How Anxiety Distracts Us From God

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 The Noticer

Let me be a noticer of things in your world
instead of a dweller of my inner thoughts,
worries, and selfish longings
that only keep me distracted from you.

For when I uproot myself out of the present moment
and plant my focus on myself,
I rob myself of the joy
of witnessing your glory and beauty
all around me.

I have always been a highly observant person, picking out minor details that others often miss. On my morning walk in the woods today I noticed an old, wooden beam with rusted barbwire wrapped around the edges that had clearly once been a fence post. The problem was that I’d walked this path dozens of times before. Worse, it only stood a few inches off the trail.

What may seem an unimportant observation worried me. I should have noticed this a long time ago. But then again, maybe I’m not quite as observant as I once was…not since anxiety and worry have become a constant companion.

I sat there looking at that fence post, noticing for the first time the rotting wood and the crumbling decay of age. In my perifocal view I then noticed a bee hovering around a flower and insects crawling along the earth. I was struck with the realization that I have formed a habit of being so stuck inside my head observing my anxieties and worries that I have lost an awareness of the world around me.

I’ve decided I’m still a highly observant person; I’ve just been preoccupied with the wrong details. Anxiety and worry cause us to retreat inward, focusing on only our thoughts and feelings, preparing for the “what ifs” of the future. In the process they rob us of the joy and experience of life in the present moment.

God dwells in the here and now. God speaks in the present. God walks with us in this moment. When we try to place ourselves in the future, we make no room for God. For the future is determined by His will, not ours. And that is what anxiety and fear inspire us to do, don’t they? To just sprint past God and try to prepare, plan, and control what happens next. We lack faith in God’s providence, so we seek out our own providence. We are finite creatures who are not built to withstand that kind of responsibility. When we put ourselves in control of managing our future, we collapse under the weight of worry.

Even more importantly, when we are constantly distracted by our worries and removed from the here and now, we miss out on the wonderful experience of witnessing God’s glory and beauty all around us.  The beauty of a sunset, the feeling of the wind against your skin, the magic of the leaves changing colors, the love in another’s eyes, the wisdom God passes on in seemingly unimportant things.

It’s a hard fight to pull yourself out of your own head and leave all the worrying behind. It’s maybe an even harder fight to trust in God. But there are opportunities for redemption all around us, yet we have to be attentive to the present moment to recognize them. If we remain focused on the incessant cycle of self-centered thoughts, we deny ourselves the gift of seeing God’s divine presence right here, right now.

-Post and Poem Written by Justin Farley

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Dealing With Winter – Learning From Nature

2182376536_87a875701eThe temperatures are already putting me in a bad mood, and even though we’ve only had one snowfall, I’d say I’ve had about enough for the year. It is way too early to be already having blistering temperatures in the middle of November in Indiana. I do have a tendency to suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter – my depression/anxiety is always worse. The lack of light and inability to go outside much (unless you want to freeze) leaves me feeling restless and irritable. But this year I’m going to try my best to change my perspective and flow with nature, instead of against it.

As much as I dislike this time of year, it does remind us that even nature needs time to relax and rest. The forests are still and quiet, blanketed with beautiful snow, with all vegetation asleep until the coming spring. It is a great time for reflection – to be in solitude and think about our lives, our goals, and our destination. As human beings, we all tend to complain about how we never have the time to do anything and constantly feel like we never have time to take a break. But the time of year when nature tells us we can, we tend to ignore it and keep moving, wishing it were spring. You have permission to be still and quiet. If nature needs it, we do too. In our world, stillness is one of the hardest disciplines to practice. Is it any wonder people feel more stressed than ever before?

This year let’s not focus on how cold it is, how miserable the weather is, or count down the number of days until spring. Let’s be still and watch the example of nature – we might even learn a thing or two.


 

Photo Credit: ***Bud*** via Compfight cc

Looking At Life Through A Microscope

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When trying to make progress in our lives,  normally people look at key moments or situations as the deciding factor of whether we succeed or fail. Goals are created as something we want to achieve in the distant future, and there’s a set amount of time to wait before we can be “tested” by life.  We typically look at life as one giant panoramic view, cramming together the past, present, and future into one reality.  But the only place that life exists like that is in our heads.  The past is gone and can’t be recaptured. The future lies on an intangible plane and can’t be seen.  The only thing that matters right now is the present moment.   Success or failure is very rarely obtained in one big moment.  It is determined by the normal, seemingly unimportant decisions that we make on a daily basis, compounded over time.

The Daily Grind

Ask any successful person or anyone that has overcome remarkable adversity how they got where they are, and chances are they will tell you “hard work”.  They won’t give you a date or time frame where there was a make or break it moment.  I think far too often in our culture we only focus in on the “big plays” and forget the daily grind that success requires.  Instant gratification goes into that- we want success, and we want it now.  In my life, I find myself constantly creating new, lofty goals for the future, but forgetting to do the little things today.  I suffer from social anxiety and would really be more comfortable spending my life in isolation.  But I’m at the point now where I may be comfortable and safe, but I don’t have true happiness.  My goal of overcoming social anxiety may not be possible for months, but the choices I make right now in the moment determine the future. Sometimes I forget that.  I use excuses like, “Well I really want to get better, but I don’t feel very good today.  I’ll make sure and work on it tomorrow.  One day of avoiding the places I don’t want to go isn’t going to hurt.”  The reality is that these excuses never just last one day.  We decide to sleep in instead of being productive.  We blow off a portion of our diet.  We put off things for tomorrow that we planned on doing today.  The list could go on and on.  But success is not something you can procrastinate studying for and cram the night before the test.  Success is a test that is given every waking moment as a series of minuscule quizzes.  We are constantly being tested between taking the easy road and the hard road.  Just because these decisions don’t seem to drastically impact your life, doesn’t mean they don’t over time.

Using the Microscope

Going back to the large, panoramic view that most people have on life, I like to think of using a microscope to focus in just on the present moment.  It is the only thing that matters and the only thing we have control over in the whole scope of life.  While this may seem like a simple and obvious concept, it is one that I (and I believe a lot of others) struggle with.  Many times I am determined and motivated to meet a goal, yet still can’t seem to quite reach it.  It’s not that I don’t care or am flat out lazy.  It’s that I am distracted by the future, thinking that there is always “later” to do what needs to be done.  I still want to achieve a goal, but want little breaks here and there, thinking that they don’t really matter or that I am not really cheating myself…but I am.  Every time I give in and take the path of least resistance, it only gives me the excuse to use it again and again.  Quitting my workout five minutes early suddenly becomes my new routine, just because I gave in one day.  We rewrite our goals every time we are faced with a seemingly small decision.  Do we choose to continue following the road we set out on, or make a short detour when things get difficult?

I only bring this up because I think there is the misconception that there are successful people and then there are lazy people.  I don’t think that’s the case.  There are large numbers of people who want success, but just can’t seem to stay on track.  There’s always the stories of New Year’s Resolutions that were never kept.  But do people’s goals change half way through the year?  I don’t think so.  Of all the times I have failed in my life, I can’t think of a single time when I quit or decided my fate in a single moment.  It was decided over days, weeks, and months.  Too many small, daily failures eventually compound into one large mistake. We are constantly looking for the secret formula to conquer the huge problems in our lives.  The formula starts by focusing in on the present moment and doing the small things right.  Hard-work and dedication will always be the ingredients needed for success.  Success starts by putting those ingredients into action this very instant, not when we feel like it.