Anxiety seems to grip our society these days. September 11 brought fears of flying and of the mail. Airlines heighten security and try to attract passengers with low fares and bonus frequent flyer miles.
Homeland security alerts heighten tensions. Should we worry about this bridge, that building or tonight's sporting event?
A necessary war with significant victories but an uncertain future can make stomachs churn. A shaky economy affects bank balances and business plans, education and retirement. "Are You Too Scared to Spend?" asks the cover of a major newsmagazine.
The office supply store I use has cut staff and hours. A local travel agency closed its doors.
One bright sign: Pizza sales are up. (Pizza as comfort food?)
Anxiety has many causes, among them fear, guilt, lack of friendship, lack of meaning, poor diet or exercise, and chemical/hormonal imbalance.
Fear can engender emotional paralysis. Fear of death is perhaps humans' greatest fear. If one has no good answer for what lies beyond the grave, anxiety -- or avoidance -- can result.
During my nineteenth summer, I seriously considered implications of my own death and beyond. Lacking satisfying solutions, I felt uncomfortable and postponed my search.
In college, the student living in the room next to mine was struck and killed by lightening. Shock gripped our fraternity house. "What is life all about?" my friends asked. "What does it mean if it can be snuffed out in an instant? Is there life after death? How can I experience it?"
Fear of circumstances -- from the trivial to the traumatic -- can bring anxiety. Will I get a job promotion? Will I survive this illness? Will this relationship last? Will my team win the championship? Will we have some month left over at the end of our money?
Once at a booksellers convention my wife and I had spent an exhausting day on our feet promoting a new book. Late that night, after a reception crowd had thinned to mostly authors and our publisher, we stood in a circle engaged in conversation. I left her side momentarily to attend to a matter.
Upon returning to the circle, I walked up behind my wife and began gently to massage her shoulders. She seemed to enjoy that, so I started to put my arms around her waist to give her a little hug. At that point, I looked up at the other side of the circle and saw my wife. I had my hands on the wrong woman.
In that instant, I knew the true meaning of fear. Fear of circumstances. Even fear of death.
Is there a solution to the fear that causes anxiety? Many people today are considering spiritual alternatives. The finally freed Christian aid workers imprisoned by the Taliban said they feared for their lives and safety. Their fears were perhaps magnified versions of what we experience daily. They said faith in God helped keep their spirits up.
Jesus of Nazareth, whom those aid workers follow, said he came to grant peace: "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid."
As we face a season and a year more uncertain than most, might the Prince of Peace again be worth considering?
Rusty Wright is an author and university lecturer who has spoken on six continents. "Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;
email@example.com. Visit our website at www.amyfound.org.