The shrill sound of an alarm, unique to a county alert or, in this case, a public health announcement, rang across the room as dawn broke. It’s honestly not how I wished to be awakened on this morning. As recognition of the sound fell into place in my mind, I could not help but feel a shiver of fear course through my body. What alarming message was the county sending out and why so early in the morning?
News of panic, along with the widespread affect the Coronavirus is having on our world, seem to be the main focus within the news currently. And, rightfully so. However, police standing guard at the entrance of grocery stores, managing the chaos and panic and high-pitched alarms are enough to leave even the strongest individual unsettled.
Fear: That resounding belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or be a threat.
For many of us, including myself, fear is the first emotion encountered when circumstances begin to spiral out of control. I know I have the tendency to focus more on my own fears, including potential and imaginary outcomes, rather than fixing my mindset on areas where I could be finding peace. This ultimately grows my anxiety levels.
All that to say, the unfolding of these written words are just as much for me as for anyone else.
Mark Twain has been quoted as expressing, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
He understood the battle of the mind. He comprehended the grip worry and fear can have on each and every one of us as humans. As for me, I know that I do not wish to live in a space of fear that consumes my every thought. I don’t desire to respond to my family and friends from a place of a mind wrought with worry. So, what is one to do? How do we combat these emotions and the very real, abounding anxiety that daily grows while circumstances continue to change and unravel?
While continually a work in progress and a woman very much in need of God’s grace, I am discovering how to release the fear and relish peace. I have found that in practicing three mindsets, as well as leaning into the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, I am empowered and inspired to live in a state of peace and joy, thus sharing an attitude of calm, tranquility, and goodwill with my family, friends, and community.
Accept the Present
The famous children’s book by Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, shares the adventurous story of where the imagination can take us. While this beloved children’s book is a personal classic favorite of mine, it speaks to the crazy adventure our minds and imagination can take us when we let it run wild.
Eckhart Tolle has been quoted as sharing these wise words,
“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry— all forms of fear— are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.”
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Even though the alarm sounds and the message from the county reads, “Stay at home, effective 8 A.M.”, my responsibility is to keep my mind remaining in the present. When I allow my mind to skip ahead to all the what if’s, potential implications, and concerns I find my soul gets into a state of frenzied unrest. This is certainly not where Jesus says to turn. In the prior verses of Matthew 6, Jesus shares in verse 31, “What shall we wear?’ So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’” and continues in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus asks us to turn to Him. Seek Him as the emotions and uncontrollable circumstances assault us. Do not allow our thoughts to run wild over what we cannot control, but turn to Him in prayer with our concerns, fears, worries, and overall emotion. He knows. He understands, for He too felt them while here on earth. If we but allow Him to remind us of the depths of His love, and how He will be faithful to provide for all of our needs, we will find peace from the chaos.
I have discovered that when I practice being present in the moment, “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and accepting the truth of what the circumstances are; I discover peace. I find peace in knowing that it’s not about me. Instead, God, in His Sovereign and unstoppable way, is present in the moment and always there to walk with me, guide me, and provide for me.
In Him we can trust and in Him our soul can find rest.
Along with taking captive every thought, I have found it helpful to monitor what I watch, listen to, or read. Making the concerted effort to observe where my information about the world comes from is extremely helpful in managing my anxiety and fear. We find ourselves living in a world where news is instantaneous, real-time videos abound, and the social-media frenzy is at an all-time high. Untruth and alternative facts abound. Siphoning through what is true and what is sensationalized is a real challenge. Information comes from a variety of sources and devices in our modern day and age.
However, if I control what I read, watch, or listen to, prioritize my activities so as to absorb current events in small chunks, I find that I am able to better manage all fear and anxiety. Having the television on non-stop throughout the day, airing a news station, is a choice I can make. Or, one I can choose against.
Likewise, in a time where the word “social distancing” is the new norm, I can choose to gather with a community on a video conference. I can make the decision to discuss current events, thus potentially raising each of our individual levels of anxiety, or I can gather with community and go before our Father, who IS in control, to pray. What comfort is found knowing that we can lay our concerns, worries, and anxieties at the throne of Christ together. In doing so, we will ultimately experience the ushering in of His peace that transcends all understanding.
Walking with Jesus, along with the strength of His Spirit, enables me to sift through all emotion and peacefully manage all things well. Likewise, this has a powerful and positive effect on my family, friends, and/or any of those that are around me. Peace and joy abound. His love flows through my attitude to impact and influence those I am privileged to walk through life with.
When I consider all I am thankful for, it fills my heart with deep gratitude and unending joy. Gratitude runs completely contradictory to lives filled with uncontrollable circumstances, yet fills our souls with peace as we make the effort to shift our mindset. For instance:
I am thankful for this close-knit family time while we are enduring a “stay at home” mandate from the county.
I am thankful for the ways the world around me has slowed down. It enables our family to readily focus on things that we enjoy yet often forsake for the demands of the calendar.
I am thankful for times to paint together.
I am grateful for the motivation and time to complete home projects that have been on the family “to do” list for years.
I am thankful for the time to play board games, enjoy family dinners, and take walks together in a relaxed and peaceful manner. It is exhilarating to know that, for this moment in time, we have no appointments to keep, or activities to rush off to.
I am grateful for the laughter that comes from dancing in the living room, even when the dance is crazy because the boredom seems unrelenting.
I am incredibly grateful for all individuals who are working hard during this difficult to deliver, stock, and clerk at businesses to keep essentials available to the general public.
I am grateful for health-care workers who are fighting an incredibly challenging battle. All the while selflessly seeking to maintain the health and care of the general population.
My heart is filled with gratitude considering this moment in time where we have truly been given a gift of presence with one another. May this focus on gratitude be the cry of our hearts day in and day out as we endure this “stay at home” mandate.
May peace resonate and flow from each of our attitudes, pushing out all anxiety. May gratitude override all fear.
In the delightful words of artist Chris Rice, from his song, “Go Light Your World”, “Take your candle and go light your world.”
Be filled with the peace of Christ and allow His Spirit to fill you. Go out today and shine your light, impacting this world we live in for good.
Be filled with joy, my friend.