“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.’” (John 14:1)
I would like to say that my heart is never troubled, but my husband, Paul, would probably have to challenge me on that. He knows well the nights I can’t sleep because the worry machine in my head doesn’t have an “Off” switch. In spite of the fact that I have much practiced discovering by day that what kept me awake by night just wasn’t worth the worry, I still fall into the trap of a troubled heart.
During my prayer time this morning, I was reading some material by contemporary spiritual teacher Fr. Thomas Keating. He was talking about how the “commentaries” in our minds move us at an escalating pace along a continuum from feelings into fear. What begins as a perceived slight by another person that makes us feel uncomfortable is heightened by an internal commentary, “She must not like the way I look.” As we continue to entertain this commentary, we become more agitated and add something like, “She thinks she is so important.” What began as feeling and advanced to agitation is fueled by our commentary, and we cross the line to anger and resentment: “I’ll get back at her for that!” And so on, each emotional level deepening with the addition of increasingly vitriolic commentary.
Fr. Keating suggested an antidote for this self-destruction. The “Off” switch to a troubled heart begins with catching ourselves when the commentaries begin. He then suggests repeating a mantra used by the early Desert Fathers and Mothers, “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.” In this way, he says we avoid going to fear, to a troubled heart. We grow in faith and love. Sounds like a plan to me.