The antidote to anxiety: gratitude

Some great stuff here, in a Thanksgiving homily by David R. Henson, a Patheos blogger studying to become an Episcopal priest:

Our anxieties about superficial things often mask deeper, more existential fears about ourselves or about God.

We fear we will fail. We fear God will fail us, or worse, we fear God will abandon us if don’t work hard enough or if we aren’t holy enough.

So when Jesus commands us not to worry and not to be anxious, he is essentially repeating what is said every time God interrupts our world.

“Do not be afraid.”

It is one of the most repeated divine command in all of Scripture. God or God’s messengers tell us this more than 100 times in the Bible.

Do not be afraid, for God is with us.

It is, of course, easier said than done. But I think it’s because maybe we’ve misunderstood the antidote to fear and worry and anxiety.

The antidote to fear isn’t courage. The antidote to worry isn’t faith. The antidote to anxiety isn’t a devil-may-care attitude.

Rather, the antidote, I believe, is gratitude.

It’s thanksgiving.

Something profound and transformative happens when we give thanks and live our lives in gratitude to God and to one another. And if we make a lifelong practice of it, it fundamentally shifts the way we view the world.

Worry and anxiety are rooted in fear, scarcity and isolation. Gratitude is rooted in love, abundance and connection.

In the act of giving thanks, I have shown you my cards. I have shown you what I value and where I am vulnerable.

When I say thank you, I say I am not enough on my own and that I need you.

When I say thank you, I say without shame that I could not have made it by myself, that I reject the myth of the self-made man who must pull himself up by his bootstraps unaided.

This is grace. It recognizes, admits, and embraces our incompleteness, our utter, beautiful and holy dependence on each other.

There is a phrase rooted in African spirituality and made popular by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It’s a philosophy called Ubuntu, and translates roughly to this: I exist because we exist. I am because the community is.

This communal thanksgiving is central to who we are as Christians. So central we named our primary, weekly ritual after it. In the Greek, Eucharist literally means “Thanksgiving.”

So, for us, each week is Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is a sacrament. It is an outward sign of an inward grace. Each week there is a table set and feast of love and thanksgiving which we share with each other. We give thanks for God’s abundance and this community’s abundance. We come together in recognition that at this table, we are made whole in our unity with God and with each other.

It is the ultimate reminder that we are not alone in this world or in our struggles. It is the ultimate reminder not to worry or to fear not. For God is with us and with us through this community.

Read the rest. 


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