As members of the human race, we often experience anxiety in our lives. This is true in our relationships, be it a worker/co-worker relationship, or a father/child relationship, among many others. This is also true if you are among the poor of the world and you do not know how you are ever going to properly care for yourself and your family. One example in my own life is a worker/co-worker incident that occurred several years ago. I was being upfront concerning my feelings about a particular aspect of my job when a co-worker challenged me on my forthrightness, implying that I was boasting and that it made him look inferior. It stung me deeply and I still feel the pain some three years later.
What did Jesus say about anxiety? I think two good places to look in Scripture are Mat 6: 25-34 and Luke 10: 38-42. In the story from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says “… do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear.” He goes on to say that life is more than food and the body more that clothing. He says “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides.” In the story from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus and his followers are guests in the house of Martha and Mary, who were sisters. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening attentively to what Jesus had to say, while Martha was “burdened with much serving.” Martha was experiencing extreme anxiety about the situation and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the serving. Jesus told her “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Attentiveness to the teachings of Jesus (the kingdom of God, righteousness and prayer) should apparently be the most important factor when dealing with stress. It reminds me of the legend of Saint Francis of Assisi and the wolf of Gubbio. As the story goes, an enormous wolf was terrorizing the region around Gubbio and Saint Francis decided to meet up with the wolf face to face. He did so, and despite the wolf being poised to attack, Saint Francis spoke to the animal saying “Come to me, brother wolf, and in Christ’s name I command you not to harm me or anybody.” Immediately the wolf became like a lamb and laid himself at the feet of the saint.
The wolf in the story is anything that makes us anxious. The response of Saint Francis represents the teaching of Jesus Christ. If we face our anxieties with trust in God, they will do us no harm. Amen.