There’s a cute childhood fable that most of us might still remember.
A rabbit is sleeping under a tree, and suddenly he hears a loud noise. It is so loud that he thinks the sky has fallen, so he starts running. On the way, he meets a deer and tells her, “The sky is falling. Run!” The deer becomes anxious runs with him.
They meet a tiger on the way and tell him, “The sky is falling. Run!” So, the tiger starts running with them. Then they meet elephants, wolves, cows, and soon animals from the entire forest are running. Suddenly, they see a lion standing facing them who stops them from running.
“Tell me what’s going on,” the lion asked. Everyone was anxious, “We must run because the sky is falling.”
“Who says the sky is falling?” the lion asks. “Everyone.” The anxiety is rising.
“Everyone?” The lion tracks it down and discovers it is the rabbit who started it.
“Show me.” The lion asked the rabbit to take them back to where he started.
The anxiety of the entire forests rises even higher. No one wants to go back because they are supposed to be on the run before the sky falls. However, in reverence to the king of the forest, they walked back.
When they arrive at where the rabbit slept, they discover it is under a coconut tree. After some forensic observation, the lion concludes that a big coconut fell from the tree and landed on the dry leaves, which made a loud noise. For a timid rabbit, it sounded like a sky fall.
Have you ever heard this fable before?
I think it depicts the reality of this world. Everyone is anxious to some degree, emotionally running around like crazy, especially after a prolonged pandemic and threat of global war.
The lion represents equanimity, the opposite of anxiety. Equanimity is similar to serenity, but serenity just means calm and peaceful, but equanimity means level-headed. The first part of the word gives us a clue “equa” means “equal.” So, equanimity means balanced, level-headed, and sober-minded.
Dr. Edwin Friedman called it “non-anxious presence.”
If you want to live happily in this anxious world, you must develop equanimity. Equanimity does not just allow you to resist the contagious anxiety of society but also enable you to influence others, just like the lion’s non-anxious presence that dissolves the anxiety of the forest.
In other words, equanimity gives you internal peace and external leadership. Today we will look at an example of equanimity from Jesus Christ, and learn how to attain it. This is a very important message for all of us. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today is the Second Sunday in Lent. The Scripture lesson is from Luke 13:31-35. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Lk 13:31–35).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
This passage describes the anxiety of Jesus’ time. Like the anxious animals of the forest, the Pharisees came to tell Jesus, “The sky is falling, run!. Herod wants to kill you. You get out of here.” It was unfortunate that the religious leaders were part of the anxious society.
We don’t know the motives of the Pharisees. Most parts of the gospels depict them as hostile to Jesus. There seems to be a group of Pharisees that favor Jesus secretly, like Nicodemus.
However, most Pharisees disagreed with Jesus and found his popularity annoying. So, asking Jesus to leave their region using Herod as a threat serves their interest.
In any case, you can imagine the atmosphere of anxiety. Herod was anxious because he thought Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist that he had beheaded. The Pharisees were anxious because Jesus’ popularity diminished their influence.
Nothing has changed since then. Our society today is as anxious, if not more. As Christians, we must learn to observe the anxiety of today’s society. We need to be aware of it and not become part of it.
Jesus said that we are in the world, but not of the world. That means we are sanctified from the anxiety of society.
We must also observe ourselves to see if we are part of the anxious world. It’s okay if we discover we are part of it. Then we can pray, repent, and let God sanctify us to rise above the anxious society.
What’s more dangerous is when we don’t even know that we are playing a part in the world’s anxiety and making it worse, just like the Pharisees.
After the prolonged pandemic, our society has become even more anxious. Now, like Harod, Putin is adding more fuel to the world’s anxiety. The media also make money on selling anxiety. If you learn how to see it, anxiety has been an emotional pandemic since the beginning of time.
Why would Adam and Eve hide in the bushes? It was a sign of anxiety. Out of anxiety, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake had no leg to stand on. Then Adam and Eve’s first son Cain killed his brother Able out of anxiety and became the first murderer in history.
Human history is a history of anxiety. You can say sin is manifested in anxiety.
If you become part of the anxiety network, you cannot be happy but live in a fog of confusion, running like the animals in the fable. If not, you can live happily and become a leader–like the lion, like Jesus. To set you apart from the anxiety of the world, you need equanimity.
When the Pharisees passed the anxiety to Jesus, he did not catch it. Instead, he kept his equanimity and saw through the source of anxiety.
He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. (Luke 13:32).
Jesus called Herod a fox, a cunning creature of anxiety. Foxes live in fear and move in darkness. Like the rabbit in the story, Herod believed the sky was falling and governed his kingdom with anxiety.
Like the lion, Jesus stood calmly with equanimity and non-anxious presence. He had no fear of the sky falling because he was level-headed knew where he could be killed. He said he would continue his work, as usual, to cast out the demons of anxiety and cure the sick. His equanimity has a healing presence.
When you have equanimity, you also become a healing presence of anxious people. Of course, you cannot influence everyone. Even so, at least you have peace and happiness within you and love for others. Then, Jesus talked about those whom he could not influence.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34).
Jesus knew he was heading to where he would be killed, but he still had compassion for the people there. Equanimity produces peace within and love without.
Now, let’s talk about how you can attain equanimity. It’s the result of fasting. Since we are in the season of Lent, let us focus on and learn the benefits of fasting.
“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment.” -Albert Einstein
That means few people have attained equanimity because it’s not easy. Research studies have shown that fasting helps you attain that state.
As mentioned, equanimity is the opposite of anxiety, and anxiety is the manifestation of fear. So, we must overcome fear to rise above anxiety.
Jesus’s forty days of fasting and the temptations he went through reveal to us the three major we must overcome. Today we look at his forty days of fasting from the opposite perspective. Jesus’ forty days of fasting is like a multifaceted diamond that gives us many dimensions of the profound beauty of fasting.
Unlike last week, today we will look at the three human fears Jesus overcame through fasting.
The first greatest human fear is death.
One of the greatest fear in life is death. Even though we live in a fallen world full of suffering, we still want to cling to this life because we are unsure of what’s on the other side. In general, we fear the unknown more than the suffering on this side.
As mentioned last week, biologically, by forty days, Jesus ran out of fat to burn, and his body sent a strong signal for him to eat because the only thing left to burn is protein—his muscle.
It’s dangerous to deplete muscle, so his body reacts vehemently. And the Bible says Jesus was famished. The body sends out a signal of imminent danger of death. It’s like an eat-or-die situation.
It’s at this time the tempter came to test him to see if he fears death by asking him to use his power to turn the stones in the loaves of bread. Jesus refused and proved that he had no fear of death.
In fact, Jesus came on earth to offer you eternal life so that you don’t have to fear death. He said to Martha,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25–26).
Do YOU believe this? I know it’s difficult to believe something so unscientific, but fasting can enlighten you about eternal life and help overcome the fear of death.
Only when you take care of your death can you live this life to the fullest and fulfill your life purpose.
The second fear in life is the fear of being unloved.
It means we fear rejection and crave attention. Do you know that a baby dies if no one touches or hug them between the moment they are born to age five? In the same way, we crave love and attention. Some people desire fame and popularity because they want to be loved.
There are many things we fail to do because we fear rejection. We are commissioned to share the good news, but we fear rejection and are reluctant to fulfill the Great Commission. Instead, we try to please people by doing other things that draw attention.
Jesus has a divine dream to fulfill in a hostile and anxious world. If he feared rejection, he would not be able to achieve his Father’s assignment, and we will be denied salvation.
The tempter put him on the pinnacle of the temple and asked him to jump to test his fear of rejection. The temple is the most crowded place. He could test his Father’s love by jumping down to see if his Father really loves him. At the same time, he could draw much attention as the angels rescue him.
However, Jesus proved himself to fear no rejection because he trusted that God loves him, and he had no reason to test his Father’s love, and he said, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Mt 4:17).
He came to give you this assurance of love from God and cast out your fear of rejection. He said famously,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
Don’t fear rejection. Every if the whole world rejects you, God accepts you. Fasting restores the assurance of God’s love and dissolves your conscious or unconscious anxiety.
The third greatest fear is the fear of poverty.
Who doesn’t fear poverty? From the moment we go to school, we are preparing to escape poverty. Fear of property can make us break the laws and ethics. Poverty makes us live with anxiety. That anxiety could radiate to other people and make others anxious.
Fear of poverty can make us greedy and worship false gods promising false wealth. The result is you miss the kingdom of God, which is true prosperity.
When the tempter tempted Jesus about his fear of poverty by giving him the wealth of the entire world, he refused it and said, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” (Mt 4:10).
Fasting allows you to discern truth wealth and false wealth. It brings you to the presence of God and sees what God has in store for you. Jesus said,
“And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Lk 12:29–31).
That’s true wealth!
As human beings, we drift with the world’s anxieties if we don’t maintain our spiritual balance. Fasting is the best tool to reset our minds from anxiety to equanimity.
Again your equanimity will not only benefit your personal well-being but also gives you the influence to lead this anxious world to peace. It makes your life matter and meaningful.
So, let us fast to overcome three main fears of life:
By overcoming these, we have equanimity. We will see our lives more robust and make a difference with our equanimity in this anxious world.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.