What is the Meaning of Life
Dealing with Anxiety and Worry
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 113 Dealing With Anxiety and Worry by Ernest O’Neill
We’re talking about a phenomenon that most of us have experienced first-hand in our own lives. It can be illustrated by this situation which you have probably found yourself in. You are about to engage in some business enterprise. Or you are about to spend some money with some other people to buy a house, or you’re going to buy a car together, or you’re going to buy a stereo together.
You determine in your own mind you are certainly going to pay your way, and even be generous in the situation. You’re not going to be petty. You’re going to pay, if anything, a little more than everybody else if that’s necessary. Then it comes to the actual moment of laying down the cash, or writing out the check.
Despite all your generous desire to be more than fair in the payment of your part of the purchase, you find growing within you a kind of protective trade attitude that is making you be conscious that you don’t want to risk too much money on this. You don’t want to give more than anybody else. You certainly want, finally, to get away with giving as little as possible and yet be part of the enterprise.
There come moments in the whole experience when you wonder, “Why does this happen? Why is it that I set out at one moment to be more than generous, and to pay more than my share of this enterprise, and then when I come to the actual moment when I have to write out the check or lay down the money, I find working within me a kind of petty, selfish, worried, anxious part that doesn’t want to give more than it can get away with giving?”
Why do we find ourselves on the one hand wanting to be generous and unselfish, and on the other wanting to be protective, and petty, and anxious about our resources? It’s the same when you get into difficulties with your bank account. You run into overdraft and you begin to worry and fret and be anxious. You turn over in bed at night. Your tummy is tied up in knots. You’re strained and filled with stress.
Then at last, of course, you know the outcome. Eventually, you fight your way through it, one way or another. It comes out usually in ways that you least expect. So the next time that this ever happens you will relax. You will just trust to whatever that force is that enables you to pull out of the most disastrous financial situations. You will depend on just that principle that everything works out all right in the end, and you know that from your last experience.
Then, you come to the same situation all over again. Your overdraft is through to you in the mail and before you know it, that night, you’re fretting and anxious all over again. You’re twisting and turning. Your stomach is churned up. You’re unable to sleep. So, you keep on repeating this pattern. There seems to be within you one side of you that says, “Things are going to come out all right. It will come out all right.
I did before. There’s somebody looking after me. There is some guy up there who is keeping an eye on things. There is some force of providence that works and makes everything turn out all right in the end. So, I’m not going to worry. I’m not going to fret. I’m not going to get anxious.”
Yet, there’s another part of you, that when the moment comes, it forces you it seems to get worried and to get anxious so that your mind goes back and back over the figures. You go over them and over them in your head, trying to assure yourself that it’s going to work out alright.
Now, why does that take place? Why is it that you, that one part of you, your mind it seems, can see the
thing as it really is, and can depend on the thing working out? It’s as you somehow commit your security, your material and your financial security, into the hands of general providence. You believe that as it has worked out in the past and as you’ve come through all kinds of things in the past, so it will happen in the present.
Yet there is another part of you that gets worried and anxious and frets so that you cannot control it. It is as if there is another being inside of you. Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde, that dwelt in the generous, loving Dr. Jekyll. Inside him there was this violent Mr. Hyde. It’s as if you have two personalities.
Of course, this ties up exactly with the explanation of reality, and the creation and existence of our own lives, that has been passed on to us by that remarkable man that lived in the first century — that man Jesus of Nazareth. He pointed out that we were made to depend for our financial security on our God, on the Creator that made us.
That His Father had put you here on earth to do something that only you can do. He had so arranged the economy of the world and of this nation, that you would be able to meet all your needs with the finances and the material provisions which He would make for you. That was the way you were meant to live, depending on the Creator, who is your Father and who loves you, for all that you need. So your mind has the memory of that. Indeed, your conscience actually continues to draw you back into that kind of attitude.
That’s the part of you that says, “It’s going to work out all right in the end. It’s going to come out all right. It has done in the past; it will do in the present.” You may not know it’s God. You may not talk about Him as God. You may say, “Well, the man up there”, or you may say, “It’s providence”, or “The force is with me.” You may ascribe it to all kinds of things, but there is something inside of you that says. “It’s going to work out all right; don’t worry. Don’t be anxious.”
But, then, what we human beings have done over the centuries is, we have determined that we would not live that way. We would not depend on this Maker and this Creator to supply us with all that we needed. We would live our lives our own way and we would get what we needed ourselves. As a result of that, of course, the Creator could no longer supply for us and provide for us. We became very worried and anxious.
We saw that there were five billion of us in this world and there were only so many resources, so we had better get as many of them as we can. It was then that we began to see that we have to establish our own security and our own material prosperity by our own efforts, by grabbing as much of the money, as much of the food, as much of the shelter, as much of the clothing of this world as we can.
That’s why our parents passed on to us this view: they said, “Now, listen, nobody will look after you but yourself, so you had better look out for yourself.” So, there developed in us human beings an attitude that thought we were responsible for providing always for ourselves, and that nobody else would if we failed. So there developed down through the centuries a race of mankind that continued to feel that it was dependent on itself for grabbing from the world what food, shelter and clothing it needed to keep itself alive.
That nature, that personality, was bred into our forefathers, and our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers for years and years and years. It’s that personality that has been passed onto us from even our good Dads and Moms. We have a nature that is twisted, that is perverted. It doesn’t live the way that it was meant to live. It doesn’t live the way it was intended to, depending on the provisions of an infinite Father who loves us and takes care of us.
It became a nature that depended on the world of things and of grabbing as many of those things as it possibly
could. That’s the nature that you and I are faced with. So, even though we hear the words of that man, Jesus, when He says, “Therefore, I tell you do not be anxious about your clothes, what you will put on, or about your food, what you shall eat. Look at the lilies of the field. They do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father has clothed them. Are you not of much more value than they?” Even though we hear that and we believe that that is possibly true, our nature prevents us depending on that and prevents us having the peace that we were meant to have in regard to our material security.
Are there any other ways in which this nature, this old nature spoils our lives? (The Bible calls it an old nature. Sometimes it calls it an old self.) But are there any other ways in which this old, perverted nature spoils our lives? Yes, let’s just talk about one more tomorrow, and then discuss the way out of this — the way of escape.