“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’”
Day 11. 926,095 confirmed cases, 46,413 deaths globally.
Calling these anxious times is like calling love an emotion: true, obvious, and understating the experience.
Soon we will crest a million confirmed cases and fifty thousand deaths. Tens of thousands of deaths seem certain in the United States in the month to come. Even when the contagion slows in one place, it will accelerate in another. What will happen when the pandemic devours cities with fewer resources than ours? How many will die in Kolkata and Karachi, Cairo and Lagos, Mexico City and São Paulo?
Our hearts are tense. Our thoughts are restless. We find it difficult to concentrate. We read the streams of online content constantly and desperately. We devour the news and the news devours us. So many of us have lost friends and loved ones already. Others await the day.
We tend to think of anxiety as a physiological and psychological phenomenon. It is also a spiritual reality.
The Bible counsels against fear time and again. Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. Fear not. Therefore I tell you, do not worry. Do not be anxious about anything. Perfect love drives out fear. The witness of Scripture is consistent and clear that we are not to remain in fear and anxiety but to go beyond them to faith.
Søren Kierkegaard describes anxiety as fear in search of an object. Anxiety latches onto things, and persuade us those things cause the anxiety. But anxiety actually precedes the object, and if the object of our anxiety were removed then our anxiety would swiftly find something else to worry over.
The source of anxiety, in other words, is not in our circumstances. Anxiety takes over when the musculature of the spirit has atrophied and we fail to rest completely in God. In the words of Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” We are right to be anxious when we are not rooted in God, because apart from God we are unmoored. Thus it makes sense that the Scriptures command against anxiety. Anxiety is the opposite of faith but not its enemy. It’s a necessary passageway on the road to faith because it discloses our need for God. Moving beyond anxiety is essential to faith.
In this sense, then, faith is a task and a struggle for every moment. It is a movement of the will, a spiritual discipline, a determination moment by moment always and completely to surrender to God, to dwell in him, and to rest in his sufficiency.
Give us this faith, O Lord, not to waste our time in futile anxiety over our lives and our circumstances. Give us this faith to rest completely in you, our stronghold.
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