By Fr Michael Najim at Catholic Spiritual Direction:
So if nothing good comes from anxiety, why do we allow it to have so much power over us? I think because it’s such a powerful emotion; it grips us, and we actually feel powerless over it. We feel that we are held captive by it.
But do we need to be slaves to anxiety? Not according to St Paul. He tells us, “Have no anxiety at all” (Philippians 4:6). Easier said than done? Maybe. But St Paul advises how to overcome anxiety.
He writes, “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” He continues, “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:6-8).
So, St. Paul gives us three steps to overcome anxiety:
- Pray and GIVE THANKS — Whatever you’re anxious about, St Paul says to present it to the Lord. In other words, stop trying to control it or to figure it out on your own. In quiet prayer, surrender it to Jesus. But-and this is really important-give thanks to God. Don’t just petition the Lord; be grateful for all your blessings. Gratitude focuses you on the positive and lessens your focus on what is making you anxious.
- Receive God’s peace and let it guard your heart — Once you’ve surrendered your anxiety to the Lord and have given thanks to him, receive the Lord’s peace and claim it as the guardian of your heart. Let his peace, not your anxiety, rule your heart.
- Focus your heart and mind on “These things” — God has given you the power to choose your focus. If you’re anxious, you’re focusing on things that make you anxious. Instead, ponder truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, excellence. Ponder blessings, instead of fear. By focusing on “these things,” anxiety will decrease and peace will increase.
Anxiety is a powerful emotion, but it robs us of experiencing the peace of God in the present moment. Choose to follow St Paul’s advice and you will have more inner peace.