Lock-down has been a bag of mixed blessings for different people. For some it has meant time off work to focus more on the family, a time of rest and reflection on what is important in life. For others it has caused isolation, hardship and anxiety. At the start of lock-down my anxiety levels were through the roof. The extra workload created by lock-down seemed an insurmountable task and all I could focus on was the seemingly enormous challenges ahead of me. To start with I just ‘got through each day’. I went to bed tired and anxious about the next day and the task that lay ahead tomorrow. Just when I seemed to be getting on top of things there would be another ‘crisis’ to overcome.
I am my own worst enemy, I do not like to ‘let things go’. I am not a person to ‘sweep the dirt under the carpet’ or ‘shove the muddle into a cupboard and shut the door’. I know the dirt is still there under the carpet and I know the muddle is still in the cupboard. At some point it has got to be cleared and sorted. I do not like to let standards drop. I always set the bar on its highest notch.
I read a few Christian articles on anxiety and they focused on verses such as 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him….” Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22. These verses were nice to read but they did not really provide me any practical answers. Then I read a non-Christian article which encouraged the reader to focus on a solution to the challenge/problem rather than just concentrating on the overwhelming challenges causing the anxiety. This resonated with me as I realised that is what I have been doing naturally all my life. Whether it has been bringing up four children, for which there are always issues to be overcome. At one time we had three children at three different schools, with a Christmas play/concert at each school on the same night. I managed to find a solution to that one, so each child had someone in the audience for them.
The issues have become more complicated as they have entered their teens and then become young people. Finding ‘solutions’ is increasingly ever challenging. In my work as a Practice nurse I often have to sort out practical issues for my patients. It is unhelpful to give advice to a patient, such as telling them they need to lose weight or give up smoking, without finding manageable, practical ways in which they can do this. When my daughter started Uni and received her first essay assignment she was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. I advised her to break it down into manageable chunks and focus on a bit at a time rather than focus on the whole task. I often use this technique with patients. Issues often need to be broken down into ‘manageable chunks’ so they become achievable and realistic. I realised I needed to do this for myself. I started to focus on the solution rather than the challenge and break things down in terms of time and management. I also realised I needed to re-prioritise tasks and rather than set the bar high for every task, leave it high for some and lower it for others that are not so important. I am naturally good at problem-solving, but what I needed to do was use my ‘God-given’ talents rather than let anxiety consume me. This approach was helpful until my daughter, who is a nurse in the designated ‘hot’ A&E at our local district general hospital, contracted the covid-19 virus.
There is no ‘solution’, yet, to the covid-19 virus. Scientists are undoubtedly working hard to manufacture a vaccine. I had no idea how the virus would manifest in my daughter. She is young, fit and healthy with no medical conditions. However, a colleague of mine has a relative who is equally young, fit and healthy and is in Intensive Care on a ventilator. This virus seems to manifest itself differently in different people. What about the rest of the family? There are five of us living together in the same house. Would one of us succumb to it, how would it manifest in another? I used my problem-solving approach by putting in strict practical hygiene measures, then I had to watch and wait and pray. Practically all I could do was pray and ask for prayer. Sadly, sometimes there are no ‘solutions’ to focus on and it is in those times that we need to draw on the Lord’s strength and not our own. As someone with the Choleric temperament I don’t find this concept easy. I’m used to doing things for myself and by myself. I don’t find it easy to ask for help. Asking for help, or even the realisation that you need help, is often seen as a weakness by someone with the Choleric temperament. As a farmer’s wife I am used to being independent; ‘a harvest widow’ and having to do things by myself. I am used to being self-sufficient out of necessity.
I am learning what it means to lean on the Lord and draw strength from Him. I am learning to be still. It is not easy. There is always the temptation to want to rush in and ‘fix it’ myself and then fall into the pit of anxiety when I find I cannot. The Lord is the ultimate solution. I am still learning to comprehend this. He told us, “In this world you will have trouble.” Not ‘may’ have trouble but ‘will’ have trouble (John 16:33). In our modern-day western culture, we’ve come to expect a comfortable life, filled with things that make our lives easier. We resist any challenge that makes us feel uncomfortable. We see it as unfair; we blame God for giving us the challenge in the first place. We sink into the pit of self-despair and self-pity. We throw 1 Corinthians 10:13 back at Him, “He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure”. We tell Him ‘it’s too much!’
However, if we stay within our comfort zones how then can we grow? How will we develop if we are not challenged? How will we fulfil our full potential or discover new things, including strengths and weaknesses, about ourselves? As parents we ‘stretch’ our children to help them fulfil their full potential, we take them out of their comfort zones to teach them things about themselves. Isn’t the Lord just doing the same to His children? Just as we know when our children have had enough, so the Lord knows when we have had enough. Just as He sent angels to administer to Elijah in the dessert (1 Kings 19:4-8) when he had had enough so He will help and strengthen us when we feel we can on no further. He might not take the problem away, but He will ‘feed’ us and give us the strength to go on. The ‘food’ He feeds us with can take many forms: a phone-call or text from a Christian friend encouraging us or telling us they are thinking of us. It could be a verse we read from the Bible or a hymn we listen to. It could be practical help; it could be enforced rest. The Lord knows what we need before we know we need it (Matthew 6:8). Our part is trusting Him for our needs.
My daughter is now back at work. She had a mild version of the virus. The rest of us are finishing our 14 days isolation and remain well so far.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)