Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To say we are living in times of high anxiety and worry is an understatement. The recent shootings in Dayton and El Paso are symptoms of this anxiety as well as expressions of how this cultural anxiety can impact those who are mentally ill and/or influenced by hard core hate groups. The trade war with China, the stock market falling by 3% and a less stable world economy all contribute to the fearful, anxious times we are living in. Not to mention the intense political conversations going on as we prepare for another presidential election.
Yet it is in the very midst of this climate that God’s Word can open us up to a deeper source of calmness. In Matthew 6:31-33 from The Message, we read:
“What I am trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way God works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
Several weeks ago at a staff meeting we reflected upon these words of Jesus’ What grabbed our attention was Jesus instructions to relax and to let go of our worries so that we could focus more on what God was doing in our lives and our world around us.
Have you ever noticed how fear always seeks to magnify the worst possible scenario? There is something about worry and anxiety that feeds upon and produces more worry and anxiety. It almost always attempts to undermine a deeper sense of trust in God’s presence and the peace that passes all understanding.
Yet in these words, Jesus clearly reminds us that knowing how God works free us from this cycle of escalating anxiety. Someone once put it this way: “Fear knocked at the door, faith answered and no one was there.” That is why Jesus encourages us to “steep our lives in God reality, God initiative and God provisions.”
How do we do this? By simple practices like reading and dwelling in God’s Word every day. By making regular time in our busy schedule for prayer and silence. By deepening our participation in weekly worship. By sharing our faith stories and experiences with others. By recognizing when we are becoming anxious and practicing some simple breath prayers. Two breath prayers I use when I get anxious are “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner,” and, “Fear not, I am with you always.” I cannot tell you how many times these simple prayers have helped me relax and be open to new possibilities.
Has it ever occurred to you in these anxious times we’re living in that God wants to use each of us as instruments of peace and hope? Every day by our words and actions, we either add to the anxiety in our systems of influence or we help bring a sense of calmness and trust to these same systems.
I am thankful for how Jesus is still inviting all of us to relax, to let go and to trust more in God’s loving presence and reality.
From one peacemaker to another,
Bishop Herman Yoos
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