When we first went into lockdown to try to protect ourselves from the coronavirus, we believed it would be over and our lives would get back to normal. We had no idea it would continue into the following year and now into spring, piling on more anxiety. Recovery from this shared stressor may be a long road, but God provides some tools that can help us through the journey.
What is mindfulness? It is the practice of focusing our minds on what is true, righteous, holy, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). It is being in control of what we are thinking and not allowing the thinking to control us and take us to irrational places that steal our peace.
Here are some mindful exercises to keep us in the peace of the Lord. It is as Isaiah 26:3 says, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in You.”
Wayne Muller says, “Because we do not rest we lose our way…Poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest our lives are in danger.” Mindfulness is a time of noticing. It is a time of becoming quiet before the Lord to hear what our souls have been needing to say to God. It is a time of listening to what is true about us and to learn how to rest ourselves in God’s presence. It is allowing God to minister to us right where we are. We must ask ourselves where we are feeling tired right now is it in our bodies, our minds, or our souls?
Do we need rest for our bodies? Are we like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, “Elijah lay down under a broom tree and fell asleep. The angel of the Lord touched Elijah, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” Find a place to get quiet before the Lord and listen to your body. Are we energized full of health and fitness taking good care of ourselves or are we in a place of being dangerously tired? We must be honest with ourselves and what we are noticing about the state of our health.
Do we need rest for our minds? Are there things in our lives where we just don’t have answers? Are the uncertainties of life filling us with anxiety? Sit in these questions. Tell God how it feels to not have answers. Don’t try to figure out the answers but rest in God being present with us. Ask God to help us trust that He is in control and has it all figured out. Take a few moments to read Psalm 131.
Do we need rest for our souls? Are there things that are hurting us, or disturbing our souls and causing guilt, grief, or shame? Allow all of it to come to the surface and let our hearts experience it. Don’t fear the emotional pain it won’t kill us. We are not alone in this the Lord is with us and bears our grief with us. “In silence my soul waits for you alone, Oh God; from you alone comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1).
Search for Joy
Even in a pandemic joy can find a way. Notice what things in our lives bring us joy. Allow ourselves to focus on those feelings when they happen. Taking in a positive feeling like joy, awe, love, and safety, not only feels good, but if we think on it for a few moments internalizing those positive feelings into our memory we start to counteract our brain’s negative thinking.
Turn Joy into Gratitude
Think about the things we are grateful for today, write them down, and keep a journal of all the ways God is blessing us. This helps us to know that God is with us that He is supplying what we need.
To reach freedom is a lifelong discipline. So much of our world political, economic, social, and religious powers around us seem to want to keep us in bondage so that we obey their commands and become dependent on their rewards. Spiritual truth that leads to freedom is the truth that we belong not to this world but to the Lord. We are His beloved children. We must live our lives always returning to the truth in word and deed, and as we do we gradually grow into our true freedom.
The science shows that anxiety will weaken the immune system. The strain of ongoing anxiety can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression to name a few. May we actively use the tools God gives us to combat immune-compromising anxiety and find our way to God’s sustaining peace.