Do Not Be Anxious - Know that You Are Loved
We continue to face uncertain days – the pandemic isn’t going away any time soon but seems to be making a resurgence in our country, and who knows what we will face in the Fall and Winter or until we have a vaccine. The protests of Black Lives Matter seem to have calmed down a bit, but the pain, hurt, and anger of racism and systemic inequality will remain an issue we have to constantly address. As time goes on, many will feel more and more the economic fallout from all that has happened over these past four months. And the political vitriol only increases and continues to poison all of us. This is the backdrop for whatever other personal challenges each of us may be facing in our own lives.
Thus, many people are feeling extremely anxious, stressed, worried, and profoundly uncertain about what tomorrow will bring.
Well, our Lord Jesus proclaims such a beautiful, comforting and relevant message for each of us in today’s Gospel reading – “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your span of life? Therefore do not be anxious… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Isn’t that a timely and comforting word to hear from God, especially in these moments when everyone is tempted with such anxiety and stress?
Do not be anxious. Remember of how much value you are in God’s eyes. Worrying won’t add a single hour to your life. Just seek first the kingdom of God, and you will discover the peace you need to face whatever life brings.
Saint Paul’s words to the Roman Christians we heard in the Epistle reading today also reinforces this theme of not worrying about the uncertainties of life. The Apostle Paul reminds us that, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous person -- though perhaps for a good person one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
Think about these words. St Paul highlights that Christ’s love for us is so great that He willingly died for us specifically when we were still weak, when we were ungodly, and when we were sinful. God revealed His love to the world precisely when we didn’t deserve it!!! This powerful statement reminds us about how unfathomable Divine Love is for each one of us, and not only for us, but for every person in the world.
If we truly understand this outrageous love of God, a love that doesn’t depend on our own behavior, a love that we can’t earn or deserve – it is simply a shocking, unconditional love for all humanity – if we truly understand this outrageous love, we can then discover the deepest sense of peace and security in the midst of whatever anxieties the world brings.
We face a pandemic, yet we know that God loves us. We are confronted with protests and the volatile issue of racism and injustice, yet we know that God loves us. We seem so divided as a country, yet we know that God loves us – He loves those on the right and those on the left, He loves those who are black, brown, white or any other shade of color, He loves those who are Democrat or Republican or libertarian or whatever else. We know God loves us!
This may sound too simplistic for some, but in these words dwell the deepest theology– when we know that we are loved, deeply and truly loved no matter who we are or no matter what mistakes we’ve made in our lives, then we no longer need to act out of fear, or shame, or regret, we no longer need to respond to any anxieties and worries and all the “what ifs” in life. When we dwell daily in the outrageous and divine love of God, no fear will ever control us or overwhelm us. Remember the words of St John the Evangelist, “perfect love casts out fear.” We all need to live in that perfect love.
Living in the perfect love of God everyday. Knowing in the depths of our hearts that we are truly loved, despite all our shortcomings and failures. Responding to love instead of fear makes all the difference in our lives. A person dwelling in the love of God will not worry about what tomorrow will bring. Whatever unexpected event happens, even if it is the worst-case scenario for us, we will face it knowing that God loves us, and when we come out of the security of such love, everything is not only endurable, but can even become beautiful.
St. Paul again notes this in the epistle we heard today. The Apostle was one who faced many unexpected and extremely challenging situations throughout his life. Yet, he knew he was loved, and thus, could advise others, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”
We see St Paul highlight what I’m trying to emphasize in today’s sermon. We rejoice even if we face sufferings, because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Knowing that we are loved transforms everything that we experience in life. We have a new perspective through which to understand and evaluate even the most challenging and painful events in history.
Where society is telling us to panic if this happens or if that happens, we respond by saying, “No matter what happens, I will NOT be anxious. No matter how this pandemic plays out, I will NOT worry. No matter what injustices there are in the world, I will NOT despair or give up. No matter who wins the upcoming elections in November, I will NOT lose hope.”
Because I know that I am loved. And I will live out my life as a beloved child of God. Every day, I will act out of this foundation of love, not out of any base of fear!
Knowing that I am loved, notes the great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, “constitutes the core truth of our existence” and once we embrace this truth, we will no longer act out of fear.
Fear, anxiety, stress, worry will have no place in our lives. This truth of Divine Love will set us free, free from all anxiety and worry. We remain in peace, knowing we are loved, and we will live our lives sharing that love with the world around us, in whatever circumstances we face.
Facing Our Uncertain Future
LEARNING FROM ST NICHOLAS
Our Orthodox Faith
History: The Great Epochs of Orthodoxy