Cast Away

I worry. I mean I worry a lot. Anxiety and I go together like peas and carrots (Forest Gump anyone?).  

Ever since I was a kid, I have had anxiety about everything. Sometimes it’s crippling. Whether it’s about work, or family related, or about day-to-day things, anxiety can derail my day.

In my elementary days, going to school every day carried the same fear as if it was still the first day of class. Regular assignments had the same weight of projects that were worth fifteen percent of my grade. While the majority of people would unwind at night, the circus of fear, worry, stress, and uncertainty would go to town in my head. The nights felt so long sometimes.

My faith wasn’t a priority growing up. It wasn’t until I was a teen and in confirmation class that I started my relationship with God. And the only reason I did was because my catechist shared a bible verse with the word anxiety in it.

I was 15, and a metal head that wore band t-shirts, like Marilyn Manson, to class and Mass. I had no interest in church. I remember bluntly telling a Catechist on the first day of class that I didn’t want to be there, that I was going to sit in the corner and listen to music on my portable CD player (dang, I feel old). 

On the fifth class, I realized that I had forgotten my headphones. I felt like the son in the movie, “Little Miss Sunshine” when he realized he was colorblind and couldn’t get into the Air Force. For thirty minutes, I played the drums on my desk with my fingers and counted the dots on the ceiling. Then I put my head down and tried to sleep. Out of boredom, I finally decided, for the first time, to pay attention. What happened next changed the direction of not just my life —but of my eternal destiny. My Catechist grabbed her Bible, and read 1 Peter 5:7.

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

My heart was pierced and I was filled with peace. It’s not that I never believed in God but I just never thought he believed in me. It was a Hebrews 4:12 moment. 

“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

I put my head down again and began to weep. I didn’t want the other teens in the class to hear me cry, so I pretended to cough up a storm. When class was over and everyone left, I went up to my Catechist, who was terrified that I was approaching her. With teary eyes, I asked if she believed that God cares — if he really wants us to give him our anxieties. I think she realized that God had spoken to me in that class, and with emotion, she told me she believes He does.

I knew that believing in God and living out my Catholic faith didn’t mean I would never have anxieties, but I was so hopeful it would help me to overcome them. Fast forward ten years later and i’ll tell you that #thestruggle to learn to overcome continues. I love repeating scripture on anxiety to myself whenever I feel worried or afraid.

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
Philippians 4:6
"Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself."
Matthew 6:34
"When I am afraid, in you I place my trust”
Psalm 56:4

I have spent the majority of my faith life wrestling with why I still have anxiety when I know down in my soul that I shouldn’t. I know that when Jesus spoke he was intentional. Behind His words, “do not worry” is an all knowing and all caring God who knows my past, present, and future. He fully knows me. He knew I would have read His words, and He still said not to worry.  I felt at times that I was a bad Christian because I worried, “Do I really not trust God? Does my worry suggest that my faith in him is fake?”. I felt like this more than I would like to admit.  

Last year, my good friend Arleen Spenceley, shared a quote from the Catechism, paragraph 2547, on Twitter.

At first it was a reminder of how much of a bad Christian I must be. But after praying with this quote for hours in my parish chapel, I came to a different understanding.  That is, that a Christian isn’t promised the absence of anxieties, fear, worry, and stress but rather that they can be offered up to lead us to the providence of the Father. 

The anxiety I experience is an opportunity to encounter God in prayer. If every time I experienced anxiety I stopped and prayed, I would be so much holier than I could even imagine. It’s like when St. Paul asked the Lord to remove the ‘thorn in his side’ and the Lord responded to him with “my power is made perfect in weakness.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Like Jesus who was 100% divine and also 100% human, he also had moments of fear, hurt, and abandonment. He understood the weight of these feelings but also understood how to deal with them.

Now, I thank God and hope when I feel weary that I may feel weary enough to fall to my knees like he did in the garden. May my worry and anxieties lead me to prayer where I can abandon myself to the providence of the Father. May I splint myself to the cross to correct my posture, to help me have stronger faith and give myself more to him.

Abraham Villea is the Director of Youth Ministry at St. Mel Catholic Church in Southern California. He became a Pokémon Master at the age of 7 and mastered how to straight razor shave last year. He loves all things hipster and pomade!