We live in a world that makes us increasingly anxious. It has led us to regard violent acts as commonplace, uncivil rhetoric as speaking one's mind, and entitlement as a way of life. It leads us to respond in one of two ways: either we become angry with the loss of rationality in the world or we accept it as just the way it is today. Both ways effect us in traumatic ways. We are gradually moved from our identity as people who are seeking to live faithfully in response to God's grace. We react, instead of proactively seeking to live according to being a follower of Christ, as a servant of God.
How can we best function in today's environment? We can begin by acknowledging that as mature individuals anxiety does not have to overtake us. Jesus' words in Matthew 6 "do not be anxious about tomorrow" are words for us today. Putting our faith in God is the antidote to anxiety. However, blind trust will not exhibit our maturity. Rather, we should acknowledge, as Luther did, that "we have God, the mighty fortress" to defend us even when our enemies threaten us. There are difficult matters and situations in our world that we need to work to change. At the same time our ultimate destiny is secure, which qualms our anxiety.
Second, we can turn off or "turn the volume down" on the forces that fuel our anxiety. Communication media do want to "fuel the fire" because it leads us to follow their line of thinking with daily or hourly notice of them. We are free to decide what voices come into our environment at any time. We also need to be wary of following one way of thinking without giving some time to alternative ways of thinking. Freedom is both an American and a Scriptural principle.
Third, we can seek to find balance in our everyday living. What frees me from the anxiety thrust upon me is a daily mindfulness, a practice of seeking God's presence in the most helpful ways to me. For other people of faith it may be silence, prayer, meditation, reading Scripture, reading thoughtful books, or something else. I find that even daily (or at least regular) exercise begins to free me from being overwhelmed by any anxiety that comes from the outside.
Each of us needs to be intentional in our own way about seeking to grow in our faith. We can worship God in a more regular way, being strengthened by the community of faith. We can tap into those resources of faith that may be there in our lives since our early Sunday School or confirmation days-- memorized psalms, memorized verses, hymns, and spiritual growth books. We can find new ways of growing, such as popular Christian music or communication with friends and family through social media. We can take on a new habit of journaling our feelings and connecting our musings with our resources of faith. The important thing is to not feel out of control, but to know that we are safe and secure in our relationship to God.
Resetting our priorities of faith is the best antidote to any situation of increased anxiety. It is important that we put first things first, our faith in God and love of neighbor, and then everything else we encounter can be managed day by day.
""Day by day, your mercies, Lord, attend me, bringing comfort to my anxious soul. Day by day, the blessings, Lord, you send me draw me nearer to my heav'nly goal....Day by day, no matter what betide me, you will hold me ever in your hand. Savior, with your presence here to guide me, I will reach at last the promised land." (Carolina Sandell Berg)
Rev. Roger Black (8/10/2016)