Paul's Episcopal Church
March 20, 2003
Anxiety to Faith,
Anger to Hope, Fear to Love
Lowell E. Grisham
is an ancient spiritual truth that is also confirmed by modern
psychiatry. If you do not have a place to put your anxiety, you
will project it onto others; if you do not have a place to put
your anger, you will project it onto others; if you do not have
a place to put your fear, you will project it onto others. For
us as Christians, the place we put our anxiety, anger and fear
is on the cross of Jesus. If we can do that, we can live in peace
as people of faith, people of hope, people of love. If we cannot
do that, we are likely to add to the sum of suffering and destruction
in the world.
anger and fear are predictable byproducts of war. Everyone feels
that. Some of us are anxious for loved ones that are in harm's
way. We don't know what will happen. Will weapons of mass destruction
be released? Will innocent civilians and children be killed? Will
terrorism increase? Our anxiety has much to energize it.
everyone in this nation is angry, but that anger takes many forms.
For some, it is primarily anger toward Saddam Hussein for the threat
he has posed to his own people and to the world, anger toward the
other allies who have not supported our nation's cause, anger toward the protesters
and others who have not trusted our leaders and who have opposed our use of
force to protect the world. For others, there is anger toward President George
Bush for insisting upon a military solution to a questionable threat, for treating
international negotiations with contempt,
for ignoring the cries of allies and citizens. We are a divided world and nearly
everyone is angry.
there is fear. Fear is especially threatening to peace. It is fear,
not hate, that is the opposite of love. Our nation has been feeding
on fear for many months. In an atmosphere of fear, it is hard to
we deal constructively with our anxiety, anger and fear, we will
project it onto other human beings and we will add to the world's
anxiety and anger and fear, perpetuating the vicious circle instead
of healing it. All of us deal with our anxiety, anger and fear
by blaming others and creating
enemies. It makes us feel better. That's how we all make war of some kind.
The cross is the church's answer to this violence.
your anxiety and anger and fear, and instead of projecting it toward
Saddam or George or your spouse, co-worker or child—or yourself
through depression—send your anxiety and your anger and your fear
to the cross of
cross, God shows us what divine love does with our violence and
our hate. God soaks it up and does not give it back. God absorbs
our anxiety, our anger and our fear and instead of reacting with
wrath and punishment, God does something utterly unpredictable.
God brings resurrection. Oh, death happens. Death of some kind
is always the bitter fruit of anxiety and anger and fear.
But death is not the last word when God is at work. God takes
everything our human ugliness can dish out, God accepts it and absorbs it into
Jesus on the cross. And God returns only forgiveness, which when planted for
three days blooms into resurrection faith which overcomes anxiety, resurrection
hope which cools anger, and resurrection love which
casts out fear.
do we need in a time of war? We need the three great theological
virtues: faith, hope and love. It is faith that trusts that God
is working and God will always prevail. Believe that God can bring
unpredictable good out of every possibility—out of nails through
hands and feet as well as out of
missals and germs and chemicals. Trust that God and only God is truly powerful,
and true power always overcomes mere force in the end. We need faith, deep
trust in God.
hope. It is hope that can free us from the hot bondage of anger.
Not hope in the form of expectations. Expectations are only our
projection of our wishes and solutions on the future. Those expectations
anger always see some form of violence as our first option. No, hope in God;
a God who can bring Easter out of Good Friday, a saint out of a sinner, a peacemaker
out of a bully. Bring an abundant spirit of hope to every desperate situation.
When tempted to anger, see beyond the tears of rage and let hope rest in new
possibilities that only divine wisdom can create.
love. Wrap yourself in love. Not just any love. It is perfect love
and only perfect love that casts out fear. God is perfect love.
None of us receives perfect love from a human source. But God loves
us all perfectly, infinitely, without qualification or reservation.
Soak in that acceptance and
love until you fear no more.
want to help the world, if you want to be of service, become a
person of faith, a person of hope, a person of love. When you do
that, you do the ministry of Christ. Soak up all of the anxiety
and anger and fear that is thrown at you, accept it but do not
give it back. Instead of projecting
your anxiety and your anger and your fear, put it on the cross of Christ. Nail
it there with all of the other suffering of the world. Go to the cross in your
imagination and in your prayer, and let the unconquerable faith of Christ be
yours, trusting even in the face of death. Let the unquenchable hope of Christ
be yours, courageous in the presence of the impossible. Let the infinite love
of Christ be yours, benevolent and compassionate in the face of
all that threatens.
world is still a beautiful and wonderful place, infinitely loved
by God. Don't get sucked in by the fascination of evil. Don't spend
hours in front of the television while spring is blooming. Don't
fight the dragon, lest you become the dragon. Don't be seduced
by the invitations to anxiety, anger
and fear. These are temporal things, passing away. Live in the Spirit which
alone endures to the end, the Spirit of faith, hope and love.
Copyright©2003 Lowell Grisham