The Western world is saturated in anxiety. Everyone seems to be afraid of something; people keep speaking past each other, fearing what they fear while not perceiving what those opposed to them fear. Politicians work to stoke divisions and pander to the worst of human nature in fearmongering. “Mass shooting events” seem to be the new normal: barely a week goes by without a new mass shooting event somewhere in the country, in schools, religious centers, entertainment venues, and many other places. People look warily at those whom they perceive to be a threat to their security or standing, and prove receptive to and often affirm draconian measures taken against such people. A lot of people seem to live perpetually on “high alert.”
In such an environment people naturally look for some kind of comfort and security: a place in which they can feel safe. Safety in security is the goal of many, and some go to great expense to build up armaments, security staff, and the like in order to assure their safety and the safety of those around them. Some wish for restrictions on guns or other weaponry. People vote and put confidence in leaders who they believe make them feel safer: many have come to believe the opposing political party is the source of much of their anxiety and insecurity, and devote their efforts to elect people in their preferred party, presuming greater comfort and security if “their people” are in power.
And yet true security cannot be found in any of these things. Security staffs can be breached; armaments can be bested; furthermore, neither can protect against the ravages of illness, old age, and death. Government officials can do only so much to ensure safety and security, and whatever measures they take will come at the expense of the liberty and freedom of at least some segment of the population. Politicians do not deliver on all of their promises; whatever feeling of comfort and security is felt by their voters is more like a placebo than anything resembling actual security.
The unpleasant fact of the matter is that there is no true security or comfort on earth. We may find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time; we may suffer injury, illness, and/or death, and there would be little to nothing which we could do about it. Tragedies do not just happen to other people; at some point, the “other person” might well be you or me! If anything, the infrequency of suffering tragedy directly is one of the great “miracles” of life in the modern Western world. The levels of safety and comfort we seek represent luxuries our forefathers, and many less fortunate people around the world to this day, could not and cannot afford.
Whether we wish to admit it or not, we are not guaranteed another breath; we cannot have complete assurance or confidence that we will live to see tomorrow, let alone anything beyond, as James reminds us in James 4:14:
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
We are a vapor; our lives will pass on. True security will not come from the earth or from anything of our own design. The people of God have known for generations that true security can only come from God our Creator, the One who was, is, and is to come, who has promised to be our refuge and strength (cf. Psalm 46:1, Revelation 4:8). The power of sin enslaves mankind; death, the consequence of sin, is greatly feared, and people will stop at nothing to avoid it (Romans 5:12-21). God defeated sin and death through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and all who would put their trust in Jesus and His way receive confidence in hope of the same salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In Christ there is peace; in God we can find comfort; the Holy Spirit is our assurance of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 5:5, Philippians 4:7).
We therefore must look to God our Creator for comfort and security, and must cast our anxieties upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). True security does not look like anything we would have imagined. Our God is good, holy, just, righteous, kind, and merciful, but He not safe: He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Through Him we learn just how deeply we have been deceived by the Evil One to do his will: our fellow people are not our enemy, but have been deceived along with us (Ephesians 2:1-3, 6:12, Titus 3:3). Everything we have feared about our fellow man was misguided; we ought not fear what man can do to us, for it cannot be compared to what God will do for those who do not know Him or obey the Gospel of His Son (Matthew 10:28, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). In Christ we can see the work of the Evil One and the powers and principalities in the governments and systems of the world, obtaining and maintaining power, wealth, and influence by instigating people into anxiety, fear, and insecurity, and setting them against one another (Matthew 4:8-9, Ephesians 6:12, Revelation 13:1-18). In Christ victory over anxiety, fear, and insecurity does not come from bigger walls, better weaponry, terrorism, or anything of the sort; Jesus obtained victory over sin and death through serving humanity in love and humility, suffering depredation and death, and rising in glory in the resurrection, and Christians obtain the same victory according to the same path (Philippians 2:5-11).
It is natural to seek after comfort and security. Yet what is natural often comes into conflict with God’s purposes for mankind in Jesus. If our comfort and security is obtained through the suffering and deprivation of others, the cost is not worth the “benefit.” If in our quest to relieve ourselves of our anxieties and fears we close ourselves off to other people, find reasons to demonize and dehumanize them, and do not seek their good and their salvation, we prove we are of the Evil One and not of Christ (Luke 6:27-36). To follow Christ demands that we become as vulnerable, as able to be wounded by others, as Christ was for us: it will hurt; it will lead to persecution; it may lead to death (1 Peter 2:18-25, 4:12-19). We must always remember that true security cannot be found in this world: we are weak, we are easily deceived, and we cannot escape every danger. Instead, we must live boldly in faith, loving one another and our fellow man, showing mercy in humility, suffering whatever may befall us, confident not in ourselves but in Jesus the Christ for full salvation. May we place our trust in God in Christ, and make Him our refuge, and put away the idolatry of comfort, safety, and security in this world!
Ethan R. Longhenry