Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:4-7
“Historians will probably call our era ‘the age of anxiety.’ Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us. When we make anything else our goal, frustration and defeat are inevitable. Though we have less to worry about than previous generations, we have more worry. Though we have it easier than our forefathers, we have more uneasiness. Though we have less real cause for anxiety than our predecessors, we are inwardly more anxious. Calloused hands were the badge of the pioneer, but a furrowed brow is the insignia of modern man. God has never promised to remove all our troubles, problems, and difficulties. In fact, sometimes I think the truly committed Christian is in conflict with the society around him more than any other person. Society is going in one direction, and the Christian is going in the opposite direction. This brings about friction and conflict. But God has promised, in the midst of trouble and conflict, a genuine peace, a sense of assurance and security, that the worldly person never knows.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (April 22)
I chose the title of this post after the Mel Brooks movie, High Anxiety, his spoof of thriller movies. It wasn’t his best spoof, with Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein being the big hits in my opinion, but it wasn’t that bad. In true spoof fashion, Mel Brooks played a psychiatrist who had a crippling fear of heights, thus High Anxiety, and he worked in a mental institution where the doctors were crazier than the patients, and they had secrets that they would kill to protect – thus, a thriller. Since I was not a thriller fan, my mystery passion is more cozy, police procedural, and such, my wife would lean over and whisper which movie the latest scene was a spoof of. I had seen most of the scenes, either by seeing the movie or watching the trailers, but we’d only been married a couple of years when the Brooks movie came out. It was nice to know that she was worried that I wasn’t laughing enough. I just didn’t think a lot of it was that funny.
And oops, I used that word, “worried.” My wife does that a lot, but if she has grandchildren to chase, there is a lot less worry. She doesn’t have time to worry. Hmmm. Maybe that is one of the causes of our present day worrying. All the ease that Billy Graham mentioned gives us more free time. Sure, we can do more extracurricular activities, but many of us fill that time with worry and creating new fears that may not be real.
But I was struck by the publication date of the devotional. Billy Graham published the quoted book above in 1971. He compared our present worries to the older generation, at the time, that grew up during the Depression, and the pioneers that settled the West in prior generations. But it seemed that the good Rev. Graham held a blind eye to the anxiety of the time. The war in Vietnam was still raging, maybe at its height about that time. The protests continued. I was in college at the time, and I remember the colleges that had building bombed in protest. In 1970, the Kent State protests of the expansion of the war into Cambodia led to National Guardsmen firing and killing students. In the US, the Civil Rights movement was raging, and Women’s Lib was raging. Regardless of who you were or what economic strata you lived and worked in, you were affected by these forms of anxiety. Even the trivial caused anxiety, in that people in 1971 were mourning the breakup of the Beatles, a few days before New Year’s Day. And most people in 1971 could remember the fallout shelters and the drills and the fear of nuclear destruction, the thought of mutual annihilation.
Yet, Rev. Graham’s words match us, minus a recent virus, more than the audience of his devotion 50 years ago. We have another war, but it seems to be the forgotten war. There seem to be no protests, but there is no galvanizing of purpose to defeat the enemy either. We still have Civil Rights battles, although the LGBTQ protests have taken center stage until a white police officer shoots a black suspect. Rev. King’s dream of looking at character instead of color is not in full display, but when color can be interjected into any present trouble, the swords again begin to rattle. Case in point, the statistics that more people of color have died from COVID-19, proportionately, or so the news report goes, turning something that has nothing to do with a side issue, until the propaganda starts. The people providing aide see sick people, not color, but the angry person, with something to gain by creating more angry people, does the counting. Women’s Lib is also silent until there is reason to rattle swords.
Yet, I wrote yesterday about what is important. When our fear, anxiety, and angst are the centerpiece of our life, worry abounds. When the latest protests occupy space in our minds, fear is intensified. When we have so much time on our hands to dream up new things to worry about, it becomes terrifying, although we had never feared it until we created the fear of it in our minds.
But look to God. God promises peace. God promises comfort. God promises love.
Sure, Rev. Graham said that the Christian gets an abundant addition to his stress as he/she goes against the grain of this world. But why do people attack the Christian? They want that peace, comfort, and love, but they have turned their backs on the God that gives it to them freely. And even as insults are thrown toward the true believer, that true believer can feel the strong arm of God wrapped around his shoulders.
God is alive. God is with us. God is within those who believe. Praise the Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.