I don’t know about you, but I’ve been using the Marco Polo and Voxer apps an awful lot since we all became quarantined in March. It’s been the ultimate way to communicate to out of town friends and family as we all navigate this chaotic pandemic. I won’t lie; it can be a little overwhelming to have so many backed up messages, but at the same time, I find myself slipping away to quiet corners on the porch or in my house to catch up and connect with people I love.
Just this morning, I got a Marco Polo from a friend who was checking in. He said he was feeling disappointed in himself with how he was handling it all on some days. Some days he felt great, ready to face whatever was to come. Other days, he drove to work sobbing. And for whatever reason, that seemed like some sort of failure to him.
Little did he know, that as I listened, I myself was struggling with anxiety and crying off and on all morning. I couldn’t get myself to even respond because I knew I’d break down in tears.
I texted him in honesty: “Hey, I got your message! I am having really high anxiety today, and I can’t talk without crying, so I’ll message you later. I just wanted to tell you because no, none of us know how to handle this. You’re not alone. We all have our days. Don’t be disappointed in yourself. We’re all doing the best we can. Love you and we’ll talk soon.”
All day, I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking. I told my husband last night that
I’m using all the tools I know to fight this: exercising, hydrating, eating well, writing down things I’m thankful for, connecting with my kids and friends and husband and family, being outside, getting lots of sunshine, praying, reading my bible in the wee hours of the morning over hot coffee, reading books, and so on and so forth.
And yet….anxiety remains. A steady pulse of worry that has threaded my days for the past month. It’s ebbed and flowed since March, yet with the looming mountain of school, it has swelled and stayed there.
I admit, I asked the same question as my friend: what was wrong with me? Usually I can squash it. I am hurling every tool I know at it, and it doesn’t seem to budge.
I’ve been pondering and praying and turning it all over and over in my head all day. And here’s the thing: If you feel anxious, there is NOTHING wrong with you. In fact, that anxiety makes us human. It used to keep us alive. It keeps us aware.
We are so used to quick fixes. We are so used to sinking ourselves into our plans, our entertainment, our earthly and creature comforts. We plan a trip, make a move, binge-watch our favorite show, go shopping, etc. But COVID has changed the way we live. It’s a constant threat that won’t be gone next week or next month or even next year. And we are forced to face a different kind of life. It has sifted out the junk in our lives so that we can see where we really stand.
We are forced to make decisions about seeing people we love. We are forced to choose if it’s safe to send our kids to school. We are forced to cease making plans. We are forced to weigh the risks of catching a virus. We are forced to rearrange our work schedules, our family schedules, our social schedules to make sure we stay safe. We are forced to cover the most personal part of our faces…our smiles…anytime we leave the house.
We are forced into realizing that the only thing we can control is literally nothing. And that can be a little terrifying.
Then I had a slight revelation. I was driving and a song came on the radio. Here are some of the lyrics:
“This is so heavy, And it’s bringing me to my knees. And I’m crying out Lord I need you now to come and see about me. And why is this life so hard? And why do You seem so far? But if this cup won’t pass help me to stay steadfast; let your will be done. You get the glory from this. You get the glory from this. No matter what I have to go through in this world as long as you get the glory from this.”
Something about the lyrics shifted my focus. The entire day, I had been completely
consumed with school: something I can’t control. I can’t control what our schools do. I can’t control what’s at the end of either path …whether we send our kids or keep them home. I can’t see the future.
But it’s not about that. It’s about glorifying God in all things. He gives good gifts and He CAN make good come from this. Do I believe He caused it? Not for a second. Do I believe He is close and sympathizes with our pain and anxiety in a way I can’t comprehend but am so thankful for? Yes.
The night before He died, Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed. He prayed and begged so intensely he sweated blood.
The man was so anxious, he was sweating actual blood.
This man knows our fear. He asked for God to take it away, and if not, that God’s will would be done.
History’s greatest lost was our greatest gain…all by a man who has stood in our dirty, anxious, worn out and tired shoes. He is as close as He’s ever been. He’s felt this anxiety in His own heart.
And it made me think: maybe there is no tool big enough to fix it. Maybe this anxiety is a permanent part of the landscape for the time being. Maybe it pushes us to the God of hope and peace.
I compare it to grief. Grief never goes away. It may ebb and flow. It may change. It may pierce deeper some days more than others. But it remains in its own uninvited and permanent way.
Anxiety can be the same. Maybe we can learn to live, even if we are on alert a little more than normal. That’s not a bad thing.
The rest of the day I focused on what I DID know to be true. A dear friend texted me some songs and encouraged me to blast those songs, declaring truths and MOVING my focus from the fear to the one who calms the waves of the storm and the waves in me.
And guess what. It worked. The anxiety has receded. It has obeyed the one on the throne. It’s definitely still there, but instead of worshipping the things I cannot control, I worship the One in control of it all. And I look around and see how I can help.
We’ll never avoid death, sickness, heartache, and trials in this life. Do we run at them head on? No. But we cannot avoid them. Sin and brokenness reign here until God calls us home. But when we lift our eyes to Him, home is where we’ll be.
Colossians 3:2 Set your eyes on things above, not earthly things.
Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.
James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.