Non-anxious Presence

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No matter what article or source you read, you could come to the conclusion that anxiety levels in the UK, and particularly among students, are high at the moment. If even contemplating that sentence adds to your anxiety, as it does mine, what do we do with that?

I’m grateful that the University Wellbeing Service has resources, advice, courses, and one-to-one support for anyone needing them. Sometimes the right advice at the right time can make all the difference.

Some have written about the need for chaplains, and others in similar roles, to offer a ‘non-anxious presence’ as a way to help. This is probably one of those things that is easier said than done. The only way that I know to approach this is through prayer. My practice is to try (and sometimes fail) to get up early and become aware of God’s loving presence and centre myself on a passage of the Bible and hold the day and all those on my heart before God in prayer. This includes a lot of people who are anxious.

One thing that I love to see in the chaplaincy each week is students supporting each other. Sometimes we don’t want anyone to try to ‘fix’ us or to make suggestions or to even nag us (even with the best of intentions) into change. We just a need a friend to be with us.

Two things recently reminded me that God is with us in that way. These words from the Bible remind me that God’s life-giving water is there, beneath the surface, no matter what the conditions seem like above ground.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17. 7-8)

The other is this hymn - I heard the voice of Jesus say - published in 1844, which gives an account of one person’s experience of finding life-giving rest and water. Though written so long ago, this week the words seem to me to be just right for now, in their acknowledgement that life can feel ‘weary, worn and sad’ but that God can be a ‘resting place’. You can watch it on YouTube: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say - YouTube

You are not alone. We are with you. God is with you.

Karen Turner

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