Sunday, June 8, 2008

Anxiety and religion...

As a child I visualized God as distant, temperamental and awfully strict. I think that's why I received the salvation message with open arms when I heard what the Scriptures really had to say about Him... (and about you and about me).

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."-- Matthew 11:28-30 (N I V)

Wow, gentle and humble in heart: Now that was news for me! I never imagined God being like a loving father or mother. As a boy, and before Caller ID devices were invented, I used to call my mother at work. After routinely asking the receptionist to transfer the call, I’d hear my mother talk through this impersonal “business-as-usual” voice that she would use to address the public, however, when she identified who I was, her voice filled with the empathy and sweetness that she conveyed at home; the love and the warmth I was used to. I didn’t need any persuasive techniques for her to shift from impersonal to personal mode. It was enough that she was addressing her son to make the change.

How important it is to feel this sense of belonging with God -- a confidence when approaching Him.Why is this kind of repose in God so rare? Doctor Gerrit Glas says that religion can either reduce or aument anxiety. He writes,

“Having some type of religious affiliation appears to be related to lower anxiety levels in the general population. Intrinsic religiosity is associated with less worry and anxiety, whereas contemplative prayer is correlated with increased security and less distress. (1) Intrinsic religiosity refers to a lifestyle in which religion is personally appropriated and "lived" from WITHIN. Extrinsic religiosity, in contrast, refers to a lifestyle in which religion is related to SOCIAL CONVENTION. (2,3) There are ... studies that find a relationship between religion and increased anxiety. Some of these seem to focus on extrinsic forms of religion.”

It's odd that Anxiety can even plague light bearers, but if you're like me, I didn't even recognize it. It was just too vague a feeling that had no name or label and therefore it escaped every detection mechanism inside me, but thanks to Gerrit Glas I now have a better understanding about Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic religiosity. I've lived both realms. How about you? I'd be glad to get your feedback on this.

Troubled Reflector © 2008

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