I am writing this to be read on Friday, April 13th. We’ll have another Friday the 13th in July of this year.
What do you think about Friday the 13th? The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina estimated in 2012 that between 17 and 21 million Americans struggle to some degree or other with stress related to Friday the 13th. The same group estimates that people changing their behavior because of Friday the 13th costs between $800 and $900 million in business.
Symptoms range from mild anxiety to full-on panic attacks.
And, of course, a new movie in the Friday the 13th series debuts nearly every time one occurs.
Though many connect anxiety related to Friday the 13th to Jesus plus his 12 disciples making 13, there is no historical evidence of the day actually causing anxiety before the 19th century.
While I don’t suffer stress related to this particular day, I have to admit I have some of my own superstitions. For example, though I know Jesus tells us that God makes the rain fall on the just and unjust, I still sometimes imagine God as trying to send me messages through difficulty or trial.
All of which reminds me of a phrase I learned when I served in small-town churches. The phrase was “don’t borrow worry.”
Which reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34.
In teaching the disciples (and everyone else in the crowd that day) not to worry, but, rather, to seek God first. Peter advises us all to, “Throw all your anxiety onto him [Jesus], because he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
So, if you are anxious today, or any day, take a deep breath. Hold it for a 5 count, and release it slowly. Do it again. As you breathe slowly, try a breath prayer.
Here is a traditional breath prayer: As you inhale, think, “Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Imagine yourself actually breathing God’s presence in. Then, as you exhale, think, “have mercy on me a sinner.” Again, as you exhale, imagine yourself actually breathing your sins out, away from you.
Just slowing your breathing will reduce anxiety. Coupling it with such a prayer helps us to “seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.”
Which is a good thing to do whether it is Friday the 13th or not!