Anxiety, wilderness & what we can learn from Jesus

by susan on March 16, 2020

The past week has been one filled with anxiety, disappointment, wondering & preparing. Along with a life-threatening virus, uncertainty & unpredictability are in the air.

So, what do we do in times like these? How do we live in seasons of wilderness?

That’s the question we’d already been wrestling with this Lent as we’ve had the privilege of hearing several “wilderness stories” from people in our community. Their courage to share what life is like in these hard places in some strange way has been preparing us to face this very real wilderness in which we find ourselves.

This Sunday’s story was so relevant to where we are right now & was shared during our first-ever online Sunday gathering (which went way better than I anticipated & proved we can be quirky online, too! :). Our beloved storyteller shared about what it’s like to live with anxiety (panic attacks & all). Navigating an anxiety disorder is no small thing & we are oh-so-grateful for his reminders to become observers of our own anxiety, to seek help, to share honestly and to find healthy ways to cope. You can listen here.

The other wilderness stories we are exploring are found in the gospel of Mark – they are the ones that describe the middle of Jesus’ life – the encounters, conversations & activities that filled the period between the start of his ministry & his execution. It’s there that we find a response or rather responses to the question, how do we live in seasons of wilderness?

So often in the church, we have missed this middle part. We have rushed to the end of the gospel story – to the death & resurrection of Christ, reducing the middle to little more than a means to a glorious end. Instead of being learners of the Way, we have become believers in a set of eternal-life-focused beliefs. 

There is so much to be learned from how Jesus navigated wilderness. And to be clear, this was a wilderness season for him. By the time we get to Mark 12, he had been telling his closest friends that he knew what he was saying & doing & who he was healing & including would get him killed and surprise, surprise … they were more concerned about their own status than his dismal future.

By now , Jesus must have known he would be alone to face his most difficult days.

What becomes increasingly evident during this season, is that Jesus is here for it. Whether being urgently approached by the sick & discarded or being questioned by suspicious scribes, he was here for it.

In Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown writes, “it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.”

In the midst of his own wilderness journey, that is what we see in Jesus. He was present & paying attention. He was listening & living & loving deeply.  He was continuing to teach people about life in God’s upside down, common good kingdom of love. 

Instead of just biding his time or counting down to when something significant would happen, he was knowingly walking into the hardest of moments. He was here for it.

Friends, I know we are in an unexpected wilderness. As Rob Bell described in this recent podcast,  it feels a little like the moment before the moment. We may be tempted to let fear get the best of us. We will be tempted to check out, to lash out or to be swallowed up in the constant flow of information; but, let’s open our minds & hearts to something deeper & fuller, even here.

What invitation is there for us – for you in this season?

What would it look like to brave the wilderness & to walk into this hard moment in our lives & in history? to be alive here? to love here? to listen & learn here?

I pray we will be brave & choose love at every turn &
have grace & patience with one another along the way.

~ Susan

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