How to overcome anxiety
Another difficult day for communities around New South Wales in Australia. At midnight, with the threat still not over, there are 7 fires at Emergency Warning and 11 at Watch and Act. Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and Victoria. In NSW, about 3,600 firefighters were battling blazes while hundreds of others were pre-positioned to tackle outbreaks.
A state-wide total fire ban remains in place for Sunday, 5 January. The Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner said, “I don’t know the length but I imagine there would be more than 15,000 km (10,000 miles) of fire edge we’ve got to try and contain”.
In NSW this fire season, so far 1,365 homes have been destroyed, 501 homes damaged and over 9,000 homes saved. And 17 people have died. On 9 January 2020 these figures were 1,870 homes destroyed, 753 homes damaged, 11,645 homes saved and 20 people killed.
And there have also been dangerous fires in Victoria and South Australia.
And the national government has just deployed 3,000 Australian Defence Force reservists to help with the bushfire recovery. And military aircraft and naval shipping are also providing assistance.
Whether it be a hurricane, earthquake, volcano, tsnami, flood, famine or a wildfire, the forces of nature can be overwhelming and destructive. Those living in areas threatened by the bushfires experience anxiety beforehand and relief or despair afterwards.
People are anxious before a bushfire because it threatens to destroy their home and property.
How can we overcome the anxiety, fear and worry that accompany disasters like bushfires (wildfires)?
Normalizing the threat
Disasters are described in both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. They are a normal part to the world since Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Disasters can happen to us all (Lk. 13:4-5). They are common to humanity.
Because of the sinfulness of humanity we have disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, bushfires, and droughts today. The world is full of natural disasters because sin has changed our once-perfect world. That’s not what God planned in the beginning of time, but it is a consequence of our rebellion and sinfulness.
God addressed the root cause of disasters like bushfires. He has done something about the sin, suffering and death in our world. He sent Jesus, so that we can have eternal life without these things (Rom. 6:23). Jesus took the punishment for sin by dying for us. Those who accept His rescue plan become part of His new creation where there will be no disasters because there will be no sin. As long as there is sin, there will be disasters.
Do you know that God is actively involved in this present world? He controls the weather via the laws of nature and He can intervene at any time if that is His will.
As long as this salvation is available to people, there will be disasters in earth. So how should we respond to these?
How can we overcome anxiety, fear and worry in the face of disasters like bushfires? First accept God’s main solution by trusting that Jesus died for our sins. Then we can be content and comforted because our future is assured.
When Peter wrote about the end times, which are characterized by disasters, he advised us to keep praying, help the needy, and use our gifts to serve others (1 Pt. 4:7-11). Disasters provide opportunities to help, bring comfort and relief, and pray.
God is with us
David said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23NIV).
An awareness of God’s presence replaces anxiety, fear and worry with comfort.
God cares for us
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt. 6:25-34).
There is no need to worry because God cares for us.
Pray to God
The Bible says to “cast all your anxiety on Him [God] because He cares for you” (1 Pt. 5:7).
And “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Prayer replaces anxiety, fear and worry with peace. We should pray for those affected by these fires. See a video on this page of BBC news that mentions the power of prayer.
Grow more Christlike
God wants to make us like Jesus Christ, so we share His character. He wants our lives transformed (2 Cor. 3:18). Everything has this purpose, including disasters, suffering and tragedy. Disasters provide opportunities to grow in our divine nature and become more Christ-like (Eph.4:22-24).
As we realize that God is with us and God cares for us, and as we pray to God, we become more Christlike. This molds our character and behavior.
We live in a world where there are disasters like bushfires (wildfires). But our anxiety, fear and worry can be replaced with peace if we know God loves us; not because of how our lives go, but because of Christ’s sacrificial death.
By trusting in God’s provision and seeking His help in prayer we can gain the resilience required to endure and recover after hardship.
When confronting a disaster, do your best, and trust God for the rest.
Written 5 January 2020