During a conversation I had with some 20-somethings, they admitted that anxiety was at the top of their list of concerns, whether it was over a specific issue, uncertainty about the next step in their lives, or general fear or lack of confidence. What to do?
Of course, this issue isn’t limited to just one particular demographic, and the conversation made me think about what I do when I’m struggling with anxiety. For example, I periodically haul horses in a trailer, sometimes for long distances. But often, when I would even think about an upcoming trip, I’d feel anxious about things that could go wrong: the complexities of caring for the horses while en route, safety on the road, and so on. Sometimes I even considered canceling a trip because the level of my anxiety was so high.
However, because it has become natural for me to turn to God for help, I have prayed a lot about this fear. My prayers were based on a couple of verses from the Bible. The first is where John, one of Jesus’ disciples, writes, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).
This is reassuring, but also raises questions: What is “perfect love”? And how can we see it operate?
John answered the question of “what” elsewhere in his writings: “God is love” (I John 4:8). When I think about God as divine Love, I can’t imagine anything more perfect. “Perfect love” speaks of God’s love for all creation, including each one of us, His children. And I’ve learned that understanding what it means to be loved by God can go a long way in assuaging anxieties.
An image springs to mind of a shepherd I once saw, standing tall and still at dawn, with sheep scattered all around. He was watchful, caring, alert. The sheep were trusting. Most of them were resting peacefully, relying on their shepherd to keep them from harm.
In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, refers to divine Love as our Shepherd in an interpretation of the Bible’s twenty-third Psalm. It assures us, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [Love] is with me” (p. 578). The promise that the embracing, supporting, guiding presence of divine Love is there for us, even in the direst situations, helps take fear away. We can think of God, our divine Shepherd, as standing watch over us with exquisite love.
This Shepherd keeps all of His spiritual offspring safe, carefully leads us, and supplies our needs. We can take this spiritual truth with us wherever we go.
Over the years, when fear or anxiety has surfaced, I’ve prayed in this way, knowing that my divine Shepherd, God, would meet all our needs and protect us. And each time, the anxiety has vanished, opening the way for fear-free and safe trips.
When even greater fears have beset me, I’ve returned to this simple example. While some fears certainly seem tougher to deal with than others, recognizing that we do have a divine Shepherd – who happens to be infinite Love itself – can replace anxieties with the sweet assurance of truly being cared for. Always!