Recently I noticed one of the indicator lights on my car needed to be changed. I figured it was just a matter of changing the bulb. I had done it many times in the past with other cars. So, I drove to the auto parts store bought the bulb and took it home. I found my trusty screwdriver and went outside to unscrew the covering, remove the useless bulb and insert the new one. Much to my chagrin I found the cover was affixed in such a manner, I could not remove it. There were no screws! I muttered some unspirtual words under my breath and tried again. After several attempts, I gave up in frustration and took the car to a nearby mechanic shop. I was dumbfounded when the manager informed me the job would cost 45 dollars! I had paid less than 2 dollars for the bulb! he then advised me the best thing to do was to change all the bulbs at the same time since if another bulb went bad the next day it would cost me another 45 dollars. Walking away I reflected on the fact that the technological advances which are supposed to make life easier seem to be having the opposite effect. There was a time, I could have changed that bulb in less than five minutes for the cost of the bulb, now I had to pay a mechanic 45 dollars and spend much more time at his shop waiting for service. Just how can we reduce anxiety and grow spiritually in this increasingly sophisticated technological age that demands so much of our lives and resources?
1. Focus on the Presence
The Biblical instruction is to be still and know. Even in the midst of our busy and often complicated lives, we can consciously create moments of stillness when we are able to quiet the many voices demanding our attention and stay focused on the reality of the divine presence with us. Keeping that trancendent focus unleashes creative forces within us.
2. Focus on the plan
One of the great spiritual truths we have learnt is that there is a plan for every life. Jeremiah 29 says, “I know the plans I have for you … to give you a future filled with hope.” Keep that thought fixed in the mind when you find yourself feeling worried and anxious over present difficulties. The present problems have been accommodated in the plan. Focus on the plan and the problems will take care of themselves.
3. Focus on what matters most
The makers of consumer electronics work hard to make us believe our lives can only be complete and happy if we buy the latest technological gizmos. Our status as persons become dependent on our ability to acquire whatever the marketers tell us we ‘must have,’ after all everyone else is getting one. The trouble is the more available the technology becomes, the more our minds become cluttered with the anxiety of keeping up. The more sophisticated they become the more of our lives and resources they demand. We pay forty-five dollars to change a one dollar light bulb. Deep inside we are aware of the futility of it all but we feel powerless to do anything about it. The price of freedom from the tyranny of technology is to refocus our attention on what truly matters, having a satisfactory and joyful relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others.
4. Focus on personal growth
Many Americans seem unable to meet the demands of modern life without the ever present cup of coffee. For some the coffee is just a step away from a range of other over the counter stimulants. This article is not about coffee drinking, it is about living in a way that will maximize personal growth and minimize anxiety. I think learning to live without artificial stimulation is part of the answer. I know this is not going to be very popular but it is important.
5. Focus on Protecting the Mind
A powerful spritual teaching is to substitue anxious thoughts with prayerful meditations. Consider this New Testament advice, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer … present your request to God.” As a result divine peace “will guard your mind.” Turn your anxious thoughts into prayers for peace in face of the anxiety producing situation. Living prayerfully means believing there is always an answer to my problems and if I spend time focusing on the divine presence instead of the problem, my mind will be protected from needless worry, anxiety and fear.
The demands of twenty-first century living can be positively overwhelming and destructive to inner peace and serenity but with conscious effort we can maintain our spiritual connection and experience personal growth and freedom from anxiety.