Opinion  |  

Tim Costello says we need more faith, less fear

A recent report from the World Economic Forum revealed that the biggest mental health issue in the world today is anxiety.

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An estimated 275 million people globally are obsessed and distressed by anxiety and fears. And, at the richest time in our history, more than two million Australians are medicated for anxiety.

The late Billy Graham said historians will probably call our era “the age of anxiety.” But why should we fear? Fear, more than doubt, is the opposite of faith.

The English word  “anxiety” tellingly derives from a Latin word which means “to strangle or constrict.” And so many people, including too many Christians, appear to be bound by fears and anxiety.

According to a Christian parable, not one sparrow will fall without God knowing about it. Jesus said that we are worth much more than sparrows and God knows every hair on our heads.  In Luke 12, Jesus tells a multitude: “Fear not, little flock. Do not be afraid.”

The words “do not be afraid” appear 365 times in the Bible. Jesus is saying we can’t help being anxious at times, but we should not give in to anxiety. Human anxiety and concern, though understandable, are not the key to the true understanding of our existence.

The English word  “anxiety” tellingly derives from a Latin word which means “to strangle or constrict.” And so many people, including too many Christians, appear to be bound by fears and anxiety.

Why is it that those who speak most loudly about their faith sometimes seem to be the most fearful? It troubles me that, increasingly, evangelical Christians, particularly in the US, trumpet irrational fears of refugees and gay people, reject climate change science, support assault weapon ownership and want to build walls rather than bridges. They are being known by fear not faith.

Religion has often not been the antidote to fear. Indeed, too many churches have consciously and unconsciously taught fear of nature (particularly our own), fear of our bodies, fear of others and fear of the world.

Religions built on fear must keep preaching their fears to survive. They do injustice to the mystery of faith.

An African prayer states: “Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down.” It is a call to know that the dangers and uncertainties of life are many, but that we have the choice to live by faith or fear.

Faith, as the apostle Paul once said, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It’s a conviction that there is a loving purpose amid all the uncertainty.

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we can know who holds tomorrow. Let us not be afraid.

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