—Rik Gervais, Ruling Elder
"Be still, and know that I am God….” Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
Tropical Storm Michael. You remember the day. High winds. Torrential rain. Schools closed. Power outages. It’s 2 PM. Michael is racing up I-85. At the same time, my wife is getting into a car at Lake Gaston on the Virginia state line, about to head right into the middle of Michael. I’m stressed (to say the very least!). I’ve got the Find My iPhone app going. I can watch her every turn. I’ve also got the TV on. I can hear the incessant, frenzied descriptions of the storm conveyed by journalists who are also out in the middle of it. I’m really stressed! Anxiety, in one of its worst forms, has a hold on my heart right now. What can I do? What should I do? What would you do?
I’m going to give the bible answer first. I prayed. I really did. Over and over. For God’s protection for her. For a calmness that only the Spirit’s power could give me and her.
But I also nibbled. Every snack in the cabinet got raided. I paced. I flipped channels looking for better descriptions of what was happening along I-85, minute by minute. For almost three hours I was a nervous wreck…even as I continued to pray. This is probably an understatement, but I was anxious.
What is this thing called “anxiety” and what can we do when we are feeling it? According to Merriam-Webster, “…anxiety [is] anguished uncertainty or fear of misfortune or failure.” Well, that was me alright. Funny. There are 19 synonyms listed for anxiety, but there is only one antonym. Anxiety is all-encompassing and overwhelming.
What do we do when we are anxious. I bet my responses were fairly typical. But for some, anxiety can be absolutely crippling. Maybe that’s you. Maybe snacks or pacing and even some prayer are not anywhere close to helpful. So what should you do? One choice would be to go to a website like anxiety.org where renowned experts in the medical and psychological fields from leading universities can offer countless articles. I’m not knocking them. They are smart people who really want to help.
Or you can turn to God. I searched the web (yes, even elders do that!) to see what the Psalms teach about anxiety. Articles there pointed me to more than 35 places in the Psalms where the ancient writers helped themselves, and us, find our answers in our loving, caring, protecting, sovereign God. Meditate on these passages. Make them your passages. Carry them in your pocket and in your heart. They really do help.
What else can you do? Attend the Hope Counseling conference, “Be Still, My Soul: Understanding and Addressing Anxiety,” November 10, 9:00–12:30. There, Dr. Mike Emlet will provide solid, biblically-based perspectives on dealing with anxiety. Please join us. And yes, we’ll probably have snacks!