Over 30 years ago we were at an Inn in New Hampshire with a group of people who were deciding if this would be a good property for us to purchase and undertake as a retreat center. There were many issues to be dealt with and we were not all on the same page regarding the decision. We were a bit confused and very uncertain about moving forward.
One afternoon, on one of our visits to the area, we met a young man in the parking lot who seemed a bit perplexed. When we asked what had happened, he told us that he had come in an antique car, but when he returned from a walk through the woods the car was gone. “What a terrible thing,” I said. “Oh well,” he responded, “It belongs to God, so he will take care of it.”
My cynical inward response was to dismiss his comments as over spiritualizing. However, as we continued in the conversation I came to realize that he truly was not overwhelmed with this event. While he certainly hoped he might find the car, it also was out of his hands and he couldn’t personally do anything about it but report it.
Our lives are filled with much uncertainty.
We experience constant change in our health, our relationships, our resources, and our employment; it is inevitable. But when there are sudden drastic changes such as a life-altering medical diagnosis, or a crushing problem in a relationship, or an unexpected loss of employment—all of which can leave us uncertain about how to handle our lives—that sense of being overwhelmed is painful and unremitting.
It seems clear that the cultural and political climate is such that there are few solid support systems that we can count on. With so much instability it is not surprising that we have become an anxious people. There are some people who seem to be anesthetized from these issues and are able to live in a constant state of denial. However, for the rest of us, finding balance in our lives is a daunting but necessary task.
Some try to offer simple suggestions that, though well-intentioned, often don’t resolve our problems or concerns.
Surely, we should pray about these things. Yes, the Scriptures remind us that God is aware of our circumstances. But the suggestion that we simply just shouldn’t worry is often spoken as a panacea. (After all, doesn’t Jesus say to his disciples in Matthew, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”) But not worrying is often impossible!
One of the first steps is to take time to reflect on the issues, events, and resources in our lives, and to examine ourselves on a regular basis. One of the older forms of self-examination is found in the Examen, a spiritual exercise that helps us to focus more precisely.
As we anticipate the upcoming fall conference concentrating on the theme of anxiety, we do well to prepare ourselves by reflecting carefully about the various issues in our lives that are the sources of our anxiety. During the Healing Prayer Service this Saturday, we will be reflecting on useful ways to examine our lives so that we can pray more effectively for God to help us find balance in a confusing world.