Thur., Mar. 17/22
For the past two years now many believers have experienced seasons of or ongoing lockdown due to Covid-19 and its variants. During this time online church services became the order of the day. We settled in — “normalized” – and some became trapped – trapped in the debilitating anxieties of agoraphobia!
The term “Agoraphobia” derives from the Greek words “agora” (the open marketplace) and “phobia” (fear). The sufferer fears and avoids places in which they feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. “You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd… The fear can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.”*
Agoraphobia is often treated by helping the individual “understand connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions.”** And thereby “slowly and safely face the situation that creates anxiety and subsequent avoidance.”** Medications are sometimes also used.
So, why am I talking about agoraphobia in a contemplative Christian blogsite? How does an anxiety issue relate to our walk with and obedience to Christ?
It is important that every believer understand the holistic nature of surrender to Christ. Paul prayed in his letter to the Thessalonians, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23). God did not make us compartmentalized creatures. He made us like Himself, in His Image, a completely integrated unity. Jesus experienced humanity in all areas. The historian Luke records “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). That’s mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. He demonstrated a life of godly interconnectedness of them all.
Agoraphobia can be beat! — I know, because I’ve beaten it myself. I suffered many illnesses as a child, illnesses which pulled me from traditional grade and high schools to in-home tutors and courses by correspondence. The possibility of a seizure at any time kept me from many typical teen activities. Home became the boundaries of my world. It was not until my late teens that venturing beyond it became safer and more reasonable. But now I was afraid!
Ever so slowly I began setting out. My first venture was only three houses from home. I took a small transistor radio with me as a distraction and the next day managed five houses from home. Ever so slowly I extended my reach. Eventually I made it to the corner variety store a full block away! It was a landmark moment. I could now walk to the store, buy something and return home again. Day after day I pushed farther… two blocks… three… a full mile from home!
Then, something snapped! Something wonderful. A full mile from home I was too far to quickly run back. Suddenly it didn’t matter how far I went. I was free from agoraphobia! It was a wonderful moment. I journeyed miles from home.
Yes, we are all one piece: mind, body, spirit and soul. We must fight the fears of our flesh on all fronts. As we all adjust to the new challenges of this brave new world let us “Fight the good fight of the faith” and “Take hold of the eternal life” in all the aspects of our being! (1 Tim. 6:12).
- **Harvard Medical School website. https://www.health.harvard.edu