Straight from an Anxious Heart
By Lisa Elliott
Are you suffering from PPSD? That is, post-pandemic stress disorder. I’m not even sure if that’s a thing. However, I know I’ve been experiencing it. Re-entry is as I imagined it would be. Only now that what I imagined is a reality, the panic is even more real!
It brings me back to the year after my son, Ben died. After a year of solitude and singular focus survival, it was really hard to get back into the swing of things. Anywhere there were more than a handful of people overwhelmed me. Be it in grocery stores, restaurants, social gatherings, and even the church foyer.
My multitasking ability was also one of those things that I lost as a result of the significant loss of my son. No longer could I function on the high-octane level I’d functioned at for most of my life. Ministry demands haunted me. People smothered me. To-do lists overwhelmed me. I didn’t feel I could do what I used to do, or at least not at the same level of energy I was accustomed to.
I wish that was past tense. However, I find myself dealing with this same level of anxiety in these post-pandemic days. Maybe you are, too?
One morning as I sought to take a deep breath to enter my day, I re-read Philippians 4:6-9 from The Living Bible paraphrase. Four things struck me as I picked it apart and applied it to my anxious heart. You may want to consider these simple principles from God’s Word and allow them to speak peace into your anxious hearts as they did mine.
Be thankful. “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” I tend to read this verse with a focus on the prayer. However, there’s more to it than that. It would seem that thankfulness is the antidote to PPSD. One of the things I began during the pandemic was a daily Thankful List It helped as my perspective began to spiral downward and anxiety amped up. I’ve posted it on Facebook every day for the last several months. Initially, it was simply a way to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Going public with some of my innermost thoughts and feelings not only helped me express myself, but it’s helped me cultivate a thankful heart. So much better than an anxious heart!
Reap peace. ”If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” Peace! The opposite of anxiety! Who wouldn’t want to trade in their anxiety for peace? The thought that God’s peace keeps our thoughts and hearts quiet and at rest as we trust in Jesus is amazing. And oh, so true. It is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. What an exchange!
Fix your thoughts. “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.” I love that Paul doesn’t stop with telling us not to be anxious. He gives us something to replace our anxious thoughts with—all kinds of good things! And, did you notice that last on the list brings us right back to being thankful? Thinking about things we can praise God for and be glad about! Such a better focus for our anxious minds. Are you breathing better yet? Is your heart rate slowing down?
- Put it to practice. “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” It’s not enough to think until our anxious thoughts dissipate. Otherwise, we get stuck in our heads. Rather, we must put those thoughts into action. That, according to Paul, is when we’ll really begin to experience the peace that transcends all our understanding that will guard our hearts and minds. Because, my friends, that peace is Jesus and His peace-giving presence. He promises to never leave us or forsake us as we put our trust in Him.
In these days of senseless acts, self-focused attitudes, and overwrought thinking, let’s pray and be thankful for everything. Let’s fix our thoughts on the good. Let’s put to practice everything we’ve learned and let’s take a deep breath and breathe in the peace of God.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34).
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.