You know that thing where you have a word for the year or a season? Abide. Courage. Adhesion.
I don’t have one.
A friend suggested that my word might be “surrender.” I wasn’t so sure. But upon further reflection, and in light of the current state of affairs, my friend might be right.
This shelter-in-place has forced all of us to surrender many parts of our lives. As one social media post so eloquently put it: This is the Lentiest Lent I’ve ever Lented.
As the days and weeks have progressed and we’ve given up many freedoms we were accustomed to, I’ve moved along as well as anyone. There were days I felt I was crushing this home-schooling thing. There were days where I cried into a towel. And now, three weeks in? Let me tell you, dear reader, I am still finding my feet.
I’ve settled into a state of enduring. I know I can endure whatever is to come over the next 30 days. But I want more. I don’t want to just endure. I want to live. I want to grow. I want to cultivate joy amidst the madness. I want something new to be done in me.
But so often I get stuck.
One of the things holding me back is worry. I am a professional worrier by trade. My hobbies include worrying over things I cannot control, and one of my favorite games to play is Worst Case Scenario That Will Probably Never Happen, But I’m Going To Spend The Next Hour Thinking About It Anyway.
But as someone who struggles frequently with anxiety and worry, it has become especially heigtened in this season, and therefore requires me to take a unique approach to overcoming it.
The first step in this process? Surrender.
I need to surrender my cares unto the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). Worrying does not help in any way (Matthew 6:24-34). God can bring me peace of mind (Philippians 4:6-7) and rest for my weary soul (Matthew 11:28) -- if I let Him.
There is an app called One Minute Pause that has helped tremendously with this. It is a 1-minute guided prayer that you can play at any time throughout the day, and multiple times a day. When I feel my thoughts begin to spiral into bad places and I start to feel hopeless, I sit down, look out the window, and pause. The opening two lines of the prayer are what I find most helpful:
Jesus, I give everyone and everything to you.
I give everyone and everything to you, God.
God is in control. That has never changed and will never change. He is above all of this. Why not give it all to Him? I don’t need to carry all of the things all of the time.
He is inviting me to move from the “many things” to the “one necessary thing,” as Henri Nouwen describes it. When I worry, my heart is in the wrong place. Jesus is asking me to shift my focus to Him, to realign my center of gravity around Him, out of which all other things will fall into place (Matthew 6:33).
Does this take the worry away? For a while, yes. And of course, the worry comes back. But then I hit pause again and give everything to God, choosing to surrender everyone and everything to Him again. This is a daily thing. This is a moment to moment thing. It is not a one-and-done thing. For each day He carries us in His arms (Psalm 68:19).
So perhaps my word for the year is “surrender” after all. Maybe the way for me to more than just endure this season -- my path to growth, to new life, to experience joy and peace despite the uncertainties -- rests in my willingness to surrender everything to the Lord. Because surrender, when done in Christ, is the only way to victory.
I don’t know where you are in your journey of surrendering. Are there things you have difficulty relinquishing control of? Are you holding on to too much?
Or perhaps the weight of your anxieties are weighing you down. Maybe you’re worried about your health or the health of a dear one. Maybe you’re worried about work and how you will make it through financially. Or you’re worried what will happen if your child watches too much YouTube for the next 30 days and you feel like you’re failing as a parent. Perhaps you are worried you will feel this alone and isolated forever.
Whatever your worry, whatever you’re holding on to, surrender it. Let it go. Breathe it out. Fall into the arms of God. It is safe here. All shall be well.
One way to pray in a fear-filled world is to choose love over anxiety, to open the door of the heart to dwell in the intimate presence of the One who loves us. When we begin to understand at a deep, spiritual level that we live surrounded by love and in communion with God no matter what the external circumstances, we can let go of the fear that lurks on the outskirts of our minds. -- Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.