I don't think I'm the only one who's been dealing with extra anxiety and stress this past year. But if I'm honest, I've always had a good deal of anxiety. It's why my closets are so organized and my phone apps are in color-coded folders. I'm a full blown anxiety-induced organizer.
That said, I feel like so many of my conversations the last few months (Ok, it has been a lot longer than a few months) have been about how to combat anxiety. The problem is, I feel like I'm far more likely to mention what over the counter sleeping meds I've been taking, than to share how we can turn to Jesus in rough times! And I've watched myself and my stressed out friends mask our fears and anxiety with Netflix binges and late night Amazon shopping with only minor shakes of my head. We all deserve it, right? It'll help through through this hard season, right?
But the truth is, as followers of Jesus we have so much more than bandaids for stress and anxiety at our fingertips! And often, even those of us who profess Christ find ourselves not living a life that displays Jesus because we're turning to other quick fixes instead of to the source of all comfort.
So today we remind ourselves of what Jesus offers those who are anxious:
1. Rest. TRUE Rest.
What if we put aside the noise of this world when we are extra stressed and take real Sabbath days? Somewhere between an 1800s Puritans Sunday where everyone had to sit silently in straight backed chairs and read the Bible all day, and today's TV blaring ESPN and everyone lounging on the couch on their phones. Somewhere happily in between, where you really seek the Lord in the form of true rest. Maybe you're new to such ideas and instead you just need to take a walk in nature without your phone? Or take an evening to read and reflect with family or a friend. You can always build up to a full day of "rest" but it really does help to put aside all the "doing" and all the "noise" of the world and actually let our minds and hearts rest.
Afterall, the Lord promises us rest. He said, Come to Me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 1 Let's take Him up on that offer!
2. Know the Truth.
One of the biggest problems with my own anxiety is that I start to forget the truth. I start to let fears creep into my thoughts and that affects everything!
If we aren't spending time in the Word, when anxiety hits then, it's time to double down! This last week I had to not only have my normal time reading my Bible, but I also had to write verses that reminded me of God's promises all over the house! I had to move those verses around every day and consciously commit to focusing on them throughout the day. This was because my mind was constantly forgetting the truth as the stress of the day really got going.
Ironically, it is when we feel we have no time in the day and stresses seem to be at every corner, that we must take the time to spend time in God's word. We start to lie to ourselves saying things like, "I'm just too swamped right now! I'll get back to reading my Bible when things settle down!" but this is indeed a lie. It's a lie because these are the time we need the Lord the most, and also because when we say there will be a "better time" there rarely is.
Even if it means, *gulp* getting up really early, reminding ourselves of the Truth daily will help us with all the lies that anxiety and stress throws our way.
3. Surround yourself with the right people.
A week ago, I called a friend and told her I needed her to meet me at 6:30am at a nearby coffee shop because I needed her wisdom. I had done about 3 days of "Distance Learning" with my kids and I was spiraling. "When was I going to get to do ministry?" "When was I going to have time to write?" "When was I going to have time to literally do dishes?"
Now, here's the thing, we don't just need friends when we're feeling anxious or fearful or stressed. Not just any old friend, that is. We need friends like David needed Jonathan in the wilderness. David was hiding in the desert with about 600 men with him, but it wasn't until his friend Jonathan came and encouraged him that he really remembered that God would take care of him! 2
I think it's a good sign when a friend will get up before 7am for you on a weekend, but a better sign is to have friends who point you to Jesus. Friends who remind you of the truth and don't just offer you lip service. I can be pretty great at complaining, but the best of friends are the ones who let me say my peace, offer me condolences (and maybe a cookie) and then they bring out the Truth. I imagine those 600 dudes with David would tell him anything, and would follow him anywhere, but he couldn't trust them with the Truth with it really counted.
Make sure you have people in your life who will bring out the Truth, even when it hurts to hear. It is those people who will help in times of trial.
4. Put Everything Into Perspective.
One of my strongest memories from my childhood is my dad bursting out into song and having the rest of us join in at random times. It was always the same old hymn that he would sing: "Christ the Lord is Risen today..."3 This old hymn by Charles Wesley is a classic Easter hymn and seems like a strange one to burst into while in the car or while standing in the kitchen or all the other places he'd call on us all to belt out the words. But now looking back with adult eyes, I know my father didn't just sing this triumphant song when he was happy. In fact, he mostly sang it when he was stressed. He sang this song that proclaimed Jesus risen and victorious over sin and death, when things were hard.
Because friends, there is no greater solution to our anxiety and our fears than to remember ( and maybe even proclaim in song!) what Jesus has done for us on the cross. And if that doesn't help. Honestly, I don't know what will.
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Singing old hymns may not be your jam, but do whatever it takes to be reminded of the Gospel of Jesus. To focus on the Life the Death the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For honestly, all our temporary woes are just that. Temporary. And all trials (and I know there have been some real doozies this year!) of this age can only bring us closer to our Heavenly Savior!
- 1 Samuel 23:16
- Christ the Lord is Risen Today