Now, more than ever, many of us are stuck waiting or in holding patterns. There is nothing like the experience of waiting to bring out anxiety, even for those who normally are cool-headed. With COVID-19 cancelling plans, trips, events, medical care, and even closing work and school, many of us are stuck in the experience of waiting. The most difficult thing about waiting is that the outcome is out of our hands and we are dependent on something outside of our control.
There have been many times in my life I’ve been waiting for: the phone call, test result, arrival in the airport, the formal letter, the decision. Often, I’ve struggled through these times; my mind flying in a million directions to anticipate, mitigate and control every possible outcome. So far, my anxious worrying and planning have changed none of the outcomes and have made the time waiting all the more miserable. This current season of waiting has been different from the many others and a few small shifts in perspective have made all the difference.
After looking back, I realized that my efforts at anticipating and controlling any possible outcome were expressions of fear and were ruining today. One of the verses that has helped me focus on today alone has been Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. I am responsible for today; for how I act, treat people, and steward the time given to me. When I am mentally focused on many days, months, or even years in the future I’m not doing the work God gave me for today. When my mind is away, off into the future I’m not serving those in front of me today.
When my focus and energy is so far off in the future, I’m not trusting God to carry the burdens of this life and I am snatching back the control over life that I gave up to him. In the last few months when this temptation has been very strong, I draw a simple hill. On top of the hill I draw a simple cross and underneath the hill and cross I list out everything I’m worried about or tempted to focus on. Seeing all those things under the cross, or at the foot of the cross truly helps me refocus on what I should be doing right now, today.
Jesus tells us “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” in Matthew 11:30. Right before this, Jesus invites those who are burdened to come for rest. Controlling and anticipating the future is a heavy burden and one I’m not designed for or equipped to take on. My responsibility is to live the way I’ve been called today, and this alone is more than enough for me. By living with my focus on Godand the good works He’s prepared for me to do today, I can be free from the anxiety that comes from trying to control what isn’t in my ability to control.
Anxiety in waiting usually comes from those two places, the loss of control and the fear of the unknown. When I focus on today, I know I can control my thoughts, behavior, and actions. When I leave my fear and burden in the place where I find my rest, I can have confidence that there is no unknown that I’ll face without Jesus.
In times like now, times where the future is unknown, the circumstances are unprecedented and all of us are waiting for one thing or another, there is a place for rest. We can wait without anxiety because our King is on His throne and the future and present are burdens, we don’t have to carry alone.