‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today’ (Matthew 6:34 NRSV).
Anxiety eats away inside us. At first it might not be obvious, unless we know how to spot the symptoms. Untreated, anxiety wears us down and drains us, until eventually we can no longer keep up the appearance of ‘normal’. Our energy levels drop. Others start to notice and inquire, ‘Are you okay?’
Medical researchers are reporting increased levels of anxiety and its close associate, depression, as the coronavirus shutdown lengthens. Mental health experts warn of a suicide epidemic that could outstrip deaths from the pandemic by up to 10 times, according to a report in The Australian last month. Almost half could be younger people.
In ‘normal’ times we can usually ignore low levels of background anxiety. With shutdown and isolation come loss of routine, social interaction and myriad other things that keep our minds occupied. Risks to our health, employment, business, money, or a stressful domestic circumstance, can make us worry about an increasingly uncertain future.
Anxiety levels spike when we feel we have no choice or control over what’s going on. From childhood, we have been taught to take charge of our lives and make good choices. When we can’t do that anymore, we become less sure of ourselves and our place in the world. The levers we usually pull to get ourselves back to equilibrium don’t work so well. Ordinarily, we might take a deep breath, sleep on it, or do something else for a while and, when we come back, things are better. Now, we might not be so sure.
How does faith help? As baptised believers, we know that Jesus is with us. But when we lose control of our lives, as some of us may feel right now, we might also feel we have failed God. But have you noticed how, from a human perspective, Jesus’ own
life seemed to spiral out of control? He was a great rabbi with the power to work miracles, but he did nothing to save himself. The leaders successfully plotted to kill him; Judas betrayed him; his followers deserted him; the population turned away from him; witnesses gave false evidence against him; Herod wiped his hands of him; Pilate sentenced him; and soldiers nailed him to a cross. He lost everything overnight, yet he still had his Father’s love. That was all he needed for what he was here to do: to give his life for the world.
Our problems begin when we want to be our own saviours, trying to fill a role that isn’t ours to fill. They can end only when we stop trying to be what we aren’t and confess that Jesus is our true Saviour. He carried all our failures and anxieties to his cross. Jesus lived and died in our place and, like him, we have the Father’s unending love. God accepted us in baptism and made us his own. One day at a time, washed and renewed in the water of baptism, no matter how we feel we may have failed, through faith we know we can put our hope in Jesus and trust him as our Saviour.
‘My faith looks up to see
the Lamb of Calvary,
my Saviour, Lord.
O hear me while I pray;
take all my guilt away;
and let me from this day
be wholly yours.’
(Lutheran Hymnal with Supplement no. 368, Ray Palmer 1808-87).