So… last Monday was a dry-run of our New Year together. I don’t consider “holidays” as an excuse to go dark with this weekly relationship conversation that we share. Your professional dialogs may go silent when an off-day is on Mon-day, but that’s not the way I roll. I sent my thoughts to you last week; you might have had your inbox “off” so you could be off, as well, but let’s consider today the start of our 2024 conversation. Deal?
Here’s a question I’d like to get out of the way before we get too far into this “new year” business: what’s going on in your heart (the emotional one) right now? Are you at peace, or are you – consistently or occasionally – experiencing some level of anxiety?
A few months ago, the Household Pulse Survey found that 30% of American adults have symptoms consistent with an anxiety diagnosis. Trouble concentrating or making decisions; feeling irritable, tense or restless; trouble sleeping; having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. These may be “normal” sensations in this wacked-out world of 2024, but that doesn’t make them necessary!
When I was growing up – back in the middle of the last Century! – there were two sources of updates: the newspaper that hit the driveway in the morning – with accounts of “yesterday’s news” – and the end-of-day newscast that came before the test-pattern sign-off on television. For the rest of the day, people went about dealing with what was in front of them.
Not so in our digital world. “Headlines” are constant interruptions; your pocket or purse vibrates 24/7. Something is going on that is killing people half-a-world away, or there’s something that is likely to kill you that’s just around your virtual corner. Anxiety, anyone?
Is this a new phenomenon, or is the disorder of despair a pandemic that has stretched across the generations? There must be some recurrence of the disruption, because God used Paul’s pen to offer an antidote:
“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).
Perhaps that’s easier to recite than to realize; are there some steps out of the dark cloud that can lead to light?
Here’s a quick hack that might lead you out of hell on this one. When you feel your blood pressure climbing and your sweat glands emoting, try this therapy on for size.
First: face the challenge head-on and ask yourself a crucial question: what is your responsibility in light of this situation? That becomes a game-changer for any warning siren that is blaring outside your area of assignment. Awareness does not imply authority: knowledge beyond influence will drive you to drink. If it’s in your span of control, don’t freeze-up. Create a strategic action plan and get on it.
Next: if you find yourself juggling issues that aren’t within your span of control, reject the cultural inclination to become unhinged and start demonstrating instability through social media.
When you are emotionally stuck regarding a situation beyond your reach, here’s your spiritual aspirin with wide-ranging curative power: 1) Pray. Don’t write me off here; God said it, I’m just reposting: “Do not be anxious… pray…” (v 6). Tell God what’s going on; He’s not anxious! 2) Portray. You’re a follower of Jesus and a child of the Father; make that more than a key point in your doctrinal statement! If that’s who you are, it’s your job to show the world how a person who is connected to the Ultimate Sovereign deals with the crap down here! And, 3) Proclaim. The people who surround us are wringing their emotional hands over things that are destroying their demeanor. The absence of truth has always been the deficiency suffered by the masses. Our job is to put peace on display and declare truth as the solution! God’s got this; do you really believe that?
Here’s a resolution for the New Year: don’t get sucked into anxiety. Remember your antidote!