I’m not a theologian. I enjoy loud rock and fast cars and cable TV. I don’t avoid swearing, drinking, good sex, or occasionally off color jokes. I’m not holy or somehow more devout than anyone else. I do believe that Christianity is the best possible path to God.
I think most of the time, other self-identified Christians actually make it harder to make sense of the wisdom written in the Bible because they over-simplify it, or they use some but not all and twist it to their desires. Life is not simple and the Bible isn’t either; when someone tries to make it so, it ends up insulting to everyone involved, and most particularly God.
I am also a professional worrier. Some of this is natural talent, and a lot of it is the byproduct of having lived through domestic violence. Either way, I kick ass at what-ifs and completely suck at kicking back. This was a useful trait back when I was a project manager or quality assurance auditer; it isn’t so useful now.
To my panic attacks, I also add guilt because the Bible tells me I shouldn’t worry, so does my worrying make me a – gulp – bad Christian??
There are problems with a little old lady patting me on the hand and telling me to not worry, and worse yet, if I had Real Faith and Trust in God, I would never worry about a thing. One of these problems is the inherent smugness of someone belittling my personal terror. (And by the way, isn’t that act of “comfort” judgmental in its dismissiveness?) I hate this blithe and idiotic notion that I willingly worry.
God is not Santa Claus and my praying to Him asking Him to whisk away what I don’t like and just give me what I want is not going to work. I need to be attentive to my life so that I can participate in it; life is not something I should sit by and watch. But how do I balance a readiness for action against unnecessary anxiety?
There has got to be some middle area between freaking out and tra-la-laing through one’s day, oblivious to the signs of pain and suffering and injustice in the world. Being reassured to “not worry” isn’t a get out of responsibility free card. We still need to tend to the gardens of our lives, in all the good and unpleasant tasks which that involves. I think it means: “Don’t panic.” I freely acknowledge, though, that I have never been able to understand how to not panic.
I don’t *want* to worry too much, but it would be psychotic of me to pretend that the serious challenges in my life aren’t serious, and in some cases, life threatening. Ignoring these facts is not trusting in God, it’s magical thinking. Not only is that just stupid, but I don’t think it’s what Christ meant in Matthew 6:31-34.
I don’t think, as far as I can tell, that God is trying to belittle our real reasons for worry in this life: illness, bereavement, vulnerability, and pain. I think the passage in Matthew is meant to reassure us, much like the Beatitudes discussed a couple of days ago here, and to point us in the direction of trust and fearlessness towards which He would like us to go.
As for how to take that advice: well, I worry about that, too.