Be Not Anxious
I haven’t written a Word of Encouragement in three weeks. I apologize, because
I know there are a few who have been lifted up by them. With this shut-down I have felt strongly that it was my job to keep us connected and encouraged. I love to write but rarely get the opportunity these days. And honestly I only write when God puts it on my heart so much I can’t walk away. It’s been during personal crises, or a need to pour out something weighing me down so deeply I can only rid myself of it by writing it. Cries of grief, psalms of joy, questions that may never be answered, and of course a number of plays and programs for churches I’ve belonged to. After all, I did major in Theater Arts in college the first time.
This shut-down has been so hard on so many, and so many have suffered with this virus. We had it in our own home, with my 20-year old son, Perry. He was fortunate to have a mild case, and his own nebulizer to help keep the breathing problems down. Still, it was scary. But outside of that, the shut-down has been good to Buddy and me. We’ve both been working from home, right next to each other. It’s good to be able to turn around and hug him whenever I want. To be able to fix his lunch for him so he can enjoy his entire 30 min break. It’s been good to be able to get up from my desk and go run laundry or do a job that’s been hanging over my head for months. At the beginning of this I even rented a dumpster and finished cleaning out the garage. My greatest joy is being a wife and Mom and making a home for my family, so this has been a wonderful time of refreshment for me.
And yet. Here’s where God has been pressuring me. I’m about to open up my heart and soul to you. It’s scary because what might you think of me when you know what’s inside? Maybe you’ll think I’m just like you. I opened up to a few of my church friends this week and found that I am not alone.
I am afraid.
I don’t know why, but I am. Maybe because we did have the Virus (notice the capitalization) in our home, I am hyper-aware of danger. Maybe because Buddy and I are in the high-risk group I am worried about one of us getting sick. I’ve been through enough illness since my surgery in 2017. Maybe I also have watched too many apocalyptic movies… But I am afraid. I am struggling with anxiety issues. I am happy and secure inside my home, but when I go anywhere—store, post office—I can only last a few minutes before the panic starts to build. Even the thought of having to go somewhere upsets me. I went through it mildly decades ago after a traumatic incident, and I know it’s crippling. I know it isn’t something that can be overcome quickly or logically. I also know eventually it will fade. But in this time, I battle.
In admitting my weakness to my prayer group, I have discovered that there are many just like me battling the same thing. At the beginning of this Great Hunkering I laughingly made jokes about how many of us were going to come out of this with big social anxiety issues. Well, turns out that wasn’t funny and it’s all too true now.
So how do we deal with it? If a cure for COVID-19 came out tomorrow and all cases were miraculously cured, I would still be afraid to go out. My mind can’t immediately shift to a “back to normal” mentality. And barring God’s miracle, COVID-19 isn’t going away overnight. So how are we going to deal with it?
A psychologist would tell you to handle it in stages. Don’t barricade yourself inside but go out for a few minutes and build up from there over time. Do breathing exercises. (I doubt too many psychologists have tried deep breathing with a mask on though.) Speak out loud self-affirming statements every morning, or put Post-It Notes all over your house with encouraging phrases.
But that’s not enough. Even writing about it now I’m getting anxious and my breath is short. I’m sitting here doing deep breathing. Psychologists have a lot to offer in the way of dealing with these very prevalent and completely valid mental barriers, and if you are suffering these things and can talk to one, by all means do so. In the Way-Back when I was dealing with said traumatic incident, I went to one and he did help.
But the one thing above all others that we must do, is give it over to God. He is the only Way. The only Help. The only Physician. And He will walk through this with us. He probably won’t make it all go away overnight. (Rats.) He may make us walk through it much longer that we’d like but if so He has a purpose in it. And He will be right beside us. He promises us that in Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
David knew what he was talking about. He went through some pretty tough times. All those wonderful Psalms he wrote he wrote because he’d been through the wringer but knew God was always with him. When I went through my darkest time at the end of 2017, when I was so close to death I could almost see it, Buddy would sit with me and read from Psalms and it was the one thing that gave me any comfort. David knew, and David made it through, with God. So I can too.
If you are like me, and battling something like anxiety, then know that you are not alone. There are many like you. Find someone you can talk to. Start a new personal Bible journey, or renew one you started earlier. If you’re not doing anything right now try Psalms. And if possible read them in a study Bible where you can read the notes about what time period David wrote each one in. It will give you context and help draw you closer. Maybe don’t do Isaiah though. I started Isaiah ten days ago and it’s not yet very encouraging. I just finished Ch 6 and the first few chapters are all prophesying devastation for Judah and Israel and it’s kind of depressing. Isaiah is all Judgement-Hope-Judgement-Hope and I’m still in the Judgement part. Looking forward to the Hope part. Think maybe I’ll add some Psalms into the mix…
If you are not like me, and aren’t battling the fear, you assuredly know someone who is. Be kind. Be loving. If they honor you with their trust and open up to you, be there for them. Pray for them. For us.
For today, I will leave you with a very encouraging word from Philippians. Paul went through some nasty trials also, so he knows of what he speaks.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.