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Dealing with Fear of the Future

Mallory Smyth

When was the last time you could not fall asleep because you were worried about the future? Was it last night or sometime this week? What are you worried about? 

The older I get and the more I hear your stories as I meet you when I travel, the more I understand. To be a woman almost certainly means to worry deeply about the future. And if you are one of the few who cannot relate, count yourself among the lucky. 

Allow me to illustrate precisely what I am talking about: 

You are thinking about how much you like your job, and then suddenly, you convince yourself that you will eventually lose it. Before you know it, you are planning how you will make due for your family with no income and no hope. 

You are staring at your sleeping baby in pure, unadulterated joy. In a flash, you find yourself spiraling as you consider all the ways that one of you could die. 

As you stay up late worrying about your adult children, you are consumed with regret of all the ways you think you have failed. Things did not turn out the way you had hoped for them and your heart aches as you wonder if they will ever achieve the happiness you so desire for them. 

You turn on the news, and before you know it, you are consumed with fear about the future of society. What will you do when there is no food left and society resembles a scene from the Hunger Games?

Whatever it is, we often allow anxiety about the unknown to consume us. It is a disordered expression of our love, and it leaves us incapable of embracing the joy that God wants to give us. Instead, we tepidly welcome life’s joyful moments—holding them at arm’s length and always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Now, I am not writing this post to tell you that you should never worry. Worry, when properly handled, can be helpful to our well being. I recently read an article titled, "How to Worry Better," that explained worry’s usefulness. “When it comes to worry, that function is pretty clear: It draws our attention to the fact that there’s something we maybe should be doing or preparing for or preventing, and it gives us the motivation to do something about that.”[1] 

And yet, 85 percent of the things we worry about will never happen. Yes, 85 percent![2] Ladies, we lose so many hours of sleep. We miss so many moments because we are stuck in our heads, afraid of things that will most likely never happen.

Some of us struggle with anxiety that can only be helped through counseling and medication. But many of us do not struggle with a clinical type of anxiety—we have convinced ourselves that this is just the way we are.  

Today, I want you to know that you can find freedom. You do not have to live in bondage to the cycle of anxious thoughts, worrying over things that most likely will not happen. The Lord calls you to let His peace control your heart (Colossians 3:15). I get that this can be hard. Life can be brutal. And yet, even if it begins incrementally, you can have peace. Instead of focusing on what could happen, God invites you to focus on what did happen. Let the reality of His victory shape the way you handle the unknown. 

Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].”

St. Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians, who were pagans before they accepted Jesus. They worshiped these powers, or in Greek, stoicheia, a word that means “transcendent powers that are in control over events in this world.”[3]

These transcendent powers were not kind. They sought to enslave and control men. Today, we recognize them as “Satan and all his evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls.”[4]

In verse 15, St. Paul said that Jesus “triumphed” over these spirits. This phrase would have evoked the well-known image of a Roman general who had won a major victory. To spread the news of the victory over all the land, the general marched his victorious army through many villages, dragging members of the defeated army behind them. 

Fr. John Riccardo described a depiction of one of Julius Caesar’s triumph parades in his book Rescued: “The whole Roman Empire was in the streets to greet their victorious hero, a long line of captives behind him. At the very end of the line was a cage with a man in it—naked and chained, with a sign above his head that read, 'This is the one who used to threaten and tyrannize us. He won’t do that anymore.'”[5]

So what does this have to do with our anxiety about the future? When you find yourself unable to stop worrying, remember that Jesus has won a complete victory over the enemy who has brought so much misery onto this world. Your life is not in the hands of one who wants to harm you but One who will protect you. And although tragedy is inevitable, your God wants you to remember that your life is “hidden with Christ" (Colossians 3:3). He has given you His complete protection. He has promised you that you will never walk alone no matter what you walk through. Your Savior has stripped the evil one of his power. You are not in his control, so do not let him deceive you into giving him power that does not belong to him.  

If you are struggling with anxiety about the future, be encouraged. Have peace. Your life is hidden with Christ. 

Recently, I opened the book Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia. In the introduction, she said that in her prayer, she heard Jesus asking her to “Trust in me, not in your circumstances.”[6] Why? Because Jesus is worthy of your trust, and whether you can see it or not, He is with you in your circumstances. Cast your anxieties on Him, for He has won the victory, and now He offers you His peace.

[1] Pawlowski, “How to Worry Better,” NBCnews.com, NBC, accessed May 3, 2022,  https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/praise-worry-why-fretting-can-be-good-you-ncna757016
[2] Pawlowski, “How to Worry Better,” NBCnews.com, NBC, accessed May 3, 2022,  https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/praise-worry-why-fretting-can-be-good-you-ncna757016
[3] Bible Tools. https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/1627/Stoicheion.htm
[4] Prayer to St. Michael
[5] Fr. John Riccardo. Rescued (Maryland, The Word Among Us:2020) p. 121
[6] Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust, p. 2

 

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