When I was a boy, our home was broken into. We came home after a trip and found that the whole house had been ransacked. I remember my room had been a perfect little boy’s oasis with a big space mural on the wall and model airplanes hung from the ceiling with fishing line. But that day I found my closet door ajar and my drawers were pillaged. What had felt safe suddenly didn’t. I was less concerned about the missing coin collection, and more concerned that it could happen again at any time. I’d lay in bed thinking about how the bad guys might get us next time. It was not a good feeling.
This summer Chestermere was rocked by a number of terrible weather events. Back-to-back floods along with hail and wind storms caused so much damage across our community and neighbourhoods. At a town-hall event I listened to neighbours express their fears and frustrations, and I’ve also learned that some school children are expressing anxious behaviours. On the surface most people may be saying, “hey, we’re alright,” but deep down many of those affected are feeling fear or anxiety and may be wondering, “is our neighbourhood safe?”
Anxiety is an emotion we all feel at one time or another. The word means, “to choke” or “to cause pain by squeezing.” Anxiety does that to us, it restricts our ability to cope, to care for others, and drains our energy. Anxiety is a terrible feeling. Consider this, however; anxiety itself will not harm you or endanger you. How you deal with the anxiety will determine the outcome. If you bottle it up or let it simmer, your outcome will be different than if you invite friends into your struggle and proactively find peace in the midst of fear.
One of the books in the bible was a simple letter written to a community of Christians who were dealing with anxieties of their own. The letter says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” These words helped me after our home was broken into. I was anxious, and that was normal, but I learned that I didn’t have to stay that way. Even today when anxious moments come this simple verse reminds me to tell God about it and be thankful. This is not a naïve kind of thankfulness meant to forget the hard realities we’re facing. Rather it is the acknowledgement that gratitude is the road through anxiety. Thanking God for what and who we have in our lives, and thanking God for our neighbourhood and our city; these postures change the whole landscape of our fears and worries. They don’t eliminate the anxieties, but over time they put anxieties in their place and offer us a new outcome.
Think about your neighbourhood, what anxieties do people on your street deal with? What about you? What fears or anxieties “choke off” your life? How might a moment of gratitude change the outcome of your fears and bring peace back into your story?