Tools for Navigating Anxious Times
Who knows what news ticker updates will scroll across my TV screen when this post goes live in April? At this moment the corona virus strain, COVID19, is wreaking havoc across our nation and our world. The most recent recommendation by President Trump is to prohibit gatherings of ten or more people, for everyone to stay at home, and to self-isolate as much as possible. In our state, all K-12 schools are closed for a minimum of two weeks. Across the nation, many states or largely populated areas have closed restaurants and all non-essential businesses until further notice. These are perilous times.
Meanwhile, our next-door neighbor passed away yesterday after a brief battle with cancer. Another neighbor with young children is taking chemo treatments. My husband is closing his business at the end of March and doesn’t know what he’ll do next for employment. We have two foster children in our lives needing forever families. Just within our family and close circle of friends, people are grieving loss by death, loss of jobs, loss because of their loved one’s choices, loss of stability, confidence, hope.
It can be easy for me to get caught up in the 24/7 news cycle, the never-ending commentary on my social media pages, and to suffer the effects mentally, physically, and spiritually. Before I realize what’s happening, I find myself anxious, worrying over the near and extended future, being tossed about on the winds of a fear-induced storm. When I’m really honest with myself, the reason those mental images seem so scary is because I’m picturing them without God. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate them with my own mind and capabilities, and God knows, this is way bigger than Regina.
At some point in my fretting, God breaks through my frenzied thoughts with the words of Jesus, “Peace, be still.” In that moment, I reckon with the thoughts that have held me captive and relinquish them into the much more capable nail-scarred hands of my Savior.
As someone inclined toward fear and worry, I have repeated this cycle of anxiousness and peace over and over again. However, I have found some tools over the years that help me cope. One of my favorite Scriptures in these times comes from the prophet Jeremiah who was lamenting his present sorrow and confronting it with future hope.
“My soul is bereft of peace I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, my endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord. Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:17-24 ESV)
Jeremiah is honest about his suffering and sorrow, but when he reflects on the mercy and faithfulness of God, he is endued with hope, even when the situation around him remains unchanged. What can we learn from Jeremiah about confronting our present circumstances with the hope of the Kingdom?
- It is good to name our fears, the cause of our suffering, and the source of our anxiety. (My soul continually remembers and is bowed down within me.)
- Recall all the times in our lives leading up to our present concern where God has been merciful and faithful to us. (But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.)
- Consider that worrying over our present or future essentially removes God from the equation. Regardless of whether or not our prayers are answered the way we ask, God is still merciful, still faithful, and He alone is our portion. (The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.)
Other tools that help me manage include turning off the news and social media feeds, listening to and singing hymns and worship music, meditating on Scripture, journaling about Scriptures that speak peace into difficult situations, spending time in prayer and communion with God, and making regular exercise a priority. I don’t want to be uninformed about what’s happening in our world so I’ve committed to reading a verse or passage of Scripture before turning on the news so my mind is fixed on Jesus as I process. Here are a few Scriptures references with summaries I turn to regularly in troubled times.
- Psalm 4:8 ~ We can sleep well, knowing God is with us.
- Psalm 37:25-28 ~ The Lord will never forsake the righteous.
- Psalm 46 ~ God is a VERY present help in times of trouble, an immediate help.
- Isaiah 26:3-4 ~ Fix our minds on God and trust in Him.
- Habakkuk 3:17-19 ~ Even when our world falls apart, the Lord is our strength.
- Zephaniah 3:17 ~ The Lord is fighting for us and quieting us with His love.
- Matthew 6 ~ Do not worry.
- Matthew 11:28-30 ~ In Jesus, there is rest for the weary.
- Luke 21:25-28 ~ Our redemption is near.
- Romans 5:1-5 ~ Difficult times produce character and hope.
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ~ These troubles pale in comparison to the glory that awaits.
- Philippians 4:4-9 ~ Don’t be anxious. Pray. Think on good things.
- Hebrews 4:14-16 ~ We can boldly share our needs at the Throne of Grace.
- Hebrews 12:1-2 ~ Fix our eyes on Jesus, and consider that the heavenly saints are cheering us on to endure to the end.
- 1 Peter 1:3-9 ~ We have Living Hope!
- Revelation 21:1-7 ~ God is and will make all things right and new. Hold fast to God and His Word.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory and with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)
Memoirist Regina Cyzick Harlow was in the Old Order Horse and Buggy Mennonite church and allowed only a formal eighth-grade education. She landed her first paid writing gig at the Daily News~Record in Harrisonburg, VA with just the general education diploma she earned as a young adult. She and her family live and homeschool in Virginia.
Regina co-founded the Sadie Rose Foundation with her husband, a non-profit organization providing peer support for those grieving the death of a child. There she has spent twelve years creating newsletter content and workshops, empowering grievers to more clearly communicate their suffering and helping supporters become better friends. She manages the family website at www.theharlowhearth.com.