Losing Your Mind?
By Craig Carr, Washington Conference vice president for administration
Anxiety is an interesting catalyst of behavior: for good or for bad.
We live in a chronically anxious society. It seems that anxiety, fear, anger, and even rage is closer to the surface than ever before: The current pandemic and its social distancing measures, the slowing of our economy and the financial uncertainty, and the recent racial unrest and the resulting protests and violence.
Have you noticed the anxiety in your own life and family circle? Have you noticed that small inconveniences in life can set you off?
There’s something to be said for “crisis fatigue,” as it relates to how we respond to the ongoing, chronic challenges of 2020 and how it affects our thinking and especially how we treat each other.
Let’s briefly look at two stories from the life of Jesus and His interactions with others in their anxious moments.
Martha was likely unaware of her impatience as she blows right through any sympathies in how she’s treating others. (You’ll find the full story in Luke 10:38-42.) She forgot the purpose of Jesus’ visit was more about fellowship and friendship than it was about haystacks. Martha even tried to triangle Jesus into her anxiety along with Mary by accusing Him of not caring that she’s the only one in the kitchen
“Do you not care?” Martha says in her domestic plight, to which Jesus calmly responds and stays connected to both Mary and Martha.
“Martha, Martha,” begins Jesus, “you are worried and troubled about many things,” (vs 31).
Jesus makes two distinct observations without getting into the fray of emotions, which allows Martha to pause, reflect, and choose her future behaviors. Jesus models an inner peace, that only comes from God’s Spirit, as He interacted with these sisters. With clarity, courage, and kindness, Jesus redirects the focus of Martha’s insensitivity.
As disciples of Jesus, we must begin every day at the feet of Jesus (like Mary) and let His sweet influence pervade as we go about our work (like Martha).
As we leave the kitchen and living room and venture out into the world, what happens next illustrates further what results from acting out of anxiety, panic, and fear.
Sailors at Sea
It had likely begun as a calm, ordinary evening on the lake, Jesus and His disciples are accompanied by many other boats on the moonlit waters.
But as the clouds gather and the waters rise, soon also does the adrenal response as the disciples row against the waves and wind.
It came on suddenly, a “great windstorm,” that soon the disciples realize they are losing the battle against this tempest.
As often is the case, when the disciples reached the end of their strength, they cried out to their Lord. These experienced fishermen had seen plenty of storms, and yet in their fear they forgot Jesus was onboard.
They find Jesus sleeping! “They awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”” Mark 4:38, NKJV.
Like Mary on the living room carpet, the disciples interpret Jesus’ calmness and sleep as if He doesn’t care! Just because someone else isn’t flying off the handle at the same speed you are does not mean they don’t care.
How can their faith dissolve into fear so quickly? How is it that they forgot the very presence of Jesus with them in the boat?
The disciples’ faith has been overwhelmed by their feelings, which is why it’s so important to keep the facts clear in our minds: Jesus = Creator, Advocate, Redeemer, Eternal Friend.
Does Jesus care? Oh yes! He cares! In the moment when we allow anxiety and fear to overshadow our faith, when we allow circumstances to overwhelm our belief, when we allow anxiety to steal away our courage, when we allow the storms of life to cause us to forget that Jesus is right there with us, Jesus is ready to speak into our lives.
Then (Jesus) arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
And Jesus can do the same in our living rooms and kitchens, as well as the stormy intense and scary moments in our lives.
The same Jesus who is questioned by Martha and screamed at by His disciples, “Don’t You care?” absolutely cares, and provides, and delivers, and heals, and feels, and restores, and calms our very souls.
My prayer for us all is for us not to get stirred up in the frenzy of life’s troubles around us, but to stir up the gifts of God and the fruit of His Spirit.
My prayer for each of us is that fear and anxiety will be calmed by the power of God’s love, giving us a “sound mind” that’s free to think clearly and lead our actions in kindness, compassion, and gentleness.
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God...For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power2 Timothy 1:6-7, and of love and of a sound mind.