Why the new creation is good news for eco-anxiety (pt.1)

Part one – look at the stars

I can’t be the only one feeling this, right? Well, no. If you are experiencing eco-anxiety, you’re not alone. In a recent global survey, 84% of 10,000 16-25-year-olds said they were at least ‘moderately worried’ about climate change, with 59% reporting they were ‘extremely worried’. But this is not disproportionate or irrational. One of the study’s authors, Dr Caroline Hickman, has written elsewhere that ‘eco-anxiety is an emotionally mature state to be in, which shows that you are aware of the crisis that we are all facing’. 

Maybe you’re a climate activist who is feeling burned out and despairing at the inadequacy of leaders’ actions to date. Or perhaps you wouldn’t describe yourself as an activist. Still, you find yourself moved to tears by footage of parched earth, creatures under threat of extinction and the displacement of humankind. 

As Christians, we have a timeless resource for hope in the face of eco-anxiety. It’s called the new creation, the promised renewal of the earth and its inhabitants as God redeems them. It’s a promise of restoration to full glory and freedom from the corruption weighing on all life since Adam and Eve’s time.  

So what does this promise look like, and how can it help us in the present? Here, and in part two, we can remember three things to bring lasting hope to our lives in the present.

Look at the stars

In Genesis 2, God gives Adam the task of naming the animals, graciously setting a pattern for humans to be part of His creativity and care. But we should be in no doubt about who sustains the world. Adam may have named the animals, but Isaiah 40 reminds us that God calls the stars out by name every night. And, as Isaiah continues, ‘by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power, not one of them is missing’. 

Another sign of God’s power over creation is Mark’s account of Jesus’ words – ‘be calm’ – over the raging sea. Next time we are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, here are two simple things we can do: 

  1. look at the stars and remember that God knows them all by name;
  2. imagine the sea and remember that God calmed it with just two words. 

Remembering that God sustains the world doesn’t mean we ‘let go and let God’. As God’s image-bearers, our responsibility is to steward the world. Or, as Hannah Malcolm in Words for a Dying World puts it, to ‘love the times and places we have been given, even as we prepare to lose them’. But we do this under the loving guidance of an almighty God.

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