Wednesday, November 19, 2008

anxiety

To be human in a fallen world, is to be anxious. Scripture sees anxiety as being both fearful of what might happen in a world where bad things do happen, and death is certain. But anxiety is also seen as a motivation to live out God's will in Jesus during this life, with a sense of personal responsibility in light of God's will, and for others.

Soren Kirkegaard is one who profoundly thought through the concept of anxiety. To Kirkegaard there was objective and subjective anxiety, as well as good and bad anxiety. Indeed to live as a human was to accept anxiety or else live in despair. Anxiety was meant to help one become what God intended for them in Christ. And a reality that never ends in this life. Though anxiety could have the opposite effect so that one can end up in despair, giving up and thus abandoning faith in God's promises in Christ, and therefore missing God's good will for them. Kirkegaard has a number of interesting things to say about anxiety in light of the fall and God's redemption in Christ, largely missed since philosophers referring to his insights into the human condition, have set aside Kirkegaard's theology. For Kirkegaard the proper end of anxiety is to rely on God's provision of salvation in Jesus Christ, and to (even joyfully) rely on Christ fully in one's ongoing existence.

Anxiety has been an ongoing issue in my life. I've grown in overcoming it much over the years, and handle it better when it comes now. I can see the wisdom of making the right kind of anxiety a part of my life, to help others by prayers and loving acts and words (1 Corinthians 7 has some examples, as well as Paul expressing his godly anxiety over the churches, and Timothy sharing in that). Most importantly I can see a good anxiety in endeavoring to live each day as one following Christ in the community of God's people and in mission to the world. Motivated to do God's will. Jesus himself seemed to express such in light of the cross, and in this sense anxiety can help us to order our lives before God.

As to the bad anxiety, we must be assured that in Jesus, nothing at all can separate us from God's love. Whatever we go through, God will be present for us, and the end will be good. This must become dominant over those matters which can deter us, and I know of them well. So that we learn to cast our anxieties on the Lord, knowing of his care for us.

Just a few thoughts on this; the chapter has many more. And what more would you like to add?

(From reading from The Consolations of Theology, edited by Brian S. Rosner, the chapter, entitled "Kirkegaard on Anxiety," by Peter G. Bolt.)

5 comments:

NaNcY said...

you have said a lot here.
i like how God teaches us to take the bad of life and turn it into good through Him.

another good post on this book, ted.

Lanny said...

oooh, I get what your after here, but being a word person I am wondering if it is wise for us to continue to use "anxiety" to encompass what perhaps may be better defined as "concern", "solicitude", "disturbance" or other some such words that in this present time do not immediately bring to mind a state of overwhelmedness, hand-wringing, and paralization. Otherwise we can start chucking out verses like:
"For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit." Jeremiah 17:8. Not to mention Luke 12:25-27 and the standard, oft quoted, Philippians 4:6.

So is Kirkegaard, via Rosner, saying that we continue in true anxiety (the self-absorbed kind) or recognize that it is something that the Triune God will reconcile in our lives here on earth, so that instances that would in our natural state have brought upon anxiety now in our reconciled state bring about concern or solicitude that we may quickly hear exactly what it is that the Holy Spirit is telling us is our role in the matter at hand? In the analogy of us being God's employees, when do we become the type of employee that no longer has to always go to the "employee manual" for every move we make to see that we are to do a certain something and instead have that certain something become so automatic that we no longer even think about it, until someone brings it to our mind?

But then there is also the consideration that some anxieties are a malfunction of our brain chemistry, like diabetes is a malfunction of the pancreas, this would be a whole other concept indeed. Not necessarily one that would send me running to the pharmacist, but certainly one that would require recognition of said malfunction and learning ways to avoid or correct it much like a change in diet etc. An affliction I suffer from and must watch carefully lest my brain chemistry gets so out of whack that I have to hit the pharmacopeia for some assistance to bring it under control, which I have not had to do in a very long time, praise God. Yes, God heals physical afflictions but sometimes, as in the supposed case of Paul’s physical afflictions, chooses to not heal them for the purpose of His glory. It may actually be a gift?

Just wondering.

As you can see, clearly I am more motivated by the concept of anxiety than civility. Ooooh what does that say about me? Yikes!

Thanks for the thought provoking post, as usual you have given me something to add to my meditations during today’s mindless labors. God bless you and keep you and yours today.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy,
Thanks. It's a good thought stimulating read- this book. Kirkegaard is fascinating and challenging, and I want to get into reading him.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lanny,
Thanks for all your good thoughts and I agree, really.

The Greek words are the same in the different Scriptures which refer to both "positive" and "negative" anxiety, and sometimes different English words are employed in translating to give the sense- like "concern" I think.

Certainly it can be a physical issue for sure. We're complex beings.

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