Items filtered by date: March 2017
26 March 2017

Matthew 14:22-33

Take Heart

March 26, 2017   Maple Grove UMC


          This Lenten worship series is called “Fear Not: Overcoming Fear with Faith.”

  • We started with Jesus saying, “Therefore, do not worry about what you’re going to eat or drink or wear . . .” I heard one person summarize that message as “Take deep breaths and don’t watch the news.” That’s a great start to overcoming fear!

  • The next Sunday was about balancing our natural fear of strangers and foreigners with the Bible’s insistence on hospitality and justice.

    Still to come in this series:

  • 1 John says that perfect love casts out fear. Oh, to love like that!

  • The psalms teach that the opposite of fear is not fearlessness but trust.

  • On Good Friday we’ll watch in Gethsemane as Jesus prays himself through fear.

  • Even the Easter story has the phrase Do not be afraid not once but twice. Even on Easter people are afraid.

    We are such fearful creatures; and Jesus just keeps saying it: Take heart, it is I; don’t be afraid!

              The first part of today’s Gospel story shows that we can allow ourselves be scared of almost anything—even Jesus! The disciples are in a boat, in a storm, in the dark, wind and waves everywhere, and Jesus comes to them, walking on the sea. But instead of saying, “O thank God, it’s Jesus,” and calming down, they think he’s a ghost and their fear turns to abject terror. I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many of you have ever been afraid of the very thing you needed most? Yeah, me too.

              You see, the disciples thought they were on their own. Jesus had stayed behind to pray and sent them on ahead. What the disciples forgot is that as long as Jesus is praying, we are never alone. What the disciples forgot was that when we need him, Jesus is never far away and will make his way to us come what may. What the disciples forgot was that just a few chapters earlier Jesus had calmed one storm; and if he can calm one storm, he can calm this storm.

              We fear because we forget that Jesus is praying for us, forget that he is never far from us, forget that he is the wave-walker and storm-stiller. We fear, I once read, because we overestimate the power of the storm and underestimate the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We forget, and so I am here to remind you—we are here every Sunday to remind each other: Take heart, Jesus says, it is I; don’t be afraid.

              Some people stumble over this story and similar stories in the Bible because they get caught up in whether or not it “really happened,” whether physics allows someone to walk on top of water. These people fail to realize that the Bible is not a science textbook, or even a history book, exactly. This story is a parable. At the end of the story when we expect Matthew to say, “the disciples worshiped Jesus,” instead it says, “those in the boat worshiped him.” And who are “those in the boat?” Well, we are, of course. This is not a story about the laws of nature. It’s not a story about something that happened once a long time ago to other people. It’s a story that happens all the time, to us:   in our little boat, in the storm, in the dark, with wind and waves all around, we get so anxious that even Jesus scan frighten us. But here he comes, walking on top of those waves we’re so afraid of, he gets in the boat with us, and now look—everything’s going to be all right. The truth is, he was never far away, and we had each other all the while. What is there, really, to be afraid of?


              The second part of this Gospel story has Peter daring to see if he too can walk on water. He takes a deep breath, steps out of the boat, starts to walk on top of the water, and then suddenly he falls. You could call it a failure; even Jesus seems exasperated with Peter. But what actually happens next? Well, for one thing, water isn't too hard a thing to fall on. It doesn’t hurt him. And then Jesus reaches out, scoops Peter up, and sets him back in the boat with his friends. That's it. That's the full extent of what happens when Peter falls—Jesus picks him up and puts him back in the boat. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? What is there, really, to be afraid of?

    Now I'm aware there's more than one answer to that question. Jesus asks Peter, "Why did you doubt?" Writer Amy Hunter says, "I want to jump in to defend Peter. 'Hello! Lord! Waves and wind!"1 Wind and waves, Lord—what do you mean "Why did I doubt?"

    And we might answer the same way. Why are you afraid?

  • Hello, I might lose my job, Lord. Or my marriage, Lord.

  • Hello, it could be cancer, Lord. People die from it.

  • Hello, I haven't heard from my kid in days, Lord.

  • Hello, Lord, it's called high school, or college, or retirement, or, well, you get the idea.

What are we afraid of? Plenty!  And when we fall, Jesus will scoop us up, dry us off, and set us back in the boat.  And when we get sick, Jesus will come to our side.  And when a loved one dies and we feel all alone, Jesus will set us back in the boat with the other disciples.  And when we go through things we think we can't endure, Jesus will come to us walking right on top of the water, just to show it can be done.  On the one hand, there's plenty to be afraid of; on the other hand, with a Savior like Jesus, what is there to be afraid of?


          Here’s what I mean.  Pastor Michael Lindvall tells this story.  On the day their youngest child was baptized, Pastor Lindvall and his wife took the baby to visit an elderly couple from their church.  Minnie was 91 and near the end of a long and painful battle with cancer.  Her husband Angus was doing the best he could, but just didn’t know how to face life without his partner of over sixty years.  They laid the child in the old woman’s eager arms.  The baby, who had wailed through her baptism and cried much of the day since, became still.  Minnie looked into the baby’s eyes and said, “Shhh, there’s nothing to be afraid of.” 

          Pastor Lindvall writes, As I looked down from the pulpit at the funeral two weeks later, I wondered if it is true that there is nothing to be afraid of. Have all the mothers who have cooed those words to their sleepless babies been telling lies?  After all, a disease marches deeper into your body for a decade and a half, finally taking you away from the ones you love.  And now a man has to sleep alone in a double bed at the age of ninety-one.  Is there really nothing to be afraid of?

          Then came the closing hymn for Minnie’s service. Precious Lord, they sang, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light: Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

          Minnie, it occurred to the pastor, had not been afraid, but not precisely because there is nothing to be afraid of.  The truth is more subtle.  There is plenty to be afraid of, but in spite of that, you don’t have to be afraid.”2

          Take heart, Jesus says, It is I. Don’t be afraid.  Yes, Lord, we say.  Yes, Lord.


          So here’s what we’re going to do.  In your bulletin is a pink card.  At the top it says, “What are you afraid of?”  And at the bottom it has those words of Jesus: “Take heart. It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  With that card in hand, take a few moments and get in touch with what you fear.  What makes your heart race, your muscles tense, your stomach churn?  Whatever it is, write it down:  What are you afraid of?

          Then when you’re ready, come and leave that paper at the cross.  As you leave that paper here, take a moment to hear Jesus say the words to you:  “Take heart. It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  This is, I hope, a helpful spiritual exercise.  It is, of course, not magic.  Will there still be things to be afraid of after you leave that paper at the cross?  Of course.  But remember--the truth is subtle: there is plenty to be afraid of, but in spite of that, you don’t have to be afraid.  Take heart, Jesus said.  It is I.  Do not be afraid.  Whenever you’re ready, bring your card, bring you fear, and leave it at the cross.


1 Amy B. Hunter, "Stepping Out," Living By the Word, The Christian Century (July 26, 2005, 19.

2 Michael L. Lindvall, Leaving North Haven: The Further Adventures of a Small Town Pastor (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 2002), 232-33.


12 March 2017

Leviticus 19:33-34 / Deuteronomy 10:17-19

Fear (and Love) of Strangers and Foreigners

March 12, 2017


          Fred Craddock told this story: He stopped off at the Winn Dixie to get some peanut butter.  He was in a hurry, and those stores are so huge.  So he saw a woman pushing a cart, and he thought, She’s comfortable here. I’ll ask her.  He said, “Um, lady, could you direct me to the peanut butter?”

          She jerked around, stared at him, and said, “Are you trying to hit on me?”

          He said, “No, ma’am. I’m looking for the peanut butter.”  As he backed away from there, he saw a store employee, so he said, “Where’s the peanut butter?”

          “Aisle five, I think, way down on the left.”

          He went there, and sure enough—big jars of peanut butter.  As he turned to leave, that woman was there and she said, “You were looking for the peanut butter!”

          He said, “I told you I was looking for the peanut butter.”

          She said, “Well, nowadays you can’t be too careful.”

          And Craddock said, “Lady, yes you can. Yes you can.”1


Hold that story in the back of your mind as I think with you, in a biblical and moral context, about fear (and love) of foreigners and strangers. I want to start with an idiosyncratic list of scriptures relating to foreigners.  It's not a scientific selection—just whatever occurred to me in a couple of hours with a Bible in one hand and a notebook in the other. 

  • At the very beginning, Adam and Eve become foreigners, having to leave their original homeland, to which none of us has ever returned.

  • At God’s command, Sarah and Abraham left Ur of Chaldees to sojourn in a land God would show them, only to have to leave that land for a time due to famine.

  • The city of Sodom was destroyed, not because of sexual orientation, but because of its violent refusal of hospitality to strangers.

  • The people of Israel spent years as honored guests, and then as slaves in Egypt, and centuries later were exiles in Babylon.

  • Ruth and Naomi both spent time is immigrants—Ruth as a Moabite in Israel and Naomi an Israelite in Moab.

  • Esther was part of the persecuted Jewish minority in Persia.

  • In the New Testament, Jesus and his parents were refugees in Egypt, fleeing King Herod, who was killing babies in Bethlehem.

  • In Matthew 8 Jesus praises the faith of a Roman soldier—not only a foreigner, but a despised foreigner—and heals his servant.

  • Jesus makes frequent favorable mention of Samaritans, an ethnic group his people hated with a passion

  • Jesus separates the sheep from the goats based in part upon whether or not they welcomed strangers.

  • And when Revelation 7 paints a picture of heaven, there is a multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing together before the throne of God.


The Bible is a big book; there’s other stuff in it too. I know that. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they took it as their divine mission to destroy everyone else living there.  Gentiles weren’t allowed to enter the holiest parts of the temple.  After the exile, Ezra expelled all foreign wives.  And even Jesus once refused healing to someone because she wasn't an Israelite (though he later changed his mind). 


What does the Bible say about how to regard foreigners? We begin at the beginning of the Bible.  Every human being--citizens and foreigners, friends and strangers--every human being is created in the image of God.  In his book Christians at the Border, Daniel Carroll points out that this does not mean there should be no border control or that no one should ever be deported.  But it should inform the tone of Christian talk about immigration.  Decisions about how to treat foreigners may get to legal status and documentation, but it begins with the recognition that all immigrants are people, created in God's image.2 That fact doesn't end the complicated moral and political discussion; but it is the Bible's place to begin the discussion.


What does the Old Testament law say about how to treat foreigners and strangers? We just read a couple of relevant passages, and I'll summarize some others.  If you want to read them for yourself, just Google "Bible and immigrants" or "Bible and foreigners" and you'll find enough scriptures to keep you busy for a while.

  • For example, the Old Testament says that the same laws have to apply to Israelites and aliens alike. You can't have one set of laws for citizens and another set for everyone else.

  • Israelites were prohibited from exploiting aliens. Foreign residents deserved their wages and had to be allowed to rest on the Sabbath like everyone else.

  • Like other vulnerable people, such as widows and orphans, Israelites were required to provide for aliens among them—food and clothing is mentioned in Deuteronomy.

  • Leviticus goes so far as to say, "You shall love the alien as yourself."

All of this shows that Old Testament law has a strong bias in favor of aliens and their rights. However, this doesn't mean that anything goes. 

  • The Hebrew word used in these laws—ger—seems to refer to foreigners with some kind of recognized, long-term standing in the community. A different Hebrew word referred to short-term visitors, who had fewer rights. And still another word could have quite negative connotations about foreigners. And foreigners from different places could be treated differently in Israel—those from friendly countries could become what we might call citizens in three generations, while those from hostile countries required ten generations. (Deut. 23:3-13)

  • And Daniel Carroll points out that foreigners were expected to learn and respect Israel's language and culture.3 If you’re going to live here, learn what it means to live here.

Again, Old Testament law requires fair, generous and loving treatment of aliens. But this is balanced with requirements of practicality and safety.  Okay?

Ultimately there are two main reasons why the people of Israel were commanded to respect and love foreigners:

  1. The first is their own history: The Israelites themselves had been oppressed in Egypt. They were not to do to others what had been done to them.

  2. And second, Israelites were to treat foreigners well because there's a special place in God's heart for the weak and vulnerable. Daniel Carroll says, "Israel is to love sojourners. because God does."4


Why does fear of foreigners and strangers matter so much? Scott Bader-Saye says, "Fear is a moral issue insofar as it shapes the kind of people we become."5 As we're learning, fear causes our muscles to tense up, our breathing to grow rapid, our hearts to race, hormones to pump, and our brains to revert to fight-or flight thinking. We don't make our most rational, let alone our most loving, decisions out of a condition of fear.

Some foreigners, of course, should be feared.  Most, however, should not.  And even when some foreigners are worthy of being feared, they’re still not usually our greatest fear.  Courage, Bader-Saye insists, depends on learning "what to fear and how much to fear it."6 So, for example:

  • Throughout the 1990s US crime rates were declining, yet two-thirds of Americans thought they were rising.7 This doesn't mean we shouldn't have been concerned with the crime that was happening. But for a decade most Americans felt an unnecessary level of fear about crime and our criminal justice policies got shaped by unrealistic fears.

  • Now a great fear of Muslim terrorism has gripped our country. Again, we need to be vigilant about real dangers. I personally know people affected by the event at OSU back in November. Yet the Dispatch reported last month that your likelihood of being killed in the US by a radical Islamic terrorist is less than being killed by lightning. And since 9/11 nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists and other non-Muslim extremists than by Muslims.8 Are we fearing the right things?

  • And in our Lenten study book, Rabbi Kushner tells about a study finding that people who were acutely stressed after the 9/11 attacks and continued to worry about terrorism—about 6% of the population—were at least three times more likely to develop heart problems. If even a tiny fraction of those people suffered a fatal heart attack due to that stress, it would mean more people will have died of fear than died on 9/11.9 Fear is literally killing us.


    Here’s the thing: If we allow our fear of terrorism and foreigners to fundamentally change who we are and how we live, then terrorism has won. Terrorists aren’t trying to kill all of us; they don’t need to. They’re trying to make all of us live in fear. If our fear causes us to overreact with suspicion of all Muslims or by torturing terror suspects, all we do is perpetuate the cycle of terror.

    I was in Britain in the 1980s when the IRA regularly bombed English businesses. Now, of course the police tried to bring bombers to justice and the military tried to prevent attacks—all of that is needed. But after every bombing, that business would reopen the very next day, even if all they could do was set a card table out front with a few doodads to sell, and the sign would always say, “B.A.U.” Business As Usual. Necessary caution? Yes, please. Firm responses to dangerous actions? Absolutely. But fear should not change who we are and how we live. In the face of terrorism, we need some Business As Usual.


    In response to recent rhetoric about foreigners in Alabama, Bishop Will Willimon wrote a little book called Fear of the Other. He says, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather having a reason for doing the right thing in spite of our fear.” And where does that courage come from? From revering, honoring and devoting ourselves to something greater than our own safety--to God, our Rock and Redeemer, the Creator of every human being. And think of church, Willimon says, “as schooling in how to manage our fears, how to fear our fears getting the best of us, fearing the right things in the right way.” 10

    So much of our fear—okay, I’ll own this: so much of my fear—has to do with the safety of my children. Hurt me if you need to, but don’t mess with my kids! And welcoming strangers and loving foreigners may in fact put our kids at some risk. But not welcoming strangers and not loving foreigners also puts our kids at risk—at risk of having cold hearts and of not following Jesus. Do you remember that story about the peanut butter, how the lady said, “Well, nowadays you can’t be too careful.” Yes you can; yes you can.


    My 21 year-old daughter, Emily, spent a semester last year studying in Senegal, a predominantly Muslim country in West Africa. She spent the end of that time in a city called Kaolack, where she was one of two white people and possibly the only Christian among 175,000 people. If anyone has ever been, she was a stranger, a foreigner. Every day as Emily walked to work, she saw the same old woman sitting on a stool. After a few days, the old lady motioned her over. And even though Emily had grown used to Senegalese hospitality by that time, she felt some trepidation. Is this old woman going to try to get money from me? More likely, is she going to try to marry me to one of her grandsons? Is someone else waiting around the corner to get me? But Emily went over. The old lady took Emily’s hands in hers, pointed up to God, and began to pray. The woman knew no English or French; Emily knew very little Wolof. But from then on, every morning this old lady prayed for my daughter, saying whatever black Senegalese Muslim old women say to their God for white American Christian college students far from home. I will never meet her. I don’t know her name.  But I am eternally grateful to this woman for her gracious, prayerful welcome of a stranger.


         So here’s your assignment. Some time in the next week or two, spend an hour with someone you might feel some fear of. You don’t need to tell them that’s what you’re doing! Maybe worship in a church made up of immigrants or go to a mosque. Visit someone in prison. Volunteer at the Free Store or New Life Church. Visit the Somali Community Association near Northern Lights or the Bhutanese Community Center on Tamarack. Your assignment is to spend one hour with someone, facing your fear.

    It’s natural to fear strangers and foreigners. The point is to learn to do the right thing anyway.



1 Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, ed. Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001), 45-46.

2 M. Daniel Carroll R., Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, & the Bible, second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press,2014), 45-51.

3 See Carroll R., 99-100.

4 Carroll R., 91.

5 Scott Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 26.

6, Bader-Saye, 25.

7 Bader-Saye, 15.

8 Alan B. Miller, "The Inside Story," The Columbus Dispatch, February 12, 2017, G1.

9 Harold S. Kushner, Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World (New York: Anchor Books, 2009), 8.

10William H. Willimon, Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016), 35-36.


05 March 2017

Matthew 6:25-34

Not to Worry

March 5, 2017        Maple Grove UMC


          “I used to think that the angels in the Bible began their messages with ‘Do not be afraid’ because their appearance was so frightening,” writes Scot Bader-Saye in a book called Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear.  “But I have come to think differently.  I suspect that they begin this way because the quieting of fear is required in order to hear and do what God asks of us.”1

                    The quieting of fear is required to hear and do what God asks of us. That idea is at the heart of this Lenten worship series called “Fear Not: Overcoming Fear with Faith.”  Let me be clear:  this is not to say that all fear is bad.  Fear warns us of danger and teaches us much about ourselves.  But there’s a reason why “Fear not” is the most often repeated command in the Bible.  One teacher found over 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.2 Why so many?  Partly because we are such fearful people!  We need to hear it every day.  And partly because, not just to have fear, but letting fear run your life will leave you unhappy, ungenerous, and ultimately unfaithful. 

                    Between now and Easter we will look at fear in several ways:

  • fear of strangers and foreigners

  • at disciples who are afraid of Jesus and Peter daring, for a moment, to walk on top of the water

  • at the relationship between fear and love

  • at how the opposite of fear isn’t fearlessness but trust

  • and at praying through our fear.


                We begin this series with what is surely the most common type of fear: anxiety. Jesus says, Don’t worry about having enough to eat--birds don’t plant crops or store up food, yet God feeds them. And don’t worry about what you’ll wear--flowers don’t work at all, and still they’re beautiful. Don’t worry.

                First, a few things about what Jesus is not saying here:

  • He’s not saying that nothing bad will ever happen to you. Flowers eventually wither and die; some birds can't find anything to eat. Jesus isn’t saying that bad things can’t happen; he’s saying that worrying won’t make things better.

  • Jesus is also not saying that there’s no need to work and study and plan for the fuure. Jesus knows full well that food doesn’t put itself on the table. What he’s saying is that worry doesn’t put any food on the table.

  • And finally please don’t hear this scripture as a judgment or criticism of worrying. All that criticism accomplishes is that people still worry, and they feel bad about it—maybe even worry about their worrying. This scripture is not a word of judgment; it’s a word of hope—there is a way not to worry, or at least to worry less. Don't you want to know what it is?


I want to start by thinking with you about what worry is. I consider myself an expert on this topic, being an excellent worrier myself and coming from a long line of worriers

      You can distinguish worry from fear.  True fear, writes Gavin de Becker, is a survival signal that sounds only in the presence of immediate danger—let’s say as a bear is chasing you, or a car is swerving into your lane.  Anxiety, in contrast, is not a signal, but more of a “state,” a condition—it persists in the absence of any real danger and it does not serve our survival.4 So there’s a difference between true fear and anxiety.  The trouble is, though, the mind and body can’t tell the difference between worry and fear.  Either way, the heart races, muscles tense up, breathing grows rapid and shallow, the brain reverts to fight-of-flights mechanisms.  We are not at our best when we are anxious or afraid.


      Gavin de Becker is a consultant to celebrities and government officials who are being stalked or have received death threats.  He knows a thing or two about fear and danger.  He acknowledges that anxiety is a form of fear, but calls it “manufactured” fear, a form of “self-harrassment.”4 It’s fear based not on what’s about to happen, but on what might happen, or might not happen, or that I imagine could happen, or I hate to think about what it would be like if it did happen.  Near the end of his life, Mark Twain said, “I have had a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”5 That’s anxiety.

      De Becker says that most often we worry because it provides some “some secondary reward.”  If you’re a worrier like me, you’ll recognize these secondary rewards, but as I list them, it will be hard to consider them rewards exactly..

  • Worry, he says, is a way to avoid change; when we worry, we don’t actually do anything about the matter.

  • Worry is a way to avoid admitting our powerlessness over something, since worry makes us feel like we’re doing something.

  • Worry is what de Becker calls a cloying way to have connection with others; in other words, worry is a poor substitute for love.

  • Finally, worry is a protection against future disappointment. If I worry about failing now, maybe it won’t feel so bad when I actually do fail.6

That makes worry sound like a fun life, doesn’t it? When you put it in these terms, you might wonder, “Why do I worry?”  That’s a good question, worthy of our reflection.  But today’s question is, “What am I going to do about anxiety?  How can I stop worrying, or at least worry less?”

Let me share two ideas about that. You can take them with you.  They're safe to try at home.  What to do about worry?

  1. Intentionally train your body to react differently to stress and consciously train your eyes to see the world a different way. First, the body: simply taking three deep breaths begins to slow down your heart rate and to release the tension in your body. Try it, right now. Nothing is more effective in countering anxiety than breathing. And try forcing yourself to smile—it is harder to stay worried when you’re smiling and laughing—it's physiologically true.

And then the eyes: almost every book on fear I read had this advice--don’t watch the evening news—the steady diet of crime and car crashes causes you to see the world in an unrealistic way. Keep a gratitude journal—every day write down three things you’re grateful for.  It shifts your focus from the negative to the positive, and gratitude is wonderful medicine for anxiety.  Start each day expecting good things to happen.  Let this be part of your morning prayers: “God, I am expecting good things to happen today."  This may or may not make good things happen, but it will help you notice when they do happen.  So much depends on how you look at things.  I was in a Bible study one time with Jody Oates, whom many of you know.  We were studying the story in Matthew where Jesus stayed behind and the disciples crossed the lake and the boat was far from the land, Matthew says, for the wind was against them.  And I said, “In't that they way it always is?  Isn’t the wind always against us?”  And Jody said, “Actually, no, a lot of times the wind is quite nice.”  And you know, he’s right.  I had developed a way of looking at the world that was negative, anxious and incorrect.  Worry is about how you look at the world, and about whether you hold tensions and troubles in your body or release them.  And so to worry less, intentionally train your body to react differently to stress and consciously train your eyes to see the world a different, more positive way. 

  1. And then there’s this. In his book about dialing back fear, Dr. Marc Siegel says “that if fear is unlearned, it is because a new emotion replaces it.” Fear doesn’t just go away; you have to replace it with something. And secular though he is, Dr. Siegel suggests caring. Caring for someone else gets us out of that self-centered cycle of anxiety. It's good for you. And Scot Bader-Saye admits that we can’t just command ourselves to feel less fear—it doesn't work. Overwhelming fears must be overwhelmed by bigger and better things, by a larger story that is hopeful and not tragic.7

          And here’s how Jesus said the same thing: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ God knows you need those things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I know this can sound like a religious platitude, but it’s really a deep spiritual truth. Again, it doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen, and it doesn’t mean you should work hard and plan for the future. But you don’t overcome anxiety by doing battle anxiety. You overcome anxiety by reaching out for God, by trusting in God’s care, by breathing in God’s goodness and letting God hold all that burdens you.

          But what if I tried it and it didn’t work? Keep trying! I mean, what’s the alternative—keep worrying? Or rather, trying isn’t quite the right word. Keep letting this happen in you:

          I’m worried sick, Lord, and I’m going to put you ahead of my worry. I’m going to seek you first, Lord.

          I’m worried sick, and your righteousness, God, will be enough.



          I’m worried sick, Lord, and I’m going to let you calm my quivering, fearful heart. Lord knows I can’t calm it myself.

          God will hold you as far as, and to the extent that, you will allow yourself to be held. It’s not a platitude; it’s the truth we so desperately need.


1Scot Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, Christian Practice of Everyday Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 59.

2Lloyd Ogilvie, Facing the Future Without Fear,, accessed March 2, 2017.

3 See Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence New York: Delta, 1999), 292-93.

4 de Becker, 302.

5 de Becker, 315.

6 de Becker, 302.

7 Bader-Saye, 60.



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