When I speak to groups, I often share that one of my continuing places of struggle is with anxiety. I recently realized that I really don’t need a good reason to be anxious. It’s simply a bad habit that goes back to my earliest memories.
So, yesterday morning, Gem and I flew to Chicago to enjoy a couple of days with the staff of our publisher, InterVarsity Press. We had one of the first flights out of Orange county on United. And, for many reasons, travel days have a way of rousing my anxieties.
When we travel, often one of our sons will drive us to or from the airport, but when we leave that early, we’ll order a ride with Lyft or Uber. So as we were getting closer to the time I wanted to leave the house (about 5:20am), I checked my Uber app and found there were no drivers in our area. That never happens. There are always many drivers at that hour. I checked Lyft. The nearest driver was 20 minutes away. What?
So checked back and forth between these two apps trying to find a car that was in our area. Minutes passed. No options. Thoughts began to multiply:
- Oh no! We’re going to get to the airport late.
- Those security lines are going to be bad.
- Will I end up at the back of the line for my boarding group? Will we have to gate check our bags on this completely full flight?
I know. These really are just first-world problems. But they are the thoughts that fuel anxiety for me.
Finally, a car became available on Lyft, but it was almost 15 minutes away. I was already past the time I wanted to leave, but I ordered the ride. A few minutes later, Lyft switched drivers for one closer to me. This happened three times.
The short ending of the story is that we got to the airport 15 minutes later than I wanted, got right through security and arrived at the gate just before they started boarding. Gem and I got to our seats just fine. This is nearly always what happens.
So maybe Jesus is right about worry. What if I really don’t need to worry? What if it does nothing to improve my situation? What if even the worst happened (I missed my flight?), everything would be alright. Anxiety may have served as an engine to get me moving in the past, but it’s an engine that runs dirty. Anxiety sucks the joy and peace out of my life in those moments.
I’ve sometimes held the mistaken belief that anxiety is proof of my genuine concern for someone or something. But how does that work? Have you ever been the object of someone else’s worry? Did it feel like caring or did it feel more like a burden?
So in my better moments, I’ve found that Philippians 4:6-7 helps me. (Maybe Paul’s right, too!) In this first year of our new non-profit, I’ve needed passages like this. So here’s how I’ve often prayed these familiar lines:
Whenever I feel anxiety of any kind about anything, I can, in that situation, come prayerfully and thankfully to God and ask him for whatever I need. When I remember to do this, I enter the real experience of His peace, which I can never fully comprehend even when I experience it. This peace protects my thoughts and feelings from the corrosive effects of anxiety and keeps me in communion with Jesus Christ.
The Jesus I witness in the gospels lived his life relaxed. He was and is the Prince of Peace. Maybe I could learn to live more of my life close to him and in the place of his peace. That might be a much nicer way to travel!