Pastor’s Blog: Do Not Be Anxious!

Many years ago, a Lutheran pastor and counselor told a story about how anxiety works.

A father’s daughter was on a date with a nice young man, and the expected time home was made clear before the young man left with his daughter to go to the movies. This was his oldest child, and it was a first time to have a child leave the home in a car driven by a young man, whom the family knew very well.

Throughout the time his daughter was away, the father was nervous as to whether she was safe and would be OK. As the expected time for her return grew near, the father felt tension in his neck and shoulders. At the moment she was supposed to be home, the father was listening closely for the sound of the car pulling into the family driveway. But no car arrived.

At first, the father thought, “Well, they probably were not paying as close attention to the time as I have been.” Then, after ten more minutes, his nerves were on edge. He wondered if they might have had a flat tire or run out of gas. After five more minutes, he began to panic that the daughter and her date had been in an automobile accident. After another five minutes, he began to be angry, thinking the worst about the young man and what advantages he might have tried to take concerning his daughter.

When the car finally pulled into the driveway, twenty-five minutes late, the father said: “I will not overreact. There is probably a perfectly good explanation for what happened. I will be reasonable. I will listen first before expressing how concerned I have been and how they ought to have phoned me to let me know why they were running late. I will not get emotional. I will be calm. I will be in control.”

But when the front door opening, the father shouted: “Where in the hell have you two been? And what have you been up to?”

Anxiety is a twin of fear. The anxious person thinks he or she is being reasonable, but, in fact, he or she has emotions so excited that the capacity for rational thought often goes out the window. Like the father in the story, the anxious person pieces together his or her wildest fears of what could happen and sews it all together into a narrative that is not based on anything but suppositions and what-ifs.

There are, of course, some people who live from crisis to crisis as if life were a soap opera. They have a magnificent ability to create dramas wherever they go. Once you know that about a person, you pray for him or her, and you don’t overreact … unless, of course, that person pushes your buttons.

Our Lord Jesus tells us not to be anxious. We are to pray and to seek what God wants and not what we want. When we are dealing with anxiety or fear, we bring that into God’s presence consciously, saying, “Dear Father, you know that I am feeling anxious (or I am afraid), please help me to trust you are in charge and will not let me go. Help me to live in the moment and, with your Holy Spirit’s help, to let go of those things over which I have no control. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When we practice the faith, by praying daily, worshiping and communing weekly, reading the Bible, having spiritual friendships, serving at and beyond our congregation, and giving generously of the resources our heavenly Father has placed in our hands to manage, we have the right habits and the growing spiritual maturity to let go and trust the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will handle things well!

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

szumwalt

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 43 years and in May 2019 celebrated the 38th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (www.societyholytrinity.org). In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.