At the heart of early Christian theology and practice was biblical interpretation. Important subjects such as fear were studied, explored through a close reading of both New and Old Testaments. Early Christian writers found in Hebrew Wisdom literature, the Psalms, the transformation of the disciples from a timid band of tradesmen to apostles fearlessly proclaiming Christ to the religious and political elites of their day, and the miracle accounts and parables found in the Gospels rich resources for developing a Christian understanding of fear.
How do we deal with our fears? How do we let go of anxiety and trust the Lord, moment to moment, whatever the twists and turns of the journey?
I sit in a sunlit parlor and ponder these mysteries, reflecting on the continual movement of time. Nineteen women have gathered to study Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who gave his life for the sake of Christ Jesus and his church. His execution came at the end of World War II. So many decades later, we are attending a study group in the cool, green wetness of central Louisiana. The rooms are large and handsome, tables decorated with books and flowers, windows (more…)
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY
is the most frequent command in the Bible? The following answer by N. T. Wright surprised me. What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles? What do you think—“Be good”? “Be holy”? Or, negatively, “Don’t sin”? “Don’t be immoral”? No. The most frequent command in the Bible is: “Don’t be afraid.”
The theme of fear and anxiety confronts, in my opinion, one of the greatest emotional challenges we face in modern times. Not surprisingly, the recapturing of spiritual disciplines and practices can play a significant role in protecting our mental health. More specifically, the ability to create and maintain a tranquil state of mind in our modern, digitally driven world can play a significant role in preventing the many emotional disorders that are now becoming epidemic.
It was the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 469 B.C.–399 B.C.) who said to his followers: “As it is not proper to cure the eyes without the head; nor the head without the body; so neither is it proper to cure body without the soul.” These were wise words for that time, but I can’t think of any admonition more timely and imperative for our day and age as this. The Socratic idea that we have to treat the body, mind, and soul as a single unit has come to the fore again—and this admonition is not just for physicians.
I was making the bed in the corner bedroom, listening to NPR’s coverage of the economic meltdown. It was October 2008, just before my son’s thirteenth birthday. After twenty-some years on InterVarsity staff in California, Pennsylvania, and Canada, my husband, Dan, and I had packed our family and moved to Connecticut. We were there at the behest of supporters who invited us—begged us—to help them start a firm with a completely new model for making and giving money.
We live in a fear-filled world. Much of the fuel for the generalized angst and breakneck
pace of our culture is a product of a disabling fear that lurks both in the known and unknown parts of our heart. Over time we can begin to limp through our days carrying either a numb indifference or a bone-weary anxiety. Fortunately, I’ve found a dear friend who—in the time it takes to deliver just a few precious, stuttering words—can open up a universe of heart-lifting, peace-giving, awe-inspiring, truth-revealing realities that soothingly revive my doubt-worn soul. That friend is Dieter Zander.