Afraid. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Discouraged.
These are just some of the words I have used to describe myself in situations over the past several months. Looking back over the past year, it’s almost impossible NOT to describe your circumstances with one of these words. Between job loss, financial change, virtual school and adjusted schedules, chaos is thriving around us. Fear, worry and anxiety are natural human emotions and are how the world is telling us we should respond – but they are not the response God is asking us to have.
I am a naturally anxious person. For those of you who are familiar with the Enneagram, I am an Enneagram 6, which means my core fear is, well, fear. Being alone or feeling physically abandoned is my biggest fear, and my core desires are security and safety. Needless to say, March 2020 threw me for an absolute loop. The amount of fear, uncertainty, chaos and change that was thrown into my little life was overwhelming. I felt like I was drowning in fear. I began struggling to sleep because I was so anxious. I was terrified to leave my home. I shut down socially and spent several months withdrawn and isolated myself both physically and emotionally.
As restrictions began to lift, I began to become so hopeful. I was so hopeful for positive change – of things returning to “normal.” I began to realize how rooted my hope was in the world – in statistics, numbers, and news. I’m not saying that it was wrong for me to be aware of what is going on around me, but I was so focused on it that it was consuming me. Any bad news was devastating and any good news brought me so much joy. I began to see that to have my hope and security rooted in worldly things will only lead to disappointment or fleeting peace.
One day I was mindlessly scrolling Instagram, as we do, and I came across a post by Annie F. Downs (if you don’t follow her, you should). She took out her journal and showed her many followers an entry she had made, and it made me stop in my anxious tracks.
She explained that she wrote out all of her fears, ALL of them, and then on the next page she wrote out what she was grateful for in each circumstance.
Well, I just had to try it. I put my little one down for a nap, gave my big one a movie to watch and got to work. I began writing out my fears and my hand flew across the page. Writing down my fears was so easy and effortless. I felt like I had been living and breathing these fears, and there was no shortage of them to express. As I sat there looking at the page of ugliness and darkness, I closed my eyes and invited Jesus to help me see how I can be grateful in these messes. Let me tell you, He did not disappoint. As I moved my pen to a blank page, the goodness and beauty of all these circumstances began to pour out and I realized in the midst of every anxious feeling, there is an opportunity for gratitude.
Let me give you just a handful of examples –
I’m terrified of raising my kids in this world that is so scary and so far from Jesus.
I am thankful that my husband and I have a rock solid foundation of Jesus in our home, in our church and in our friendships. Our kids will grow up knowing they are precious and surrounded by love.
I’m afraid that we won’t recover financially from COVID and job loss/change.
I’m so thankful that even though my husband temporarily lost his job, he was able to be home for several months and was able to be apart of the newborn stage with our son, which he never got to do with our daughter. And since returning to work, even though he is only at 90% of his salary, God has always provided for us and we have always had more than enough.
I’m afraid that we will get sick, or someone in our family will get sick.
I’m thankful that we are already healthy with no underlying medical concerns. I’m thankful we live in a country with medical support that is readily available.
As I wrote out each thing that I was grateful for, it really began to shift my perspective. It was like the weight of anxiety that had been smothering me began to lift. I began to see the goodness and greatness of God in the midst of this uncertainty. When we rely on the world (news, facts, and statistics) for security, it will only lead to worry, anxiety, disappointment and death. When we rely on God as our security and rock, it will ONLY lead to goodness, peace, gratitude and life.
If you are feeling the overwhelming burden of fear in your life, I encourage you to do this. Go somewhere quiet where you can’t be distracted. Write down every single thing that you are afraid of, anxious for, or worried about. Invite God to come into each situation and reveal something that you can be grateful for in each circumstance. If you don’t know how to pray, you don’t need to come up with fancy words. Simply say, “Jesus, show me where You are in these things,” and He will. Write down every good thing in each situation, and thank Him for revealing it to you. My hope is that the next time you feel crippled with fear or anxiety, you can stop, ask Jesus to show you the good, and have Him change your perspective from fear to gratitude. He alone is our rock and our security. He alone is where our hope lies. The world will only disappoint, but with God, there is only goodness, peace and abundant life.