When my brother and I were young teens, we subscribed to MAD magazine for a couple years and, when it arrived, eagerly devoured the whole issue. The image of Alfred E. Neuman appeared on every cover along with his “What, Me Worry” motto. MAD and other forms of comedy have had remarkable power to dispel my anxieties.
Humor was one of the primary methods my brother and I used (successfully or not) to de-escalate my mother’s OCD episodes when she entered verbal worrying exercises on behalf of our entire family. I made an inward determination to avoid that kind of emotional state – staying “cool” like Alfred E. Neuman. My resolve seemed successful because, with each extraordinary adventure I tackled, friends would congratulate me for doing “things they would never attempt”.
As I “matured”, I observed people who were overwhelmed by anxiety, and I often thought to myself…”Thank God I’m not like THAT!” My attitude mirrored this parable:
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” Luke 18:11 NIV
After I began my walk with Christ, the Holy Spirit moved me to take periodic inner peace inventories. I’ve discovered, although my anxiety might not look like THAT, I far too often obsessively review in my mind past life events and mistakes of mine or of others. Most of the time these events and mistakes are irreversible. Those thoughts unquestionably fit into the worry/anxiety category. If I go a step further and assign most of the blame to others, I occasionally find myself drifting into a desire for vengeance. As the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about these attitudes, I’ve been humbled.
I’ve recently recognized an enhanced reluctance to attempt things I imagine will end in failure. That hesitation often reflects anxiety. I may not be able to so easily identify my anxieties as I can those of my neighbor, but when I can, it is an important step in improving my relationships in God’s kingdom.
Here’s a prayer asking the Holy Spirit for a heart search. Notice that the path from the wicked or grievous way doesn’t lead to despair, but back to the Way (of Jesus) everlasting. What encouragement!
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Sometime today, use this link to listen to and meditate on Psalm 139:23-24 as you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal and release you from your hidden (or already known) anxieties.