Allow me to introduce you to Paul Tillich.
Paul was a German theologian who fled the Nazi regime in the 1930s and settled in America. Based on his experiences, he wrote a book called The Courage To Be. In this book he notes that there are many aspects of our world that can lead us to feelings of anxiety. He noted three specific forms of anxiety.
1. The first form of anxiety comes from facing death. All humans will eventually die. This fills many with anxiety…even dread. This form of anxiety is rooted in the uncomfortable recognition that there are many aspects of life that we cannot control.
2. The second form of anxiety is associated with meaninglessness and lack of purpose. When a person does not know why they were placed on this earth, or what their purpose is, this will lead to a deep, inner discomfort. Their life may be filled with a sense of wandering.
3. The third form of anxiety is related to self-condemnation and guilt.When a person is not comfortable with who they are, their inner being, they will be filled with anxiety. When one is filled with shame over an aspect of their life, anxiety will be soon to follow.
How are we to overcome these forms of anxiety?
This answer may surprise you because we often associate courage with bravery. Our veterans are courageous when they face violent foes. Our school children are courageous when they face their fear of going to school on the first day. These forms of courage rely on overcoming a direct obstacle.
But there is another kind of courage too. It is what Tillich calls the courage to be.
Tillich explains “courage is directly tied to a self-affirmation of one’s being.” Furthermore, “in the face of tremendous evidence of the presence of evil it takes true courage to believe in the wisdom and goodness of God.” Tillich defines courage as a decision to pursue God in the midst of an anxious world. This courage allows a person to become confident in who they are (you are God’s!), why they are here on earth (to glorify God!), and what is their true inner being (a being, rooted in Christ, free of guilt and shame).
It takes courage to live everyday for God. It takes courage to confront our mortality. It takes courage to feel comfortable in our existence.
This is the courage to be.
Or as the psalmist wrote…
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
Read that again, more slowly.
God is the light that will guide you through this life to salvation. Have courage to embrace the Guiding Light and leave behind all fear and anxiety.
God is your stronghold when the world is falling apart. Have courage to take shelter in God. Do not be afraid of what life will bring.
This Sunday Pastor Dana will be preaching on Martha.
See you on Sunday!