Saturday, October 24, 2020

Anxiety In Perilous Times

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  2Ti_3:1 

I think it is clear that we have entered those perilous times. So far in 2020, we have seen wildfires in Australia (remember them? - ABC News [1], WashingtonPost [2]) and the western United States. We have lived with a novel Corona virus for 8 months as of this writing which shut down much of the world. In America, we have seen a summer of rioting. We’ve had so many hurricanes, they’ve run through the alphabet naming them, and had to resort to Greek letters. Indeed perilous times.

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Reactions to Anxiety

What is our reaction to these times? Many openly admit anxiety and depression. I spent a few sleepless nights, especially when news of the Corona Virus first broke. I live near Minneapolis, which was the starting place for rioting. As a college student, I lived two blocks from Lake Street, Minneapolis where the rioting happened. I am deeply saddened that this happened, worse yet started, in my home state.

One reaction is an increase in the consumption of alcohol and chocolate. Apparently it's true of men AND women - Israel365 News[3], Axios [4]. Deaths from suicide and drug overdose are up due to the Corona virus - CBN News(opioid_deaths) [5]. If you are depressed, especially if to the point of considering suicide, help is available, you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

One reaction is "Prepping", that is preparing for disasters, be they natural like hurricanes, earthquakes, or pandemics; or be they man-made like economic collapse, or pandemics.  Being prepared for normal emergencies is a good thing. We all experience power outages or heavy snowfall (in Minnesota) from time to time, even job loss, we need to be ready for these things. It is good to have flashlights and candles, food and drink, at the ready. “What man can do for himself, God will not work miracles to do for him. When means of help are put within our reach, God expects us to use them.” - J. Orr [6]. However, it can be hard to know where that line is.  Or as we used to say “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. But prepping goes beyond flashlights and candles, "in modern usage it’s come to be associated specifically with preparations for large scale disasters and catastrophes." - Secrets Of Survival [7].  Here are some quotes from an article on prepping with a Biblical perspective - BIN(Biblical_Prepping) [8].

Those who know how to best prepare for pandemics, food shortages, civil unrest, economic collapse, world war, and other nightmare scenarios are suddenly the smart person in the room. Those who mock the idea of preparing and planning have become the crazy ones.

If Hashem (God) is with us, a reasonable amount of prepping will be sufficient, and if, God forbid, Hashem (God) is not with us, no amount of prepping will save us.

No amount of prepping is enough to cover all the bases, and one slip or stroke of bad luck is enough to thwart the best prepping.

Related to prepping, some are reacting by increasing their self defense. Gun sales were already up due to the Corona pandemic, then the riots started, then the call to defund the police. Gun and ammo sales are through the roof with many first time buyers - Washington Examiner [9], US News [10]. 

What should the Christian's response be? This verse comes to mind. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." - Philippians 4:6. Add to anxiety guilt. Not only do I feel anxious, I feel guilty about it.

Some might use Exodus 14:13 as the example to follow.

Ex 14:13  And Moses said unto the people, Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians wmarkhom you have seen to day, you shall see them again no more for ever. 

Fear not. Stand still. The guilt is strong now. I'm anxious, and I want to run.

Does Knowing Prophecy Help?

Maybe we think that we won't have fear because we know prophecy. But does  knowing prophecy reduce anxiety? In some cases, knowing prophecy adds to the anxiety. We know about the time of Jacob's trouble, the Great Tribulation. 

Dan_12:1  And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Mat_24:21  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Some might think they can outsmart world events because they know prophecy.  But prophecy is not always well understood, the "experts" don't always agree. For examples, can you answer these questions about prophecy? And even if you do know the answers, what can you do?

  • What is the mark of the beast?
  • Have the four horsemen ridden yet?
  • Who is the man of sin?
  • Will the Jews build a third temple?
  • Who is the King of the South/North?

Maybe we just need a modern prophet. But no prophet that I'm aware of predicted the Corona virus, the wildfires, or the riots.

Let's look at a Bible example of someone who did know prophecy, who knew exactly what would happen, and His reaction. I'm referring to Jesus, on the night He was betrayed and arrested, He prayed on the Mount of Olives.

Luke 22:39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.
40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,
42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.
44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.

The medical term for this is hematidrosis, or hematohidrosis.

Sometimes Hematidrosis seems to be caused by extreme distress or fear, such as facing death, torture, or severe ongoing abuse. It's probably where the term "sweating blood," meaning a great effort, comes from - WebMD [11].

 Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him/hand Him over to the Jewish authorities. That was clear at the Last Supper in John 13:21 when “Jesus was troubled in his spirit.” The Greek word for “troubled” is etarachthe meaning “to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread, take away calmness, render anxious or distressed.” - EarlyChurchHistory [12]

Jesus literally “sweat blood.” The English translation here “was like drops of blood” makes it appear as though sweating blood is a metaphor or a simile. In the Greek it is clear that His sweat was blood. [12]

I find it interesting that an angel strengthened Him before He sweat blood. 

Prophecy doesn't exist for those in the know to avoid the perilous times. Jesus knew exactly what was coming, He prayed that there be another way, but ultimately, He had to go through it, not around it. The church of Smyrna was told "Rev 2:10  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Knowing about prophecy won't save you. Similarly, knowing about God (His word, His plan, His church) is not enough. We have to know God, not just know things about Him. He is the deliverer, we don't save ourselves. You cannot think your way out of this.

Promises Of Psalm 91

Of course many scriptures are given that help us cope with anxiety by comforting and assuring us of God's love for us and His plan for us. I find Psalm 91 quite relevant in today's perilous times. You may have a different favorite. Let me know what yours is.

Psalm 91 - Scholars argue over the authorship, was it Moses or David?

Felix Mendelssohn must have liked this Psalm as well. I know of two choral pieces he wrote based on Ps 91 – “In Thy Secret Place” [13] and “He Shall Give His Angels” [14]. 

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

How often I wanted to gather your children
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings
and you would not have it!

Look at all the places of protection mentioned in these 4 verses.

Shelter, Dwelling place, Shadow, Refuge, Fortress, Under His wings, Shield, Bulwark.

Pinion - the terminal section of a bird's wing - MerriamWebster [15]
Bulwark - a wall, a barricade, protection, and defense 
against attack.
Both Shield and Bulwark are an encompassing shield 
of protection - IsraelTodayMinistries [16]

In verse 5, the psalm switches from "he" to “you”. The “you” forms are all singular, not plural: the psalm is addressing an individual - Hermeneutrix [17]. That is, it is addressing each of us as individuals.  BTW, the Ten Commandments [18] are also given to singular male "you".

5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day;
6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
7 A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.
8 You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked.
9 For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

These are not promises of trouble-free experience, but of God’s presence in trouble, and of ultimate rescue, honor, and salvation. [17]

The last three verses of Ps 91 shift focus again. God is speaking directly, directly to each one of us. "The closing of Psalm 91 delivers one of the most direct, emphatic, unambiguous, divine promises in scripture" [17].

14 Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation.

Don't take any of these promises out of context, like Satan did when tempting Jesus – Mt 4:6. He quoted Ps 91 but misapplied it. Christ told him we are not to tempt God. The Fall Holy Days (Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles) reveal to us the end of the prophecies, that Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom. We have to keep that in mind when reading prophecy of these perilous times we are in.


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