Who’s Anxious?

May 2, 2021

Seems to me that 2020 began as a droplet of concern, became a rivulet of worry, then a tsunami of anxiety that continues to flood 2021! 

Yet, last year’s challenges could’ve become a time to hit pause on the anxious lifestyles of overwhelming commitments and ‘to do’s” of life we have allowed to become normative. 

This past year plus could’ve been a time of reassessment and recalibration of our lives into more manageable and significant ways of going forward into a transformative, mutually affirming future. 

Unfortunately, most of us have merely internalized and replicated our past ‘lives out there’ within our bubbles, our pods, our ‘familial units,’ and the tsunami of anxiety has intensified!

Our kids will never catch up! WE’LL never catch up! We can’t waste a minute – gotta keep things moving! Too many bills!  Too little money!

Even when we are on the move. As if the stresses of driving weren’t enough, we remain locked into the news, public radio, talk shows, Audible and Podcasts as we speed along.  Gotta stay in the know – gotta stay relevant!

And that’s just in our personal lives….

As a nation, we are overwhelmed with one crisis after another.  One assault on humanity after another.  One disaster after another.  One political failure after another. 

Such situations are met with a visceral reactivity borne of anxious fatigue.

Then, when things just get worse, we are surprised and anxiety increases!  We feel hopeless and helpless!  

+ + +

When I am anxious, I notice certain things: 

  • I can’t turn my brain off – even at night – as I angst over the looming challenges of ‘tomorrow.’ 
  • Distraction is also a biggie: 
    • Ever found yourself looking all over the house for your keys when they were right in your pocket? Yep. 
    • Ever looked for your cell phone while at the same time talking on the very phone you were looking for? Yep. 
    • Ever turned on a faucet, then left ‘to get something I just thought of,’ forgetting to turn the water off first? Yep.
    • Ever gotten out of the car and forgotten to turn it off?  Yep.
  • Small things – especially small things – make me anxious: if my dogs are going to bring leaves and pollen into the house they better learn to vacuum!

These things may seem funny, but actually they’re some of the red flags alerting us that something has to give. Anxiety has to be released or it goes underground; waiting to resurface when least expected. Anxiety takes no prisoners!

For some, anxiety is tragically released through self-medication, pornography, violence against self and others; all red flags of anxiety carried silently and alone for too long.

For others, anxiety is released through the insidious white noise of streaming videos and scrolling social media as we are electronically medicated for hours, vicariously absorbing more noise, more violence, more conflict assaulting our senses. Streaming becomes the eye – the false peace – of our personal hurricanes. Sooner or later the tsunami of anxiety will resurface as we try to catch-up for lost time lost while also dealing with all the electronic anxiety we have absorbed! 

Can things get any worse?

Sure

With the impending re-entry into a post-COVID world, we are mega anxious! How do we know everyone will adhere to the guidelines?  

ANXIETY

But there is hope – ALWAYS hope!

We can always – at any time – choose into live a steady rhythm of life emanating from a core of authentic peace and claim a new normal. God offers the rhythm…the rhythm of work and Sabbath rest. (Philippians 4:6-7).

+ + +

I find it ironic that as much as we beat each other about the head and shoulders over some of God’s commandments, (Exodus 20:8-11), we easily ignore the commandment regarding the Sabbath.  

Sabbath is a holy day set apart as a means of grace to bless and restore us. 

  • A day for humanity, not humanity for the day! (Mark 2:27). 
    • A day for trusting God to handle things for 24 hours without us. 
    • A day for reflecting on what has happened in the past and allowing God to recalibrate us and lead us into a divinely productive future. 

Yet, for some reason, we push back.

Instead of understanding God’s intention, we tend to think of Sabbath as that time when we sit in a pew with our hands piously folded for an hour once a week so we can check that ‘holy box’ off our list, and get on with things!  There’s a scripture about that attitude, and it’s not pretty! (Amos 8:5-6). 

To be sure, Sabbath is about corporate worship; you would expect a clergy person to say that!

Sabbath begins with worship. Worship as God intends is joyful, transformative, full of thanksgiving and praise. It’s amazing how such worship can renew and catalyze us for the days ahead!  

But Sabbath doesn’t end with the pastor’s benediction! 

What if we continued our Sabbath in quiet and peaceful rest in the presence of God (Isaiah 30:15) and each other?  

  • When is the last time we took a walk without our AirPods or cell phones?  Sabbath rest is a time of peace from the noise. 
  • When was the last time we ate a meal or had a conversation without texting or checking texts?  Sabbath rest is a time of undistracted relationship.
  • When was the last time we spent time in unhurried time reflecting how we intersect with this glorious creation God has made us a part of? Sabbath rest restores us to our place in God’s world.
  • When was the last time we took a break from ‘breaking news’ and made space to reflect on how God is calling us to respond with concerned action rather than reactive anxiety?  Sabbath rest is a time to listen for God.
  • When was the last time we didn’t work right up until we closed our eyes to sleep, but rather embraced the silence of a world going to sleep as well?  We don’t need a CALM app for that! Sabbath rest brings natural calm. 

The benefit of Sabbath rest? Renewed God-centered perspective to face the challenges ahead.  

We can start developing our Sabbaths s-l-o-w-l-y and work our way into a fully developed Sabbath – it’s not a competition.

Christ said all the law and prophets could be summed up in two laws:  Love God with your whole being.Love your neighbor as yourself.  We sometimes miss the ‘love yourself part.’ By taking Sabbath rest in order to love ourselves, we can truly love our neighbors! Didn’t see that one coming, did you?!

Want a picture of what Sabbath might look like?  Check out “In the Stillness.” 

Sabbath rest is waiting for us. Let go of the noise. Rest in the presence of God, each other, and all creation. Instead of a tsunami of anxiety receive the living waters of God’s peace.

And to God be the glory!  AMEN

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Who’s Anxious?

  1. So grounding, refreshing, and centering. Thank you for this gift. Our egos and false sense of control cling to the idea that not even a day should be spent in relaxing and “letting” God run things. I imagine that is sad but laughable to God.

    Like

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