A New Day, Kiawah Island, SC
Worry, Anxiety, Courage and Hope
Pain and fear are great gifts from God that none of us want and none of us can live without. We all go through seasons of worry and anxiety because of the nature of the broken world we live in and the function of the early development deep within our brain that alerts us to danger for survival. When I first read about the “gift of pain” in a Philip Yancey book, I was incredulous that pain would even be considered as a gift. But on further examination it became apparent that without the sensations of pain that are transmitted to our brains we are subject to all manner of life threatening injuries. Sadly, the many instances that result in the loss of limbs in lepers is not the direct result of this terrible disease, but the loss of feeling on nerve endings which leprosy destroys. This lack of pain sensations results in a person not alerted to a severe cut or infection that soon can cause the loss of a limb.
The amygdala area of our brain provides us such critical functions as automatic breathing and the “gift of fear”. Once Again, calling the very real experience of fear a gift seems to be a big stretch! But we’re a direct product of the DNA of our very early ancestors that were primitive survivors of all manner of threats to their lives such as volcanic eruptions and attacks from saber tooth tigers! Today we have weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, plagues and many other new threats to our existence. The red flag of fear results in the automatic response of fight, flight or freeze! Even today this response can save our lives, but if the response begins to recycle in our head it can also quickly get out of control.
Adam Hamilton in his book on Unafraid offers an acronym to combat our fears:
· Face your fears with faith. (Scripture can be helpful)
· Examine your assumptions in light of the facts. (Don’t rely on a runaway imagination)
· Attack your anxieties with action. (Therapy can be helpful)
· Release your cares to God. (Turn over those things totally out of your control)
The instruction “Do not be afraid” in one form or another appears over 140 times in scripture. That teaches us that fear like pain is ageless but faith can help us find peace. Many heroes have stated that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but rather moving through our fear in spite of it. My physical therapist helping me recover from a total knee replacement advised me to consider pain as “weakness leaving my body”.
One of my favorite quotes from Mary Anne Radmacher is that “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Biblical scripture offers us both courage and hope and my favorite quote comes from Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4:6-7); “The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”