3 Steps to Help You Let Go of Stress over an Uncertain Future
Christmas Day is over, but that holiday cheer may have been replaced with stress about the upcoming year and what it holds.
Liturgically, we’re thinking of the Holy Family and their travels after Christ’s birth. The arrival of the Wise Men on the Epiphany comes soon. Then the Holy Family flees into Egypt to escape those wanting to kill the Christ Child.
Some of us can probably relate a bit to the uncertainty about precisely what the future would look like that Mary and Joseph must have felt.
It can be rather difficult to accept that any number of possibilities could happen in our own lives.
In my own life, I prefer to plan things out in fairly specific detail, even in basic everyday matters. So when it came to my future vocation during my single years, the uncertainty of it all made me a bit of a stressed mess.
If this sounds like you, there’s good news and bad news.
First, the bad news. This uncertainty never ends. If it’s not uncertainty about who your future spouse will be or when it will all happen for you, it can be uncertainty about your career path. There may be uncertainty about when you’ll have kids, or any other number of monumental life circumstances.
But the good news is that if we can figure out how to embrace this uncertainty despite how torturous it might feel, it can make us holier.
Admit that it’s a struggle
Sometimes, we might look at those around us and discover they have what seems to be significantly bigger burdens than us to bear. We see things like poor health, poverty, stress, and anxiety playing out in the lives of others. We might think that our struggles with not knowing where our life is headed are not that important.
This is not the right attitude to have. If anxiety over the future is a real thing for you, don’t minimize it.
Not everyone’s biggest struggle in life will be an obvious, outward hurdle, the type we think of when we talk about crosses, suffering, or things the saints dealt with on their path to heaven.
A cross doesn’t have to be along those lines at all to actually be a cross.
If you ignore how you struggle with these things or minimize your struggle because it seems outwardly to be a small thing, you’re missing an opportunity for holiness.
If we want to become holier (and hopefully we all do!), we have to make use of the sufferings God gives us, embracing them as crosses.
Once we accept that this uncertainty in our lives is hard, we can start to deal with what it means for us.
Acknowledge that God is the master storyteller
Part of the reason it’s always been hard for me personally to accept that I can’t plan every detail of my future is that I’m a fictional writer. I plot out story details in screenplays and novels for a living.
I’m sure not everyone necessarily thinks of the world in terms of plot points like I tend to. But it can actually be helpful to if we consider our own lives as being planned perfectly by God as He writes our stories.
We have our own ideas about what will make us happy in the end. Sometimes those ideas are close to reality. Sometimes they’re wildly different from what God has in store for us.
Other times, it might even seem like the ways we’ve gone astray or messed things up will permanently ruin our chances of coming out happy in the long-run.
This is absolutely not true. God can and will take whatever mistakes we have made, and He will make them into a thing of beauty.
Maybe our struggle is not so much worrying about specific mistakes. Perhaps we just can’t see where our current circumstances are headed. Regardless, the same principle applies. God is planning something beautiful for us, whether we can see it or not.
Take the struggle to prayer
It’s not easy to let go of our frustrations with not knowing just where everything in our lives right now is headed. But here are three concrete steps we can take to start.
Begin by asking God for for grace. So simple, but so easily overlooked. Ask God to give you the ability to trust Him and trust His plan for your life.
Don’t feel like you want to let go and trust Him? Ask for the grace to want to surrender. We have to start somewhere.
Then, try meditative prayer on the topic.
This time of year in particular, we can meditate on the Holy Family and the uncertainty they must have felt immediately following the birth of Christ.
Sure, Mary was sinless and St. Joseph was pretty darn saintly himself (understatement!), but neither of them were all-knowing.
Mary just gave birth to Christ. He was in their care, and people wanted to kill Him already. But Mary and Joseph trusted God and let Him lead the way.
Finally, make a habit of surrendering.
One of my favorite ways to strengthen the habit of letting go and attempting to trust God’s plan is to silently utter the prayer from Saint Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in You!”
It’s not easy to trust Him, and it’s certainly not easy to feel that we’re letting go, but the act of telling Him that we trust Him is in itself an act of surrender and will help us to mean it more and more fully.
Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic wife, mother, screenwriter, and blogger, as well as author of the Catholic YA romance novel SYDNEY AND CALVIN HAVE A BABY. She blogs about TV and Movies from Catholic perspective at Thorne in the Flesh: A Faithful Catholic's Guide to Netflix, Hulu, and More.