by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister          –          March 1, 2017

These are anxious times. And, it is not just about politics. StressedHealth, finances, relationships, there is no shortage of things to be anxious about. The question is, “What does it mean to be faithful during anxious times?” And a related question is, “If I am anxious, does that mean I am not being faithful?”

Actually, anxiety is a part of life. I have met a few people throughout my ministry that have seemed very non-anxious. I’ve been amazed at how calm and cool they appear when the storms of life pick up around them. Yet, even these stalwarts of composure, I believe, have their moments of anxiousness. As I said, it is a part of life.

The disciples were anxious, too. One doesn’t have to read too far into the gospels to find examples of Peter oozing stress. And he wasn’t alone. I would even argue that Jesus felt some anxiety in life. After all, it was during one of these anxious times that he took the disciples to the garden to pray. And while praying, he asked God, “If it be your will, take this cup away from me.” (Luke 22:42) How many times have we uttered some version of this prayer when we are feeling anxious about something?

In psychotherapy based on Systems Theory, there is a desire on the behalf of the therapist to be a non-anxious prenon anxioussence  . Now, any therapist worth their fee knows that anxiety comes up during therapy, even for the therapist. Taking on the weight of helping someone is stressful and it stirs up all sorts of emotions in both parties. So, in response to this, a therapist seeks to be a non-anxious presence. However, being a non-anxious presence doesn’t mean that one isn’t anxious, but rather that one is aware of one’s anxiety and manages it in a helpful and healthy way. Jesus may have felt anxiety at times, but if so, he handled it as a non-anxious presence.

So, if anxiety is a part of life, what is the role of faith in relation to that anxiety?

I see two answers to this question. There is the bumper sticker answer and the old tired joke answer.

The bumper sticker answer is “Let Go and Let God!” You’ve seen those bumper stickers? This sentiment is based on scripture passages like Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken,” and Romans 13:2, which is especially poignant in today’s political climate, Let Go and Let God“Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Let Go and Let God is a reminder that God is in control, that God is the ultimate authority, and, based on our own Christian theology, that God is already victorious! But there are also downsides to this answer. It can lend itself to a passivity in discipleship. If we truly Let Go and Let God take care of everything, then there isn’t much for us as Christians to do, but wait around for the end times. Taken to this extreme, Let Go and Let God is not Biblical in the sense of the Christian calling.

The old tired joke answer references the story of the man who waited on the roof during a flood. As the waters rose he turned away all manner of help man on roofrepeatedly saying, “God will provide.” (Sounds a bit like Let Go and Let God!) Eventually he drowned and, upon reaching heaven, asked God, “Why didn’t you save me!” to which God responded, “What do you mean? I sent you rescuers, a boat, and a helicopter!” This answer is founded on the belief that we are at least partly responsible for our own salvation. That we must act on the opportunities that God provides. This answer echoes Bible passages like 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight,” and Hebrews 12:1, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” The idea is that God calls us to action, to do something, even to transform the world. Of course, this answer is imperfect as well, because it can tend to leave the omnipotence of God out of the picture replacing it instead with human authorities and intentions.

So then, what is the solution? What does it mean to be faithful in anxious times? For me, the solution is a blending of both answers. There are times when we do need to Let Go and Let God. Doing so, can be a profound expression of faith and draw one closer to God. However, equally profound expressions of faith Serenity-Prayer-Blue-Red-Yellowcan be experienced when we pick up our cross and follow Jesus, seeking to bring about real change in the world. Perhaps this is why I have always been so moved by the Serenity Prayer? It seems to encompass this idea directly.

“God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.”

As you continue to live through these anxious times and to navigate what it means to be faithful in their midst, remember to stay connected with God. For whether you Let Go and Let God, or take action as the old tired joke suggests, you will benefit by doing so with God.