Locations & Times

Buzzing Anxieties

by John Mehl on April 11, 2024

As I sat down to write this blog, amidst a bunch of different thoughts/ideas/impressions of the Spirit… a housefly came into the room and became an instant distraction.

Oh, you know how this feels. It’s buzzing and doing its chaotic frolic around the room, all making it very clear that it is in the room and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So now I’m swinging things, trying to swat at it and direct it out of the room – at least somewhere else in the house. Let it be someone else’s problem in some other room! I am sure if someone was actually in the house watching me in this moment, I undoubtedly looked utterly undignified and childish. But the fly has to go. There’s now no bigger problem in my life than the annoyance of this housefly.

For the record, despite swatting and chasing the swooping insect around the house, I’m simply not sure where he went. And the blog needs to be written, so I’m sitting back down and moving on.

I think that is a lot like anxiety.

Sometimes, we are simply minding our own business when anxiety enters our world and becomes an instant distraction. There it goes, buzzing around the room in a chaotic frolic, and it is abundantly clear that there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.

To keep the metaphor rolling, we often end up responding in undignified ways when anxiety is in the room, or perhaps that’s just me. We swing against solutions or attempts to address things and maybe even secretly try to redirect the matter so that it is someone else’s problem and we can return to whatever it was we were doing. When anxiety is in the room, there is no bigger problem than dealing with the distracting buzzing.

The sources of anxiety are as complex and diversified as insects in springtime, so there is not going to be any “one size fits all” prescription for how we deal with them. Truly, some are life-changing issues while others are just the houseflies in the room, and they all need specific, case-by-case consideration. Our God is never reductionistic when it comes to the anxieties that we face, and we must resist the urge to boil down our treatment to one approach or focus on just one facet.

So how is it that Paul can say in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything?” Isn’t that tantamount to prescribing someone in depression to “just cheer up” or telling an overwhelmed friend “not to stress?”

Well, is it possible to be accurate and also not oversimplified in the same approach? Is there any truth — using the broader context of Paul’s statement — to:

[Letting] your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phpns.4:5-7)

In the broader context, we can see that Paul is exhorting believers to bring everything – our requests, our prayers, our anxieties – before the Lord. If willpower alone could have dealt with our anxieties, that would have been another matter entirely. But since we are often incapable of that kind of strength, bring what we cannot handle before the One who can. Let our requests, our emotions, and our pleas be made known to God. And let us know that, while He indeed works in mysterious ways, He also PROMISES us His peace. Not solutions, resolutions, or action items – He PROMISES to step in on our behalf to guard what we have made vulnerable to Him (our hearts and minds). It’s not the genie-in-a-bottle sort of solution to our problems that perhaps we had wished for. But His peace is a sort of guarding/defending intercession that often surpasses our understanding.

Facing the severe anxiety after Good Friday, how is it that the women in Mark’s account found the bodily strength — not to mention the mental, emotional, and spiritual strength — to put one foot in front of the other on their way to the grave to treat Jesus’ corpse? Isn’t the mere thought and trauma induced by all that Good Friday held enough to paralyze every facet of their being?!

I don’t know – I kind of marvel at that strength. But I also sense that there is some sort of surpassing strength, perhaps something even divine, that woke them up that morning and gave them just enough strength to pursue what they THOUGHT was their next task, putting one foot in front of the other.

In this, I at least start to sense that I may not need to understand every facet of the anxieties I am facing, large or small). If and when I can do something about them, if and when there is a “next task” that I somehow find the strength to perform, then that is what I should do. I don’t know if there is a solution at the other end of that “next task” or if there is a miraculous empty tomb awaiting me when I arrive at my intended destination. Mine is not to understand, but to trust. God’s is the task (and the power) of guarding and defending me in my vulnerability and “buzzing anxiety.”

Maybe that helps a bit. Maybe Paul is not so coldly prescriptive after all. Maybe there is an advanced inclination for my soul when it comes to all kinds of annoyances, interruptions, stressors, and pressures that God desires from me and for me.

Now, where’s that fly?

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