The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
December 10, 2017
Six months ago, the New York Times ran an article entitled, “Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax.” It reported, “As depression was to the 1990s, so…we have entered a new Age of Anxiety. The Americans of 2017 can make a pretty strong case that they are the gold medalists in the Anxiety Olympics.”
Many studies show that the level of anxiety among Americans is at an all-time high. As a result, an all-time high number of Americans are looking to find peace of heart, though few report success in the effort.
In an article three years ago in The Atlantic magazine, a courageous man named Scott Stossel openly shared about his lifelong attempt to alleviate the intensity of his fearful fretting and worry. He told of how over three decades he had tried eight forms of therapy, hypnosis, meditation, self-help workshops and retreats, audiotapes ordered off a late-night TV infomercial, acupuncture, yoga, herbal and holistic medicine, booze and 27 different drugs prescribed by psychiatrists. He then reported: “Here’s what worked: Nothing!”
Is there then nothing to do in this world of trouble but to endure the affliction of anxiety?
The Bible says that there is a Source of Help beyond the merely human: a God-Man Savior who can, Zechariah declared at the end of his song of prophecy, “guide our feet into the way of peace”.
Months before, an angel of God had visited Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, and dropped the bombshell that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth would, despite their advanced age, miraculously have a son, to be named John, and that their boy would “turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord” and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord”.
Zechariah scoffed at the announcement that his ancient wife would bear a child. It was a doubting insult of the Lord’s power, and for it Zechariah, a mouthpiece for God, would be rendered unable to speak for over nine months.
After the birth of his baby boy, on the eighth day of the little one’s life, the day when according to the tradition of the time a male child was to be circumcised and named, everyone was insisting that the boy be named after his father or some other relative; but Zechariah put an end to the discussion by writing on a tablet, no doubt with definitively bold letters, that the boy’s name would be John, just as the angel had instructed. With that act of trusting obedience, Zechariah suddenly found his voice again for the first time in almost a year, and he immediately burst out in song to praise God and to prophesy about the mission for which his little Johnny had been brought into this world. It is worth noting that the lyrics to Zechariah’s song spoke, not so much about his boy, as about the “Mighty Savior”, “raised up” by God, whose ways before Him his boy would “prepare” in order to enable this still greater One to “give light” to those who sit in darkness and “guide our feet into the way of peace”.
Of course, Zechariah was singing of the Prince of Peace to whom Christians have ever since turned to gain serenity and strength of soul even in the midst of troubles, trials, setbacks and suffering.
I for one join the chorus of witnesses who testify that Jesus brings a peace that we in this hard world could never find apart from Him: Jesus whose personal loving presence settles our nerves in the face of difficulty and danger and whose wise plans and powerful purposes give us confidence in the face of uncertainty and risk.
The way of peace into which He guides us is not a journey free of pain, conflict and stress. But, because it is a journey taken with Someone who is always caring of heart, always constant in His companionship, always in control, and always competent to get us to a beautiful destination, we need not be disturbed by all the turbulence along our route, unsettled by its upsetting twists and turns, overcome by its seemingly overwhelming challenges, or left uncomforted in the afflictions through which it takes us.
I am reminded of an article from the September issue of the magazine Business Insider, which someone recently showed me. It was written by a commercial airplane pilot named Patrick Smith who flies Boeing 757s and 767s. Smith is well aware that the number one anxiety-producer for plane passengers is turbulence, and that turbulence is an inevitable and, really, normal experience of air travel. He wrote to assure passengers that, while turbulence might sometimes “get you” so your cola spills out of its cup or you stumble into someone else’s seat on your return from the lavatory, it can do you no lasting harm as long as you have at the helm of your airship a pilot who knows their business. The plane won’t be flipped over, thrown into a tailspin or otherwise caused to crash by even the mightiest gust of wind or the biggest and most unexpected air pocket. The disturbance of the turbulence is just an unavoidable but unpleasant component of an otherwise great ride.
If we let Jesus, the Prince of Peace, pilot our ride through this world of trouble, He will not always keep us sailing smoothly along; but He will take us into the way of peace, on the way to the greatest of destinations, as we entrust ourselves to His caring, control and competency. He will surely bring us through any trouble and bring us at last to our true home, a paradise in which His peace will reign forever and ever. Let us pray.