Sunday, July 12, 2015

Beware: The Thief of Joy

I've heard the new priest at my church preach a total of two homilies now.

He's an amusing young fellow who hasn't quite shaken the accent developed in his home country of Singapore.

Last night, he drew a few laughs from the congregation as he spoke about the requirement for Jesuit priests to travel from one part of the country to another with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

"I wouldn't mind doing that," he said. "As long as I could take a credit card with me."

Father's sermon reflected the instruction of Christ in Luke 9, when He sends his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

"Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them," Jesus says.

To commit to such a journey -- one without a safety net, if you will -- takes a great deal of faith that God will provide all that you need. 

The gospel and Father's ensuing homily made me think about the relationship between anxiety, faith and courage.

I'm what you might call a connoisseur of anxiety. (I learned from the best: My mom.) For as long as I can remember, I've used worry as a crutch to lift me from one imaginary calamity to the next. 

Without a doubt, I could be at the party of the century or on the vacation of a lifetime, but I would find something to worry about. 

What if I get food poisoning?

What if we blow a tire driving 80 on the Interstate?

What if my kids get kidnapped like that little girl in the book 'The Shack'?

What if I start laughing so hard  I give myself an aneurism?

Not only have I had every one of these thoughts, I've allowed them -- and other ridiculous variations -- to monopolize my head space and steal the moments of joy on which I should've been focusing instead.

I know I'm not the only one who does this. Like I said, I learned from the best worrier of all. 

But to what end do we allow this to happen? Aside from stealing those precious moments of joy, what purpose does worry serve? Is it a coping mechanism that allows us to mentally brace ourselves for a tragedy that may or may not happen? 

If  that's the case, I can only imagine how offensive that must be to our Savior God, whose advises His followers in Matthew 14:27 to "Take courage. ...Do not be afraid."

The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." It is delivered in the midst of the story about the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In that story, the Jews see Jesus weeping and attribute the emotion to His love and grief over the man who has died but, in the next breath, they ask why a man who could make the blind see could not have kept Lazarus from dying in the first place. 

When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, he tells the onlookers: "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (John 11:40)

I believe Jesus wept because the people who claimed to put so much faith in His power as the Son of God showed just how shallow their faith actually was

Think about how discouraged you felt the last time you realized someone you loved doubted your abilities. Now imagine how it would feel if that person regularly asked for your help only for you to discover they never really believed you could handle their problems in the first place. 

That's what we're doing when we don't give up our worries after praying for guidance. 

Faith takes courage. It TAKES COURAGE, just what Jesus advises His followers to do in Matthew 14:27. 

It's not easy to live by faith instead of by worry, especially when your worries have proven to be legitimate in past experiences. But has He not continued to bring us through those times when our worries become realities?

We don't know His plan for our lives. No amount of worry will make us privy to that plan. We must simply have faith that He's got this under control.

"What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived -- the things God has prepared for those who love him." -- Corinthians 2:9

Have a happy Sunday!

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Kathryn Harris is a journalist, a weekend blogger, a wife, a mother of two and the author of "The Long Road to Heaven," a novel about finding faith and forgiveness in the aftermath of addiction.  

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