Anxiety and Doing the Next Right Thing

Yellow Western Wallflower

Let’s not get overwhelmed (self-talk here). Really. Let’s not do it. Let’s not let the swirl of fear and concern for outcomes snake itself around the heart, soul, mind, and body and undermine our living. Someone quoted the common Alcoholics Anonymous phrase “do the next right thing” to me recently. I’ve been thinking of it often as I move through my days. It’s been helpful and grounding.

It feels like a close relation to the wisdom of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) All the worries about tomorrow do choke us; they choke the life right out of us.

Karla McLaren in her book The Art of Empathy highlights a similar thread in the emotion of anxiety. She suggests that worry and anxiety are gifts to help us focus and complete tasks. They get us to act! If we didn’t have the emotion of anxiety and its various nuances, we would be functionally impaired. Our job is to figure out what is triggering the feeling and to ask what really needs to get done.  We don’t want to live in anxiety, but when we feel it, we can use it to question and discern what is important and what is not.

Worry about tomorrow is the enemy of today. The enemy will gladly use it. It is going to happen. So, we’ve got to get a grip on it. Acknowledge it. Recognize it.  Deal with it — however that works for you. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James is full of wisdom for living with joy and hope in the middle of challenges.

For better or worse, in our earthly dust-to-dust frames, we will never have the tomorrows beat (until we have none left).  Tomorrow, we will have today all over again — full of concerns, regrets, yearnings, sorrows, desires, hopes, and anticipations that must be weighed and tested for relevance in the moment against all that we know is true and good.


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