“When anything disagreeable happens, remember it comes from God and say at once, ‘This comes from God’ and be at peace.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
As the author of A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible, I often speak about fear. When I give my “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” talk at parishes, I meet many people who are chronic worriers and want to know how to stop. Fortunately, the answer to this question is simple. There is a very basic reason why we worry. The good news is that, although it requires work on our part, the battle against anxiety is definitely winnable.
The answer to fear is faith. When we worry, it’s because we don’t trust in God’s providence. If we truly believed that “everything works for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28), then even a job loss, cancer diagnosis or the sudden death of a spouse would not rattle us. Why? Because we would believe that everything that happens in our life is for our best. In his book, Uniformity With God’s Will, St. Alphonsus Liguori states that God only wills our good and that if we encounter suffering, it will help us to achieve eternal life. Accepting that fact will bring us great peace. Many illustrations of this way of thinking can be found in the pages of the Bible. When encouraged by his wife to curse God because of the negative things happening to him, Job proclaimed, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) Saint Paul not only embodies this philosophy, but points out the redemptive power of suffering with his proclamation, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church.” (Col 1:24) While in no way is Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary lacking, He allows us (as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church) to assist Him in His redemptive mission by uniting our suffering with His.
So what’s the solution to anxiety? If fear is caused by lack of faith, how can we correct the problem? Furthermore, doesn’t the knowledge that our faith is weak cause even more anxiety? Here’s what we have to remember. When we were baptized, we received the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. We have to do our part to ensure that these virtues grow stronger each day. How is that accomplished? Through prayer, reading the Bible, receiving the Sacraments and by asking for an increase in these virtues each day. When was the last time you asked the Lord to increase your faith? If you’re anxious about your life, make it a point to do it today. And if you’re at a loss for words, I recommend that you borrow the words from the father of the boy with an unclean spirit:
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)