Our anxiety muscles have grown.

We were told to be anxious. We were told that this anxiety should drive our behaviour, and that our lives depended on it.

This behaviour created physical space and safety, which in itself was necessary. But was there another spirit by which we could have achieved that? Could we not have been driven by courage? by love?

What if we’d been called to bravery, to have the courage to lay aside our personal freedoms for a season in order to protect others?

It was a season that called for a peculiar kind of courage: the courage to choose present loss for the sake of later victory. Such feelings and actions would have made us brave for generations to come.

Shaped By Anxiety

Instead the pervasive narrative from all sides of society seemed to be one of anxiety: be anxious, and act on it.

For 18 months we were urged to listen to our anxieties and shape our lives accordingly, urgently, extremely.

But nobody can live that way for 18 months and not be shaped by it.

This season of anxiety has a legacy.

And now that we set our sights on emerging from this paradigm-shifting moment in our history, we are only beginning to discover the legacy of the over-worked anxiety muscle.

Imagine doing only leg-day, each day, for 18 months.

Not even leg-day, but just your right leg.

We are off balance.

Safety & Courage

God did design us to have an awareness of danger and safety — but a healthy one, one which works in collaboration with its counterpart: courage. One which is informed by the past but not deformed by it. Personal and collective trauma like what we have endured has deformed it.

Our anxiety is overworked, over-validated, over-permitted and over-encouraged. It speaks when it has no right to, interrupts when it has no need, shows up when it is not welcome.

The Impact

But as the threat of pandemic withers, this muscle will not so easily, because we have become dependent on it. This misshapen, overly enthusiastic anxiety will continue to impact our personal, communal and neighbourhood lives together. It will stop us showing up with one another to rekindle relationships and make new ones; it will dampen our ambitions in mission; it will temper our enthusiasm for fresh vision. It will weaken our shared life in the community that Jesus invites us into and the world he sends us out to.

A Way to Courage

But it is not an anxiety to condemn; it is one to speak tenderly to. Beneath our genuine relief and excitement for a new season, we are also weary and wary in ways that we may not yet see.

We know The One who speaks tenderly to the wary and weary.

As we head into the new season as local churches and leaders we are asking the question, “What is God saying? What do our people need to hear?”

I hear God say, “Take courage.”

What about you?


Three questions to consider:

  • Where do you as a leader need courage? In your soul, in your mind, in your plans?
  • Where does our congregations need courage? How can we help them to regain it?
    • What do we need to communicate; demonstrate/role model; facilitate and make space for?
  • Where do our neighbourhoods need courage? How can we impart it?
About the Author

Benedict Atkins

Ben lives in the old docks of East London, UK with his family and friends where he has been planting a neighbourhood church for the last four years. If you want to say hi or start a conversation you can find him on instagram @benedict.atkins.

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