Summary: On the radio: "Anyone who doesn’t have high blood pressure these days simply isn’t paying attention." Oh, really?
AN ANTIDOTE FOR ANXIETY
I heard a man suggest on the radio that, “Anyone who doesn’t have high blood pressure these days simply isn’t paying attention.”
There is plenty to be anxious about in our world today. Nations nobody cared about five years ago are suddenly steering the world toward conflict. Rogue states are coming out of the woodwork, each one declaring its intent to build nuclear arsenals, and frankly daring anyone to try and stop them. When our war on terrorism began, it looked as if we’d be talking about basically secret operations involving the FBI as much or more than the Army. Now, it’s not outrageous to speculate that the world may be in greater danger of nuclear holocaust from the terrorists than we ever were when the old Soviet Union was aiming missiles at us.
At least the old Soviets were chess players who understood that the costs associated with an action may make that action unthinkable. Not so the powers who speak of going nuclear these days. They are fanatics who disregard personal cost altogether.
But we don’t have to speak that large to raise our blood pressures, do we? Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Two thirds of all Black children are raised without fathers. (Don’t congratulate yourself about this if you’re not African-American...all the other races are heading in that direction. All this means is that Black folk will most likely get fed up with this trend before everyone else and repent before the rest of us.) One in five Hispanic girls gets pregnant in high school. As a father raising three half-Hispanic girls that one really bugs me. We continue to murder one and half million babies every year through abortion, all the while we slap God Bless America bumper stickers on our cars. One in ten of us will have to deal with cancer either in ourselves or in our loved ones.
Some of us hoped that after 9-11, God might grant us a spiritual renewal or revival in America. It looked hopeful for several weeks, but now polls show that if anything, Americans are even more indifferent to religion than they were before that event.
Or, even simpler than that, I can give you two words that’ll raise the blood pressure of every truck driver on the road: Fuel cost. How is an independent operator supposed to survive? Generally, the answer is, he doesn’t.
A couple of years ago, I heard a pastor talking about that bumper sticker that says, “No Fear.” He said, basically, you’re young. It’s normal to be fearless when you’re young. But stick around. We can teach you.
In our world, it’s easy to panic. Anxiety is normal. Fear is to be expected. In this context it is good for us to hear King David singing strongly, “O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”
This is from Psalm 131, and here, I believe, we have a Biblical antidote for anxiety. (Read Ps.131 now.)
This Psalm is one of a small group of Psalms that is called a “Song of Ascent.” In most of your Bibles it will in fact say that right under the title. These are the hymns that the Jewish people sang on their way up to Jerusalem for one of the solemn feast days. They are songs sung on the way to worship at the Temple.
Now, I’m suggesting that what we’re all after is described for us in verse 2. (Read it again.) There it is. A calm and quiet soul. In our days of ever-increasing anxiety, that is our goal. Calmness and quietness.
It uses the image of a weaned child with his mother. The easiest way to grasp the point about this is to imagine the opposite, a baby that isn’t anywhere close to weaned yet. Here’s the thing about a baby that hasn’t been weaned. It’s still in the stage in which each and every pang of hunger is a cause for panic. The baby hasn’t learned enough yet to know where the food is coming from, or even whether it is coming at all, so every twinge of hunger sets it screaming. Nursing infants do not generally wait with poise and patience for their food. They are loud and upset and scared that they’re not going to eat.
On the other hand, you have the child that is weaned. It may still be very young and basically helpless, but he’s been around the block a few times. None of the previous instances of hunger have resulted in his death, so that sort of fear is gone by now. He’s old enough to know that mom is pretty good about giving him what he needs, and even most of what he wants. Maybe he’s old enough to tell his mom he’s hungry. Maybe he’s even old enough to understand and be satisfied with the answer that dinner is cooking and will be ready to eat shortly.