November 10, 2023

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Put your worry in God’s hands and feel his peace

Kimberly PohoveyI recently spoke to a long-lost friend I haven’t connected with in more than 20 years. While it was terrific catching up with her and learning all about her life, I couldn’t help feeling sad after hanging up the phone.

She shared that one of her sons is a sophomore living away at college, and he is struggling mightily. She voiced that when her kids hurt, so does she. She also divulged that she deals with very heightened anxiety which is only exacerbated with her son’s issues. Ultimately, she said she was putting it all in God’s hands—but still she worries.

Does this sound familiar? It definitely could describe me at particular times in my life. How many times have I told myself and prayed that I was putting in God’s hands whatever the person or situation was in my life—but, still holding on to my worry. As if I needed a Plan B. That’s not at all putting it in God’s hands.

While I still worry at times, which I believe is only human, I can honestly say I’ve worked hard to let go of anxiety. The truth is that worry does us no good. It does not solve any issue. In my experience, it only amplifies our fear and ultimately causes negative psychological and even physical effects like depression, low immunity, high blood pressure and more. So why do we worry?

A quick perusal of Psychology Today online helped me understand a little more about what fuels anxiety. One reason I read made sense to me.

Our human bodies are designed to protect us from (real or perceived) threats. When we experience stress, a signal is sent to our brains, and we try to problem-solve the situation. As the anticipation of a future negative event churns in our brains, it is manifested as anxiety. But many times, it spirals into irrational thoughts.

Anxiety can also be caused by a loss of control, overthinking or sometimes, caring too much.

For instance, if we have children, we might be overly invested in their lives and/or adverse to them taking any risks.

But there’s good news, and it comes straight from the good news shared with us in the Bible.

Jesus himself said in the Gospel of Matthew: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). Seriously, how many times have we heard these words but continue to choose the burdened path of worry?

So how do we truly let go of anxiety? In St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, he gives us the key: “Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

As I have worked at reducing anxiety through the years, I have found a method that helps me. I do just what St. Paul suggests and replace my worried thoughts with prayer, thanking God for taking over the burden for me, and placing the issue or person in his hands to figure out.

And then I compartmentalize my worry. I tell myself I have put my worry in God’s hands and now I need to let it go. In doing so, I place it somewhere at the recesses of my brain. If I feel it creeping again into the forefront, I repeat the prayer.

While it doesn’t happen in every situation, I can honestly say that I have felt the peace of God wash over me in total surrender. And I am always left thinking, why did I worry? As if I could solve any issue on my own. God so obviously has this.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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