Fear thrives in the face of the unknown. It is often beyond words and images; it is a physiological response to silence, darkness, tomorrow. It is almost always about death. You can't live in fear, at least not for very long. But you have options. You can cope; you can flee; you can pray; you can turn the lights on and make faces at the monsters. Or, if you are of a particular temperament, you can fill in all the blanks with a tool that will scribble on the surface of any fear: anxiety.
Anxiety, too, thrives in the face of the unknown. Anxiety makes a graven image of it, artfully obscuring mystery with an infinite sketch of possible disasters. It leaves no potential tragedy unturned, no catastrophe unconsidered. In the absence of certainty, anxiety assures that the worst will happen. Anxiety may save you from abject fear, but at a cost: it is exhausting and depressing.
Katherine Willis Pershey is associate minister at First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. She is the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change (Chalice), which is also the name of her blog.