Spiritual Tools for Battling Anxiety

white and brown wooden tiles
The Lord has been teaching me a lot this last week and a half about how I can approach my pre-surgery anxiety differently!

In general I’m not a very anxious person, but gosh does that change when I have upcoming surgeries! I have 2 extremely lengthy oral surgeries coming up, and for numerous reasons I’ll be awake for both of them (so I’ll have local anesthesia but not general anesthesia or IV sedation). Yikes- it’s never pleasant to hear the drill for a few minutes much less for hours. The surgeries are going to be challenging for the doctor who is operating- several surgeons would not even take my case due to the challenging nature of what needs to be done, so that isn’t comforting either, but these are not elective surgeries, so here I go!

I’ve been trying to put what I’m about to endure out of my mind, and I’ve been turning to prayer much more than I had for past surgeries. When I start to feel the anxiety creep up, I say, “Jesus I trust in you” (or think of a scripture verse) sometimes many times per day. This has been helping me to not feel as nervous going into these surgeries (hooray!), but just when I thought I’d made some tangible spiritual progress in that department, the wave of worry hit me harder on the way to Mass weekend before last.

We all know that anxiety does nothing helpful for us. We hear the “don’t worry” recommendations every time we turn around, but typically when we feel anxious, we are not choosing to feel anxious, so what can we do? Little did I know that Mass that day would be the first encounter in a sequence of several things that God used to teach me some important lessons over this past week and a half!

The Gospel reading was the sower and reaper, and these words struck me in a particular way:

“The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.”

Matthew 13:22 NABRE

The fact that anxiety can prevent the word of God from bearing fruit really struck me this past weekend. I know that anxiety isn’t good, but I was never before this acutely aware of how it prevents good. Even though my anxiety about my upcoming surgeries is normal, understandable, and could be considered “justified,” it’s still a “worldly” anxiety because it is about the here and now, not about spiritual well-being or eternal life. I need to be more focused on “seeking things above.” I pondered this while sitting in the back of church, asking the Lord what I can do in addition to saying “Jesus I trust in you” when the worry washes over me in my humanness.

Jesus put on my heart that I can actually offer my worries and anxieties to Him as a way of participating in redemptive suffering. I’ve been offering my physical suffering to Him in that way, but I can also offer my worries to Him for the salvation of souls and for the intentions of others. When I unite my suffering to specific intentions, it helps others AND gives purpose to my own suffering.

Then I received the Anointing of the Sick on Wednesday, and during the beautiful sacrament, the priest says, “When she is afraid, give her courage,…” I’ve been anointed several times in the past, so this certainly wasn’t the first time I heard this, but it was the first time I “heard” this. It’s COURAGE that I need to pray for whenever I am feeling anxious and worried! Asking God to replace my worries with courage is something else I can do- a simple and fruitful task.

God had more to show me about this though, as the lesson continued. When I went to daily Mass last Thursday, I felt like the Gospel reading was being spoken directly to me:

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.'”

Matthew 11:28-30

It sounds wonderful, but honestly that hasn’t always been my experience. Sometimes I find life to be very challenging and weighty even when I’m praying. I took this to prayer during Mass and felt the Lord place something on my heart: His burden is light, and so any burden that feels so heavy to me is not of Him. Wow.

This isn’t to say that there are no sufferings or challenges when following him (in fact, He guarantees there will be), but I realized that when I’m feeling such an overwhelmingly heavy burden, something isn’t right. I may be placing too much importance on something of this earth, such as my own personal comfort or desires, or even something inherently good like my health (which is passing and of this world, not the next world). Or, I’m not yoking myself enough to Him- I may be feeling like I have to do or carry it all on my own instead of uniting with Him and accepting the grace and help He is offering me for the task at hand.

I’m personally convicted on both accounts there. I know that God often does not intervene or prevent suffering, but when unfavorable circumstances fall under His permissive will, I know I need to be more open to how He is trying to work in and through me during those times, since He would only allow those circumstances if He could bring more good out of them. This makes me recommit myself to being on the lookout for the ways to cooperate with Him bringing more good out of my situation. So instead of approaching my upcoming surgeries with complete dread, I can offer up even my anxious feelings to Him for particular intentions, ask Him to give me courage, and have an attitude of curious wonder of how He is going to bring good out of this.

Just when I thought that was the end of God’s lesson plan for me this last week and a half though, I went to vigil Mass this past weekend, and the prayer that the priest said after the Prayers of the Faithful overwhelmed me:

“Loving Father, guide us in the right paths and give us courage to face the challenges of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

There it was again: courage! After Mass I asked my pastor about the prayer since it was not in the missalette. It turns out it was one of 3 prayers that could have been used this weekend at that point in the Mass, and that just so happened to be the one that the woman who put the binder together chose based on the readings.

As if that wasn’t enough reinforcement, I came home on Saturday to see that day 6 of the St. Anne Novena said, “Please help me, St. Anne, not to waste my suffering but to instead, lay it at the foot of the cross and carry it courageously throughout my days.” Then the courage theme kept going strong again today when a friend texted me a prayer before an operation that says, “…I come to You with fears and misgivings and ask You to put into my heart the needed courage to face the day with unwavering confidence in Your goodness and protection.”

So to sum it up, here’s what I’m trying to do:

  1. Say to myself, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
  2. Offer up my anxiety for the salvation of souls and for others’ particular prayer intentions
  3. Pray for courage
  4. Shift my focus to things “above” instead of things on earth every time I get worried
  5. Yoke myself to Jesus and ask Him to help me carry the burden
  6. Look for ways to cooperate with God bringing good out of this, and be excited to see what God has in store

What I’m asking for from all of you is your prayers- both for me and for the doctor who will be operating. Those prayers keep me going, and I am extremely appreciative!

I’m also collecting your own personal prayer intentions so that I can offer things up for your specific needs. Feel free to comment with your intentions below, text me, or send me a private message through the “Contact” link on my blog’s menu. God’s peace!

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4 thoughts on “Spiritual Tools for Battling Anxiety

  1. Loved this one!

    You will be covered in prayers while you are in surgery. Have your Mother contact us with updates and tell us when it’s all over.

  2. Nice reminders we all need. Will be praying for you for a successful surgery and that God will guide the physician perfectly!🙏

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