Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Worry Ends Where Faith Begins"

This, unfortunately, greeted me on a sign as I drove by a Baptist church on Friday. All I could think to myself is how much bunk that sign was, but it took me a while to be able to come up with a good reason as to why this was a load of bunk, mostly because it is an easy thing to convince oneself that enough faith will dispel worry. Now, to be fair, because of my anxiety disorder, I have a corner market on worry. I worry about things that most people don't even think about, but I do believe this sign has less to do with my anxiety disorder and more to do with bad theology.

If worry is a measure of faith, then I am going to hell. I worry all the time, and according to that sign, my faith never began because my worry never stopped. Even though I know that it is sinful to worry, especially the way that I do, I cannot help it. So, left to my own devices, the worry never completely goes away and my faith never begins as a result. In this scenario, especially with regards to those who have an anxiety disorder like myself, God has damned me from the get go. I can't have faith until I stop worrying and I have a disorder that causes me to worry, therefore I can never be saved. Game over. To make matters worse, God has the power to take away my anxiety disorder in a heartbeat so that my worry will go away and I can start that beautiful faith and life without worry, but since He hasn't, I would have to assume that He doesn't want to save me.

As innocent as that sign might seem, the reality is that it is of poor design and a dangerous witness. God doesn't work that way. The God we learn about in the Old and New Testaments sweeps down to save His people from their sins- worry included! Christ did not say, "Stop worrying, believe, and be baptized." Instead, we are given saving faith through the washing and rebirth of Holy Baptism without any action on our part. The faith given to us at Baptism and when we hear the Word is the Holy Spirit working faith in our hearts.

However, faith does not take away the sins we do and suffer from here on earth. The faith given to me by the Holy Spirit has not taken away my anxiety disorder. I worry. To be sure, it is a sin, but a sin that, like St. Paul, I do not want to do but that I do. Praise be to God that Christ has taken my sins away on the Cross! Whenever I worry, I can remember that I am a baptized child of God, an heir to the Kingdom, a princess in His court because of Christ's saving work for me.

I hate complaining about something without making a suggestion. I don't have another fancy slogan to catch people's attention quite like "Worry ends where faith begins". So, perhaps said congregation can put up their Sunday service times instead, or directions to the local Lutheran church. ;-)