By Susan Miller Setiawan, Associate Professor of Nursing
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25 (NRSV)
Author’s note: I want to be clear here that while anxiety is part of the human condition, it can also meet criteria for diagnosis. My recognition that anxiety is prevalent doesn’t mean that we have to power through; if your anxiety is causing distress, please seek help.
Recently I heard someone refer to the current times in which we live as an “age of anxiety.” Take a deep breath to center yourself and try the phrase on for size. Are we living in an age of anxiety? I imagine that very few of us are strangers to the gut-twisting, heart-pounding, brain-racing experience of anxiety, and if we look deeply into the world around us, it is clear that anxiety is a driver of actions and consequences around the globe.
There are more causes of anxiety than I can possibly imagine, but at the core of many of them is a desire for certainty: we want to be certain of our place in the world, certain of enough money, certain of the right action to take, certain of any number of things.
We feel this need for certainties deep in our bones. We yearn for it. And when it eludes us (as it will), we may either try to distract ourselves so we don’t have to come face-to-face with our loss of certainty, or we attempt to “power through” to build a life where uncertainties won’t exist.
Except uncertainties will always exist. Except we can never distract ourselves enough.
This may sound disheartening, but perhaps it is actually an invitation to begin to leave behind our need for certainty. What if there are gifts to be found in moving from the gut-clenching desire for certainty to a new openness and gentle awareness of our uncertainties as a part of our humanity – not something to circumvent, but something to live into?
Isaiah 65:17 speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, a passing away of former things as something new comes into being. The imagery is captivating, and the newness calls to us. In the gospels, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is within us, at hand, available to each one of us. Perhaps we are being called to a slow, steady, contemplative work of venturing away from our desire for certainty towards a new openness to the world that God is building yet today.
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25 (NRSV)
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord and their descendants as well. 24Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpentits food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.