Anxiety in the Midst of Uncertainty
The current Coronavirus pandemic reminds us how quickly life can change. Two weeks ago, we were giving little thought to the Coronavirus and now that is about all that we think about. The news is constantly changing: sporting events are being cancelled; travel is being curtailed; groups are no longer meeting; colleges are extending breaks and offering to complete courses online; businesses are limiting hours; churches are suspending services. How long will this last? What will be the economic damage be? Am I and my family at risk? Will I lose my job? The possibilities are frightening and the result is anxiety in the midst of uncertainty. If we allow our minds to prospect the future possibilities, we begin to catastrophize and imagine the worst case scenarios. My guess is that some of you have already found yourself doing that.
There is an antidote to the anxiety in the midst of the uncertain future: stay in the present. In his lesson on prayer, Jesus taught us to pray like this, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It is a reminder to stay focused on today and not let our minds wander into the anxiety of the future. For example, if I see that the market is down, I begin to wonder if I will have enough money in my account to retire. When I see that churches are closing, I begin to fear that the giving will not be enough to make payroll and I will not have a job. When I see that the death rate is primarily in the over 65 age group, I realize that I am in that group and begin to wonder if I can survive the virus. You get the idea. But then I come back to Jesus’ prayer: “Do you have what you need for today?” “Yes, but . . .” and again my mind wanders into the future and the anxiety returns. I then have to come back to the prayer: “Do you have what you need for today?” “Yes, but . . .” No, No! “Do you have what you need for today?” “Yes.” It is not easy to do. It requires mental and spiritual discipline. But when I let myself be reminded of what God has provided today, my anxiety becomes gratitude.
Jesus also said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” There is an old expression that my Daddy used to say that has the same meaning, “Don’t run from what’s not chasing you.” The future is not chasing me, so I need to live in this moment and when I do, I feel a lot calmer.
So, when you lie down to sleep tonight, refocus your worries about tomorrow into gratitude for what you have today, and you will sleep much better.