This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Powell: Freedom from anxiety is right around the corner

A Feb. 15 Harris poll for the American Psychological Association found Americans haven’t experienced this much stress in many years.

John Powell

According to the poll, 66 percent of participants are stressed about the future of the country and 57 percent about the political climate. Marginalized people are experiencing greater stress since the election of President Trump.

“It’s not just about who won the election,” said APA licensed psychologist Vaile Wright. “It’s having a much larger impact, and it likely has to do with this global sense of uncertainty, dividedness and this unprecedented speed of change.”

We are a people who are living on the edge and anxiously waiting to see what’s next. Let me suggest what might be next for everyone.

Standing in the midst of elders in the synagogue, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2. He listed a series of world-changing actions God had sent him to do.

I suspect that those who heard him responded with, “What? What did he say?” Looking at him in amazement, they might have asked, “You talking to me?”

Yes, Jesus was talking to them — and us. He proclaimed God’s intention: freedom for all who are oppressed.

If he was speaking today, I suspect his litany would include self-indulgence. In essence, he was saying that he was, and is, the one we’ve been waiting for to guide us toward freedom. He bids us to be workers for freedom.

You may ask, “What does that have to do with me?”

I say it has everything to do with you. We have been disturbed, and many people are asking, “Why?” They don’t appreciate the disruption in their lives because it causes them to confront the issues before us.

My response is, “Why not?” We are all God’s people and have the right to a peaceful and just existence. Might the disruption of our so-called stability be an instrument of freedom? We have the opportunity to finally confront ourselves with the truth that we are caretakers for each other.

When I pose these questions in some conversations, people often say they are already free. They have what they need to live. But they are repelled by those who may take away their “inheritance.” Faith in humanity is shaken when their way of life is threatened.

The difficult journey of racial, ethnic and religious inclusion is outside our doors. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We are faced with taking that first step. The journey begins with the single step of admitting that we are not the center of the universe. How will we respond?

Stressed by national and community turmoil? Stop getting information from the 24/7 pundit news cycle.

Instead, make friends with Jewish, Muslim, African-American or Hispanic neighbors. They are the source of genuine news about their status in the world.

Stop being afraid of the other. Practice hospitality. When we do, anxiety and stress will subside.

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.

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