Brother Phobos sat forlorn on one of the many rock formations encircling his small hermitage in Egypt’s Scetis Valley. With each gurgle of his stomach, his thoughts became increasingly distraught. He had prayed his psalms, tidied up his small monastic cell in the nearby cave, and weaved the requisite number of wicker basket he sold to support his meager existence. He had nothing to do, nothing to do but sit there with his thoughts.
“It’s three hours till sunset. Okay.” Gurgle! “Ugh, It’s been five hours since I ate that scrap of bread.” Gurgle! “It’s another ten hours till Abba Eustathios brings me any more…What if he doesn’t come?”Gurgle! “I’m going to die!”
Our minds are often a tangled web of anxieties. Will we be able to pay the next bill? I flunked that algebra test, my future is ruined! Does he really love me or just want to use me? If Mike’s presentation goes well, might he get the promotion that I deserve? I can’t seem to do anything right. It’s too overwhelming. I’m going to die alone, forgotten.
Like the fictional Br. Phobos, fear gnaws nearly constantly at the back of our minds, shaping how we view and interact with the world around us. The world seems characterized by a terrifying lack of the things we most need. Lack of money, lack of success, lack of opportunities, lack of recognition, lack of love. There isn’t enough to go around and we have to fight to get a slice of the pie.
There is, however, another way to view reality, a different mindset. Saint Paul speaks of the antidote to this mind of fear. He wrote to the Corinthians, whose own view of reality warped their interactions with each other. The solution, the healing of a mind beset by fear and anxiety, is to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16).
To have the mind of Christ is to think like Christ, to see as Christ sees. The key to this new mindset is the cross. When we turn our gaze to the cross and dwell on it, then we encounter something startlingly contrary to the mind fearing scarcity. On the cross, we glimpse the abundant depths of God’s love and the inexhaustible recesses of his generous mercy. God died for you. Each mind gnawed by fear, each anxious student, each distraught parent, each lonely elder, each suffering soul is the object of God’s endlessly intense and uncontainable immensity of love.
There is no lack, no scarcity, no need for despair in the light of the Christ. When fear or anxiety creeps in, we can remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the midst of his desolation:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. (Lam 3:21-23)
May the light of the cross heal our minds from every fearful and anxious thought that we may know the depths of God’s love for us.
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