When I wake this morning, my bed is warm and the sky outside is light. No sun, but comfortably bright and there is the promise of warm days ahead. I hear my children in another room. My husband is working from home today and he is tickling our son. Laughter fills the air; the stomping of small feet as they attempt to escape the all-consuming Tickle Monster that is my husband.
All is well. Our home is small, warm and safe.
As my eyes open the thoughts begin to swarm; like mosquitoes; a buzz of worry here, a sting of fear there.
The thoughts aren't even coherent; no direct line of worry to attack; just a buzz of general anxiety. If I am too explore the thoughts, I find myself in a marsh; some swampy wasteland with no way up or down or ahead or through. Just the bombarding of seemingly unconnected thoughts; random scatterings connected by one strong impression; the sense of threat. The feeling that I am unsafe in this world.
This is anxiety.
For many years I have felt angry with God. I have not been able to understand this human condition that He has banished us to. This half-broken world with it's threats both visible and lurking. I have seemed to have a special understanding of the dangers that loom beneath the cheerful exterior of domestic life. My family is not perfect but we are happy, growing. We love and laugh and drink deeply of life. My husband is a good man. We are healthy and employed and there are many wonderful people in our life, yet still, so many days are smudged by the blunt finger of fear. It's a shadow; a dread rising or a buzz; a swarm gathering; the threats are both physical and emotional; all invisible or at least barely perceivable.
Perhaps you can relate. Or perhaps you have seen a loved one struggle with invisible threat and have felt powerless as you have witnessed their suffering. Perhaps you have been frustrated; wanted to tell them,
'Relax! There's nothing to be afraid of.'
Why is it that some of us seem so able to adapt to the challenges of living in a broken world while others struggle so? Why do some of us cower beneath the threat of unseen possibilities while others take great strides toward the unknown, confident that they will overcome whatever they face?
Do we, the anxious ones, lack faith? Are we some weaker species, unable to separate fact from the fiction that exists within the cave of our own mind? It seems to me that some of us are more sensitive to the threats of life; those shadows that lurk in our cupboards, or under our bed.
Some might call it pessimism. That would feel like an unjust blow. I haven't actively chosen to view the worst outcome of every scenario; it happened automatically. The hard hits of life have taught me something; danger looms. The threat to my mental, physical and/or emotional security is a daily reality. How can I not live vigilent? Fearful, even?
On my better days, I can balance the tensions.
On other days, I fear. That seems to be my go-to emotion; the one I slip into so readily.
This is anxiety.
'Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
God, Isaiah 41:10
Have you ever wondered at the way that God interacted with people in the Old Testament? He appeared in bushes and on mountains. He came as a whisper at times and with great hailstones of fire at others. Always coming. Always breaking in to the reality of our existence. I think there is something in this; this way in which He comes to men, often uttering instructions that seem set to remove us from the realities of life.
'Do not be afraid.'
'Yes, the world has troubles, but I will help you.'
'I will take the bad things; the things intended to destroy you, and use them to heal you.'
His words lift us up and above. They don't deny the presence of danger, the reality of pain, of brokenness, of hardship; instead, they punctuate them.
Pain is not the end. Life follows death. This is what the Messiah lived out for us to see; it takes more than words to heal the broken heart of mankind. So, He came in flesh.
What He did through the life of Christ, He does in us. Knitting His story, weaving the threads of life into a garment that we wear. One with colour and life; threads both dark and light. A story for the world to see; and the story is this:
'I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.'
Yes, there is danger in this 'land of the living.'
We are alive and one of the marks of being alive is sensation. We live, we breathe, we see, we feel.
The Gospel is not something separate to us; something far removed from our reality, our existence; the daily threats and trials.
It is the breathe in the dark. The light in the dawn.
It is the story in this Great Story; the one that He writes with humans.
As I write, my body is relaxed. My breathing is easy.
Outside my bedroom door I hear my son humming. My husband is doing the dishes. The threat has retreated; swallowed by life.
'Now this I say, brethren,
that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;
nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I tell you a mystery:
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption,
and this mortal has put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.'
1 Corinthians 15:50-58.