Written By Kelly Wiarda, USA
My coworker turned to me yesterday and started, “Did you hear the news about . . .?” I cringed inside, not wanting to hear how he would finish the sentence. I was already anticipating negative news that would further disrupt this already difficult week.
As summer rolls into fall, I was hoping the everyday interruptions of second-guessing restaurant hours, social gathering protocols, and travel restrictions would let up.
Instead, I find myself adapting to a long-term survival instinct, which is exhausting! It’s been tiring to wait to find out what events will actually happen, how rules will affect them, and then pivoting accordingly. All the while, anxious thoughts about the unknown flood my head as uncertainty is now the norm.
And I doubt I’m alone in this. According to Barna’s Connected Generation report1, 40% of 18-35-year-olds globally feel anxious about important decisions. The same percent are also uncertain about the future. And to think, these statistics were captured before the current global pandemic! I can only imagine how high the percentage is now.
While it is easy to become overwhelmed when life doesn’t go as we’ve planned, God never intended us to carry this weight on our own, and He offers several pieces of wisdom in the Scriptures to encourage us and lighten our load.
Here are five messages that God has been showing me recently.
First, God is with me and He cares for me.
He is ever-present in all circumstances. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
It requires a large dose of humility for me to lay my burdens down. I’d like to think I can handle most of what life throws at me, but I’m continuously reminded that God doesn’t let me do life alone, and He wants me to acknowledge His presence in all circumstances.
While my inward struggles may not vanish as soon as I pray, God invites me to stay close to Him and to allow Him to do the heavy lifting. However, this requires surrendering to His plan and timing. While our circumstances may not change, He promises to stick with us and lift us up “in due time.”
God can handle my cries.
In the book of Psalms, we read many accounts of lament and crying out to the Lord.
While some of these prayers can sound almost disrespectful (Psalm 13) and borderline whiney (Psalm 102), they remind me that God wants us to bring everything to Him.
In Psalm 34, David is facing a difficult situation but writes, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (v. 4).
It’s clear throughout Scripture that God hears, listens, and answers. But for some reason, I often hesitate to give everything to God, or I feel like I need to figure out what I really want before I ask. As we see throughout the Psalms, however, God will take our concerns as they are and turn our sorrow into praise.
I need boundaries.
While God does not promise a carefree life, He uses the wisdom of Proverbs to remind us that, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (12:25).”
When I notice my thoughts and emotions becoming very negative, I take stock of where I’ve spent my time—both with whom I’ve interacted and what types of content I’ve been reading. Normally, that leads me to conclude that I need a break from social media, certain news outlets, and/or toxic people.
In place of these, I’ll use my time to clear my head with a walk in nature while listening to worship music, or will intentionally reach out to a friend who will point me back to a place of hope and truth. When I can practice such self-awareness and recognize triggers in my own heart, it helps me avoid the downward spiral.
There is beauty in every day.
In Philippians, we are reminded,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
While it seems counterintuitive to dwell on the positives in life when your heart is heavy from all the negatives we’re experiencing, the Scriptures call us to a life of thankfulness.
During particularly difficult seasons, I will often use a journal or make a note to myself in my phone of things that went well in my day. Sometimes they are quotes from my kids that make me smile, and sometimes they are as seemingly insignificant moments as being grateful for sunshine.
Every time I start this list, and especially when I continue to make a habit of it, my list seems to grow as I become more aware and expectant of good things happening.
By communing with God and having a posture of thankfulness, I’m encouraged to know that God not only offers me peace, but He promises to guard my heart and mind from future anxious thoughts, too.
I can call on my Christian community.
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul praised the believers for their spiritual maturity saying,
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
There are times in our lives when the pain of grief, loss, health issues, or other life factors feel like a constant burden that we can no longer carry by ourselves. While the Bible offers us hope, it also encourages us to be in community.
The issues the Thessalonians encountered were different from our modern day circumstances, but believers today can still be encouraged by being in community with the body of Christ and seeking wise counsel.
Having a small group of trusted friends has been life-giving for me in this season when I need to be prayed for or to glean wisdom from other Christ-followers when making important decisions.
While today I am working from the comfort of my own home, where I am shielded from many outside stresses, tomorrow is a different story.
It will bring a busy day filled with a long commute, meetings, sports games, and managing a family schedule. But I will not fear.
For just as God is working on my heart and carrying my burdens, He is also teaching me to be gracious with myself and those around me as we all navigate an unprecedented year.
1 Barna, “Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others,” October 15, 2019, https://www.barna.com/research/global-connection-isolation/.