I was traveling with a pastor and preparing to board a Saturday afternoon flight. Due to unexpected weather, the flight was delayed considerably putting into jeopardy a connecting flight later in the evening. In negotiating potential alternate routes, the pastor became increasingly agitated, finally blurting out; “I am the pastor. I have to be back to preach on Sunday morning!”
I remember thinking at the time how exaggerated the statement felt. I chuckled to myself thinking, “Surely the congregation will not disintegrate if you fail to make it back in time for the sermon.” But it was an uncomfortable humour. I could well imagine myself in this frantic activity feeling equally indispensable for some planned engagement.
There are a lot of things that can create anxiety. As I dialogue with people across Canada, I become aware of many events/concerns/frustrations that make people nervous. Anxiety is a common experience. Life rarely unfolds as anticipated and often is experienced as unimagined.
For many people such uncertainty can be unnerving and unsettling. People of faith, however, have a different approach to anxiety.
To be sure, Jesus assured his followers that there would be many things that could produce anxiety for all who follow him (Matt. 10). The Apostle Paul produced a list of anxiety producing experiences, everything from shipwreck to spiritual concern for the church (2 Cor. 11:23-29). Yet both Jesus and Paul point to the character of God in dis-empowering anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34; 2 Cor. 1:8-11).
The church will often be in an environment of anxiety. But being in the context of anxiety does not necessitate being controlled by anxiety. The character of God creates the possibility for the People of God to maintain a posture of confidence while remaining in the context of uncertainty. As People of faith we have confidence in God’s wisdom and strength not ours.
Whenever I am tempted towards anxiety I try and imagine God’s response to the situation. Because I find it difficult to imagine God in a frantic and nervous rush of panic, I feel it inappropriate to accept such a posture for myself as well.
In the midst of turmoil and tension, there is nothing better than to be reminded that if we do not serve an anxious God, we should not portray an anxious God.