By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
A couple of weeks ago several things converged to bring stress to my life. Without going into detail, I’ll just say they involved physical, material, family and emotional matters, and all contributed to a great deal of anxiety.
At the same time, our college ethics class was studying “a cure for anxiety” which focused on the writings of a Greek philosopher who lived more than two thousand years ago. Epicurus categorized desires into three areas – those which are natural and necessary such as food and shelter; desires which are natural but not necessary; and those he called unnatural and unnecessary.
There are aspects of Epicureanism which are appealing to students and to their instructor, but I found fault foundationally with his concept of God, or the gods. To his society they were whimsical, a threat, and man was seen as a pawn caught in the middle of an epic struggle. So Epicurus conveniently taught that the gods ignored us. As he viewed human problems without any acknowledgment of deity, he developed a belief and a science to explain away the difficulties.
He also rejected the concept of any after-life, writing, “Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.” Yet no matter how hard one tries to explain away death, there remains an anxiety about how one’s life will end. A number of younger educators younger have passed away this month, which causes one to think more about mortality.
Eventually I ended up comparing Epicurus’ beliefs to a wonderful passage written by the apostle Paul. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men.The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). Paul’s faith does much more to ease my anxiety than Epicurus’ denials.
This week we celebrated Easter, the pivotal event in the Christian faith. We believe the God of the universe identified with our struggles, sacrificed himself for us, and through the resurrection brings newness of live and peace.
While Jesus walked on earth, he spoke of anxieties and how to deal with those. In the Sermon on the Mount he mentioned the concerns of life – food, shelter, clothes – all of which he understood. Then he told the crowds, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).
Those who know me now find it hard to believe, but I was a distance runner in high school and college, and my greatest fear back then was losing my legs. Try to pinpoint the thing that causes you the greatest fear or anxiety. Then be encouraged that there’s a heavenly Father who knows everything about you, sees your needs before you recognize them, and offers peace and rest.