Do not be anxious.
Easy to say, isn’t it?
Harder to do.
I wouldn’t normally say I’m a person given to anxiety. I would, however, freely admit that I get overwhelmed. Perhaps they’re not entirely different.
God’s Word speaks about anxiety and how He wants us to handle it:
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV)
The Greek word translated “anxious” is mérimna. It has some of the meanings we’d expect, such as worry, fear or care. But it also carries the connotations of being drawn in many directions, fracturing a person’s thinking into many parts.
They may not be spiritual, but they are essential to helping us stay above water.
When I find myself overwhelmed by my responsibilities, I always have to take a step back and take inventory. I ask myself a series of questions to help me identify the root of the problem. From the answers, I can often navigate my way to shallower waters or even dry land once again. So jot these down and then sit with the Lord to see how they might help you cope:
It took 2.5 hours in a local department store.
Seriously. 150 minutes of running from one part of the store to another, all in an effort to secure complimentary clothing for our bi-annual family portrait session. In a fairly uncharacteristic move, I’d left this chore to the day before the shoot. Nice. Must have something to do with how much I deplore shopping.
Few situations reveal my pessimistic nature more than these semi-annual conversations with teachers. How awful does it sound that some of my most negative beliefs occur around my kids? (But then I wonder whether that might be true about a lot of us? Please don’t leave me hangin’ here.) This week was conference week. I dutifully showed up with my notepad and pen, ready to jot down what the teacher wanted to share about my kiddos.
And I fully expect them to share something bad.
My heart is so full of love and affection for these kids. I genuinely delight in them and cannot fathom my life without them. Yet I enter these meetings assuming I’ll be hearing about their worst academic habits and traits. (Do you think it’s safe to conclude, then, that pessimism isn’t related to one’s love for another?)
It was supposed to be the culmination of 10 months of learning and effort.
But that’s not quite the way it went down.
Last December my oldest child got her driver’s permit. (Don’t even ask me how she’s old enough for that to have occurred. I have no idea.) Since then, we’ve made a habit of instruction. Giving her regular stints behind the wheel and lots of verbal pointers while she rides along as a passenger. She’s studied the manual, taken practice tests and demonstrated the responsibility my husband and I required for her test for the license.
The big day finally arrived.
This was the scream I’d hear too often from some remote part of the house. It was the battle cry of my youngest daughter, whenever something wasn’t going her way. A short, but fierce, exclamation.
I think it probably originated when she was learning to tie her shoelaces. But it soon began to apply to anything… opening packages of food, art projects (it’s hard when your vision doesn’t play out on paper!), and even interacting with her siblings. At thirteen, it’s now become a family joke, used universally for anything that’s not happening as planned. But I assure you: it wasn’t always funny. Quite the contrary.
This little darling of mine is my greatest parenting challenge. (She is an equal source of delight.) There’s always a reason she can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, didn’t or isn’t. Peer relationships, classroom work, athletic performance, sibling interaction, and parental obedience. There have been many (many!) days when I’ve pulled out my hair, wondering why it’s so hard to walk her through her life. And then one day, my husband says this to me:
I pack school lunches every. single. morning.
And I have for nearly ten years now. Last week, as I stood in my kitchen, staring down at the empty lunch boxes on my kitchen counter, I got a little grumpy about having to do it again. “I’m so over making lunches.” But, I cobbled together a collection of leftovers, juice pouches, baby carrots and the cursory apple and sent my people on their way.
Just a couple hours later, I stood at the stainless gates that are my refrigerator and bemoaned that there was nothing I’d like to eat. Nevertheless, I rummaged through and found something to throw in my gullet.
He couldn’t even look me in the eyes.
The weight of yesterday’s foolishness on his conscience made it impossible for him to lock his gaze with mine. Though I had tucked him in bed with assurances of my love for him, he still awoke this morning unreconciled.
He’s since apologized and our relationship is restored, yet he still bears a countenance of guilt. I console him again with scripture:
While delivering that truth to his tender heart, I pondered why I don’t often wake with the awareness of guilt that he so frequently does. I’d love to think that’s because I have fully internalized the grace contained in the Lamentations passage.
I’ve dug my heels in. But I may not be winning.
I make a conscious, daily effort to take a stand against the cultural norms of our day in the area of body image. Yep, that’s me: middle-aged, suburban rebel. Americans worship youth and beauty, thereby shackling women (in particular) with concern over their appearance. We pay thousands of dollars, and spend countless hours, “managing” our bodies as measured in pounds lost, grays dyed, wrinkles stretched/treated/injected, breasts implanted, cellulite extracted, teeth whitened, and the like.
I want something different for my daughters and the young gals for whom I lead Bible study.
“I don’t want to go.”
My daughter informed me that she had qualified to run in the district track meet but that she didn’t care to. Only the top three runners in each event are sent to compete with students from all the other schools in our area. Her news thrilled me, so I puzzled over her reluctance.