get to their destination, and they either do not know how to control it or turn it off or, what’s just as probable, do not know that it’s even there. They rush out of habit.
Yesterday morning the car that was bullying everyone on the freeway pulled onto a side street in the direction I happened to be going, and one block later turned off into a driveway. They were just going home. I felt like stopping and asking, “What was all the rush about?”
I think I know the answer. Their answer to my question would be, “Huh? What rush?” They are not even aware what they’re doing. It’s a pattern, a really bad habit, they’ve fallen into. They get in their car and the anxiety kicks in and they have to beat everyone else on the highway.
It’s destructive, self-defeating, harmful to one’s health, even suicidal. It’s murder on their car, terrible on their tires, and a burden on their billfold. It endangers their families and the people in the other cars.
Let the city or parish install cameras at intersections to catch redlight-runners and they holler to high heaven, as though a sacred right of theirs has been taken away. They foolishly blame the rear end collisions on the officials who installed the cameras. Blame-placing, denial, anger—highway sports in America today.
Anxiety is a a problem we all deal with and a killer in a hundred ways. The highway is just one of locales.
Everyone deals with anxiety in its various manifestations. You start a new job and can’t sleep the night before. You have to leave town early tomorrow and afraid of oversleeping, you toss and turn tonight. You have an important painful confrontation tomorrow, so tonight’s rest is a total loss. Some would call it worry. It’s likewise a form of fear. One thing it is not is faith.
Anxiety is worry and fear on steroids. And whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
Meeting with a group of pastors, I threw this out to them: “Give me your best counsel. What do you do to fight anxiety?” Here are some of their answers.
1) Write it down. What is bothering you? What do you anticipate happening? Take paper and pen and write it down. You’ll be amazed at how puny your fears appear on paper.
2) Tell the Lord. Pray to Him. “Be anxious for nothing,” Paul told the Philippians. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God…shall keep your hearts….” (Phil.4:6)
The old hymn says, “Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted? Tell it to Jesus.”
3) Give yourself a good talking-to.
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7) “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” (Psalm 103:1)
In these and many other psalms, the Lord’s singer is engaging in a little exercise we call self-talk. “Hey, you. I’m talking to you, (insert name here). Straighten up there, mister. The Lord has been good to you. Settle down. Bless His name.”
Sometimes I will simply quote the words to the wonderful hymn, “It is well with my soul.” That could be just the reminder we need at that moment.
It works. Try it.
4) Laugh at it.
“The very idea of me being anxious! Ha. God has everything under control and I’m in His care. This is the enemy’s way of trying to neutralize me, and I’ll not let it happen.” So, laugh. Laugh out loud. You’ll be delighted to find what a tension-reliever laughter is.
If fears, worries, and anxieties are tools of the devil to paralyze us and rob us of our effectiveness, then laughing at these tools of the enemy is a great expression of faith.
5) Focus on the big picture. One of our pastors said, “When I get worried, I think of our Lord on the cross. My hurts and pains are nothing compared to His.” The 53rd chapter of Isaiah was the chapter he frequently focuses on at these times.
The Reader’s Digest told of a 93-year-old widow who was burdening her family with her worries about the future. She especially worried whether she had enough money to live on. Finally, her son pulled together all her financial records, did some calculating, and drove over to her retirement home. “Mom,” he said, “you have enough money to last you for the next 16 years.” The elderly woman did not bat an eye, but said, “Oh my, what will we do then?”
Some people are just going to worry and that’s all there is to it. But it does not have to be me and it shouldn’t be you. We can choose the way of faith and peace.
It’s strictly up to us.
I choose to believe.