Thursday, February 28, 2008


A few days ago, I told my community college creative writing class, “You need to be sure to give your main character some situation to deal with, some angst, some disturbance of normal life.”

They looked at me and blinked a few times without reacting much. I said, “Do you know what ‘angst’ means?”

Most of them just kept looking at me and blinking. A few shook their heads. I wasn’t sure I knew, either, now that we got to that point. We looked it up. One student said it is a German word, meaning fear. People rather like the word angst; it has an appealing intellectual sound.

The handy-dandy Merriam-Webster says it is a “fearful concern or interest, painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill.”

Another definition is a “cause of anxiety.” Anxiety is a cause of anxiety? It is spiral in nature, then, feeding upon itself.

It gets worse: “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.”

We decided anxiety and fear are related, that fear is sometimes paralyzing. It can pull you down into some dark place where you feel very much alone with your disturbing thoughts. It can be debilitating. Much of literature (we think of our English 2307 stories as literature) shows characters learning how to cope with angst—or not.

I can’t say this in my class, because it is a public educational institution and it’s not allowed. But I can say it here all I want to: God never leaves us alone. We can depend on his love, which is stronger than any angst ever could be. According to this linked web site, the Bible tells us not to fear 365 times. God knows fear is widespread and contagious, and he does not want us to be enslaved by it.

First John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

In his love, we can find peace.

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