It’s pretty easy to worry when choices confront us. Worry can cripple, wound, or otherwise prevent us from experiencing the joy of our salvation. And sometimes there are no clear answers in the murky world in which we all live.
In 1931, Montagu Norman, the head of the Bank of England, had to decide how to save the economy: would he drop the gold standard and adopt bill economy or keep the gold standard and risk running out of it? Both options were possible, but the stress got to him and Montagu had a nervous breakdown. While vacation, his office made the decision and killed the gold standard. While none of us will have the same responsibility, we can easily fall into the sways of anxiety and depression due to stress, to the crippling effect choices have on us.
Stress happens and there is no easy escape, but Christians have a unique way to deal with it, overcome it, and live a stable life. At the get-go I want to be clear, some worry is not sin. You need to worry about finances, family, health, and all the rest of life or else you would dive headlong into ruin. But much worry is sin, because it trips into anxiety, and anxiety crushes us into depression, and depression makes us the walking dead.
So what happens when you don’t know what to do and just want to do what is right, and how do you overcome much worry, anxiety, and depression due to this?
I’d like to suggest that you will overcome much worry by practicing righteousness–that you walk by the Spirit–and your answer will come and your worry will die. By doing before knowing, and by doing before feeling, you are freed up to live the happy life, and when you are happy, worrisome decisions seem so much less debilitating.
DESIRE AND ASHERISM
Four people have helped to understand this: Jesus, the Author of Psalm 1, Ellen Charry, and James Smith. Together, their ideas empower us to overcome worry, grief, anxiety, because they show us how to walk by the Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of the flesh–including much worry and anxiety. Let’s think about what each has to do say in reverse order.
James Smith argues in his Cultural Liturgies series that people are primarily lovers, that what we do shapes the way we love. In short, what we practice shapes who we are what we desire in life.
Ellen Charry, in her work God and the Art of Happiness, argues that biblical morality intends to grow us in wisdom, to make us flourish and live the happy life. Of course, the happy life according to Scripture is not pure bliss. Rather, it’s a deep seated contentment and joy garnered from a life lived wisely. She calls this sort of life the Asheristic life, which comes from Hebrew word Ashre meaning “happy.”
Asherism teaches us to think, live and then feel a certain way. Happiness comes through practicing righteousness.
In sum, Charry points to our practice of righteousness as the means to happiness, while Smith explains how our practices help us to gain what we desire-in this case, happiness. On Smith’s anthropology, if we want happiness we need to cultivate practices to gain it. Charry defines those practices as righteousness. But to answer the question of “What does it mean to practice righteousness?”, at least in broad strokes, we need to turn the Psalms and Jesus.