As I was thinking about what to write for this, my inaugural FOCUS blog post, lots of topics came to mind. So many topics, in fact, that I just couldn’t decide. Which would be the most interesting? Do I have enough to say? Will people even want to read this? How did I just spend an hour thinking about this?
And yup, there it was – that familiar feeling starting at the pit of my stomach, tightening up my back, speeding up my heart rate and eventually finding a home consuming my thoughts. It’s the same thing I saw in the eyes of every student on campus in the weeks leading up to and during midterms. It’s that phenomenon that you and I (and the rest of the world) know all too well: stress.
We’re overwhelmed with schoolwork; we’re having money problems; we can’t seem to make it work with our boyfriend or girlfriend; we’re not getting enough sleep; we can’t remember whether or not we turned off the hair straightener in the bathroom (maybe that’s just the girls). The list goes on and on, and stress produces more stress. There are countless things in our lives that induce unnecessary anxiety, but ultimately, the driving force behind stress comes down to one thing --control.
We fall into the original sin of pride, of desiring to know more than we need to know and doing more than we need to do. We forget that we don’t have all the answers and that we are, in fact, limited by our human nature. It’s always the same pattern, at least for me. I have the impression that I’ll be able to “handle it.” Then I take on responsibilities, worries, burdens. Eventually, I realize I’m not in control of everything and anxiety kicks into high gear. All of a sudden, I feel like a tightrope walker carrying a dozen books, a laptop bag, and a couple bags of groceries, trying not to fall into a pit of people waiting to give me more stuff to do! Now that’s a lot of pressure.
And here’s the thing, God doesn’t want us to feel that pressure. He doesn’t want us to stress, but He knows we will anyway. That’s why He reminds us repeatedly throughout Scripture to let go and let God (see Prov. 12:25; Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7). Whenever I feel like that tightrope walker, one particular Gospel passage brings me back to reality. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) not to worry about what to eat or drink or wear because the “heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
He knows us. He loves us. He takes on our burden so we don’t have to worry. Because being anxious wastes precious time, spends useful energy and most importantly, keeps us from being in a closer, more trusting relationship with Him. We should “pray as though everything depended on God and work as though it depended on us” (St. Augustine). In other words, fulfill your responsibilities by using the gifts and talents God has given you, but don’t worry about the things you can’t control. He knows His plan for you, and it’s a really great one (see Jer. 29:11). So, next time you’re overcome with that feeling of stress, remember Padre Pio’s words, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” You’re not in control…and that’s a good thing.
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May 8, 2015
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Since the pontificates of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church has been commissioned to engage and embrace the world with God's message of love once more with ‘new methods, new ardor and new expression.’ It has come to be phrased, 'the new evangelization.'
For FOCUS, this means meeting college students across the nation where they are and challenging them to examine the meaning and purpose of their lives. Through personal relationships and friendship, we offer college students the true peace and fulfillment they seek in the good news of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Catholic faith, inviting them to answer His calling in their lives.
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