“Do not let your hearts be troubled. (Jn 14:1)” Our Lord doesn’t leave a margin here. Worries are a red flag; something is wrong. We are never supposed to worry. He doesn’t say “do not let your hearts be troubled too much.” No. It is never his will that we be weighed down.
“Cast all your worries upon him, because he cares for you. (1 Pet 5:7)” Peace is God’s gift and a sign of his presence: “The Lord blesses his people with peace. (PS 29:11)” It’s the melody that resounds throughout Christ’s entire life: “Peace on earth! (Lk 2:14)” “Peace I leave you. My peace I give you. (Jn 14:27)” “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. (Jn 16:33)” Where Christ is, there is peace. So if we are drowned in worries? But our lives are so filled with the often deafening din of worries that we can’t hardly grasp the concept of a life without them. Is such a life even possible?
As human beings we seem to have this innate gift of impressive creativity when it comes to the cyclones of worries we brew. Worries about my image before others, worries about my own self-esteem, worries about my health, worries about my job, worries about my legitimate needs, worries about my loved ones, worries about finances, worries about my desires and fears, worries about my children, worries about owing others, worries about what I can’t understand or control, worries about what I can control, worries about not being good enough, worries about my dreams, worries about being judged, misunderstood or disliked, worries about my vocation in life, worries about my sanctification, worries about temptations, defects and sins, worries about my past, present and future. There’s my tendency to scruples, over-analyzing, false urgencies, cost-counting, selfish tensions, insecurities, fears of the unknown or unknowable, of the uncontrolled or uncontrollable. When I don’t have anything to worry about, it’s as if I need to create something to keep my worry engine steaming away. There is so much interior noise. It gives me a headache, and makes me lose touch with simple reality. I can no longer hear the real world around me above the roar inside.
We get so accustomed to worrying that we forget it’s not supposed to be this way. “Why are you troubled? (Lk 24:36, 38)” Jesus asks. We’ve become numbed by their pervasiveness. All these worries point to a problem. Something is missing. Why am I like this? Why so much noise? We all want an answer. Where do all these anxieties come from? We want to uproot them, and yet it’s like a wildly overgrown briar. Where do you aim the pruners first? I don’t know!
There’s no shortage of attempts to answer this gnawing need: self-help books, self-esteem coaches, inner-peace gurus, psychoanalysts, philosophers, commercials, medicines, comfort products. Supposedly they’ve all finally found the secret to a worry-free life: “seize the day”; the Golden Mean; “eat, drink and be merry”; stoic indifference; hakuna matata; the elimination of desires; nirvanic nothingness, etc. There’s plenty to choose from. But they all seem to totter on a rifted foundation, a crucial error upon which their whole solution is built.
There are three basic prescriptions. Option one: just stop worrying. (Like that really helps…) Option two: just stop wanting what is causing your worry, and you won’t worry anymore. Option three: get what you’re worried about, so you´re not worried anymore. The problem is always what you are doing wrong, so the answer is the secret thing you need to do right. But our worries are not the real problem. They are a symptom of something deeper. The doctor’s job is to heal, not anesthetize the symptoms. It’s not what we’re doing wrong; it’s more fundamental. Follow the stem to the root. It is so subtle and engrained that we may have never seen it. There is a gap. It’s unassuming, but big, and the briar that stems from it screams it out loud and clear. Something is missing.
We worry because we’re insecure, and we’re insecure because we don’t have everything under control. We lack control because we are trying to control it all ourselves. And we’re trying to control everything ourselves because we think we have to. But we don’t.
Everything can be under control, but not by us. To wish that is to wish for a dream that no one in the history of mankind could achieve. We can live a worry-free life, but not because we have security in our own control or because we learn how to manage our worries without going to the root. Our worries are the result of an identity crisis deep down, and if we don’t go to the source, we will never address more than the symptoms. The problem is we don’t know who we are, and so we are trying to secure our own identity.
But we don’t need to. We have an identity that no one can take away. We are beloved sons and daughters. May this simple truth that is too good to be true fill your heart with the greatest peace. This is the truth we need to come to embrace deep down if we are to find the answer to our worries.