Pastor’s Friday Comments (03.06.20)

The only subject people seem to be talking about more than the presidential election these days is the potential for a deadly virus to impact the financial markets, our congregating, our daily routines, and our health. Underlying these discussions is a level of distrust of the institutions that should be seeking to calm and reassure us about whatever we should expect to face.

However, the high level of anxiety that most people feel right now is likely to be acute. No one can predict how long this health crisis will last nor how deadly it may be, but, like most viral events, it is likely to diminish over time, and with it, anxiety levels should go down.

Although I don’t want to increase your anxiety (in fact, my ultimate goal is the opposite), I should point out that in the greater Atlanta area our chronic stress is likely to be even more of a long-term challenge than whatever you might be feeling right now related to the Coronavirus.

In a recent address to the mayors of local municipalities, Kerry Armstrong, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, pointed out that in the next thirty years our area is expected to increase by 3 million people. Obviously, that means more traffic on our highways, more stress on our schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, and more obstacles with which to contend in simply living our lives. As Mr. Armstrong put it, we will have to learn to live with “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.”

An interesting (and pertinent) detail in all of this is that the fastest growing group will be those 75 years old and older. And, as our age span continues to increase, women can expect to outlive their ability to drive by 10 years and men by 7.

All of this is, of course, a recipe for anxiety, both individual and communal, so we should bear in mind some of the things that Jesus said in the sermon that I have encouraged each of you to read and around which our worship services were centered for several weeks:

What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:32-34, The Message).

One of the tests of our Christian faith might be how we weather the “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity” that may be on the rise, but that has always been part of human existence. If God is in control of your life it doesn’t give you a pass on the problems that everyone else is facing, but it gives you a Presence that can help you to deal with whatever comes along. We may need to be reminded of that now as much as we ever have.