Inviting God into Our Anxieties
Today’s passage from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is a source of comfort for many people that I know. However, for me, it has been the source of pain and shame. It has felt weaponized against me in my journey with anxiety.
Almost anyone with a mental illness will tell you that you can not, in fact, muscle your way out of it. As much as I would love to, I cannot just “choose happiness” or “stop worrying”. So in the case of today’s second reading, the instructions can sound insensitive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could lay my anxieties down on the floor and move forward into life (and prayer) without fear? Wouldn’t it be liberating to only think of delightful things and not ruminate? However, that is not an option for me; my lived experience and my brain chemistry prohibit it.
I have spent years thinking that I was not faithful enough because I could not just put my anxieties away. So many messages from faith based spaces promise healing and happiness in exchange for unquestioning faith. This is a dangerous message, one that has caused me harm. It has led me to doubt God’s love for me - if I could just pray harder or more correctly, I would not have anxiety or depression. It has led me to doubt modern healing options - I delayed taking mental health medication for years thinking it would show a lack of faith, disqualifying me from a “miracle healing”.
Now I understand that I am not unloved by God. Now I know that God desires our good and cheers us on when we choose medicine or therapies that support our health.
I try to view the call in this reading as one of relationship, rather than call to perfect, peaceful, thoughts. I wonder if Paul was inviting us to have no anxiety when approaching God with our authentic self. How might I invite God into my thoughts, rather than try to prove my faithfulness with perfect mental health? How can I practice trusting the peace of God to cover me when I approach with my real, messy, and often worried-filled prayers? That peace may not promise a simple, clean fix to my worries, but it does promise unconditional love and constant accompaniment.
Mary Beth seeks the glory of God in all of creation, especially wildflowers. Follow her @mb_keenan.15 for more reflections on mental health, motherhood, and caring for creation.