How can we best navigate the anxieties and stresses of these days? Habakkuk’s testimony is one of my favorite paragraphs in Scripture. It begins by describing dire circumstances: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls” (Habakkuk 3:17). In his day, this would mean the loss of every means of sustenance. But the prophet responded: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (v. 18).
In a world full of adversity, we must refrain from being anxious. If we follow the call of Philippians 4:6-7, Jesus will protect our “hearts,” referring to our emotions, and our “minds,” referring to our thoughts. So long as we stay connected with our Lord, trusting every problem to him with gratitude for his grace, we can claim his promise in return.
To borrow a phrase philosopher Craig Gay uses in his book The Way of the Modern World, Westerners and Americans are “practical atheists.” A subtle, operational-level form of secularism, practical atheism is not necessarily to believe that God does not exist. Rather, it’s to live as if God does not exist. One major characteristic of “practical atheism” is anxiety. Anxiety is the inevitable reaction when we realize just how out-of-our-control this fallen world is, and how fragile our shoulders – which now bear the weight of the world without God – really are.
As the COVID-19 crisis strains our ability to overcome anxiety and grief, Religion News Service reached out to psychologist and professor emeritus at Loyola University Maryland Robert Wicks for some much-needed context on overcoming grief and anxiety in the midst of a pandemic.