Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Why Afflictions of Anxiety are not Faith’s Failure

“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ.”
— C.S. Lewis (1898–1963)
C.S. Lewis is talking in context of Jesus’ Gethsemane.
The point he makes is that Jesus could not have known that the cup would pass from Himself and at the same time known it wouldn’t. Anxiety’s like that. Having a hope that isn’t a hope at all, like the stay of execution, doesn’t help at all, because though we might realise we have no hope, we cannot help but bargain — having hope when we really shouldn’t. They’re fleeting thoughts that break through into our experience when life is unpalatable. They tease, because they offer something unreal, until, that is, we consciously see the fallacy.
As Christians, as with many who may have another faith, as with anyone really, we do have mini Gethsemane moments all the time. None of us is routinely under the threat of death, like Jesus was, but none of us knows the time of our death. Jesus did. If we were at Gethsemane we might have an inkling that we were about to be arrested, but we wouldn’t know as Jesus did that we were on a collision course with death.
We live lives that are, by their nature, uncertain. As Lewis put it, to “live in a fully predictable world is not to be a man.”
Anxiety cannot be a sin as in a lack of faith. It is far too common to human experience to be relegated as such.
Besides, anxiety, like all mental trials and illness, is just so complex. We cannot even contemplate helping someone, not least ourselves, unless we know fully all the subtleties of the individual life. And doing that is no mean feat!
Further information: Lewis, C.S. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (Harcourt Publishers, 1963, 1964), pp. 41-42.

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