Monday Musings… The More You Know, The Less You Fear
No question, we are living in uncertain times.
As days have now turned into weeks, and with no end in sight, the coronavirus will not just be known for the number of lives it took, but for the number of people who have become anxious and even panic-stricken through this crisis.
Jobs have been lost. Businesses may be closed permanently. Investments have tanked. Weddings are being cancelled. Babies are being born sans papa. Parents have been forced into homeschooling. (Homeschoolers look up what I just wrote in French.) Athletic teams, activity clubs, churches, and practically every social network has been either shut down or forced to meet in a virtual realm. We may accept this reality for a short time. But the biggest question is – when will the restrictions be lifted?
The simple answer is – we don’t know.
Dates keep getting changed or they’re not even given. Perhaps those in power are thinking that they don’t want to set us up for disappointment. Well, the problem with that train of thought is that we already are disappointed. Vague answers and unknown end dates only serve to entice fear.
Fear is a base emotion. It’s triggered when our mind tells us that something isn’t right, there’s danger lurking, something terrible is going to happen…. And it builds. In our body and in our mind. Until…it explodes! Some people flee for the hills. Others hunker down and hide. Others freeze in place, paralyzed in fright. Others scream to release the adrenalin and to warn others.
Fear is a very visible emotion most of the time, but with social distancing, no one can even tell! How can we? We’re all stuck inside! When we do go outside for some fresh air, when it’s not raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing (thank you, Canadian weather!), we look ‘fine’, as our teeth chatter and we wave from the porch to our neighbors, too far to detect each other’s pupils that are fully dilated in fear.
But we know fear is rising. We don’t have to see it. We feel it. And the only way we can control it, is with information. The more you know, the less you fear.
We’re in a situation right now where what we want (information), we simply don’t have. And so, our brain, left on its own to make sense of the current situation, is generating all kinds of possibilities, and when fear is behind it, you can bet these ideas are worst case-scenarios. Our brain is on a mission to find answers. It’s searching for any hint of when school will go back, or businesses re-open, or when a vaccine will be distributed. And the more it searches online or through discussion, the fear seedlings sprout, the panic roots take hold, and before you know it, anxiety has blossomed, and it’s not so pretty.
So, what can we do? We can’t control what is going on ‘out there’ (translate the world), but we can control what is going on ‘in here’ (your mind).
First, take a deep breath. Yes, a really deep inhale and exhale. You have breath! This is the very thing, those who are ill with the coronavirus, cannot do. So #1, you have to be thankful for that gift of breath.
Second, look around you. Do you have a roof over your head? (Check) Do you have food in the fridge and/or cupboard? (Check) Do you have at least one person or pet that cares about you? (Check) Do you have enough money to pay your monthly bills? (I’m hoping that is a literal check! And maybe one the government is giving to you now.) Then #2, be grateful that your basic needs are met.
Third, realize that all we have, on any day, whether we are living in a pandemic or not, is the moment right in front of us. The time right now as you are reading this blog. And it is only this moment that you CAN control. You control what you are thinking, how you are feeling, and what you are doing. It’s in this moment that you wrestle fear and replace it with trust. It is as simple, and yet as earth shattering, as trusting that you will be ok in this moment. Don’t think about the next. So #3, is shatter your fear with trust in this moment.
The more you know, the less you fear. You have to know what or who you are trusting in, in order to have peace. That is the key.
When I was a young adult, and opening up the Bible for the first time in my life, I came to this passage. Being a psychology student at the time, I was fascinated as I had no idea that the Bible talked about anxiety, let alone had the cure for it. Here’s what I read:
Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6: 25-27)
I mean how could I argue with that? I have loved birds since I was a kid and even dreamed one day of becoming an ornithologist. (I actually was reading the encyclopedias as a kid and I was fascinated by this big word and the picture of the bird beside it – homeschoolers have your kids check this word out!) But I digress. Even as I am awakened every morning now by the birds singing, I know they have food in their bellies from the ‘fruit’ of the soil. They have to build their own houses for shelter but they’ve been given straw and leaves left over from the fall and winter. Birds always seem to have a few fair-feathered friends with them. We know all of this to be true! It’s so obvious that God takes care of them. And so, He will take care of you because YOU are more valuable to Him than they are! He absolutely knows your needs and He will meet them. If you believe Him and trust Him.
And then the passage tells you, and you know it to be true, no matter what you believe, that there is no value in worrying. It only adds sleepless nights and grey hair. And we are seeing a lot of both these days! Trust. It’s all about trust.
So, what we do we know for certain, in these uncertain days: do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6: 34) This is the truth! We have no clue what tomorrow will bring, but we’ve got plenty of issues looking at us right now in this moment.
So, we must choose to respond with: #1 gratitude for our breath; #2, gratitude for the gifts God has given us in food and clothing and shelter and friends; and #3 a willingness to trust that He will give us the information we need in this moment to handle what is directly in front of us.
And what information is that, that your brain needs to know to calm itself down? Paul, in the book of Philippians says it well: 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)
In these uncertain times, you can count on the fact that God knows your every need. So, Seek Him. Ask Him. Trust Him. And Thank Him. And you will have no fear.