On November 3, Inc.com reported 59 percent of Americans expected that day to be the most stressful of their lives. For several months experts have been saying that about two-thirds of the adults in the United States are feeling high anxiety. Many are anxious because of the covid pandemic. Others are anxious because they are out of work or their income is threatened. Some are in danger of losing their homes. This week many are anxious because the outcome of the election is uncertain. With millions of mail-in ballots cast, the count is taking much longer than usual. When things are uncertain, we all get anxious.
Today as I write this, our President is perhaps the most anxious person in the country. He expresses it in some not very presidential statements. Some in his own party are urging him to avoid making accusations or claiming he has been cheated, but instead to trust the citizens who are counting ballots. His obvious anxiety is shaping his judgment, but also influencing his committed supporters to be anxious, too. They seem ready to fight back against what looks like certain defeat. Chaos seems to threaten.
How do I want to respond? When we are among family or friends who are anxious, we can help everyone by being one of the less anxious persons. This is what counselors aim to be when helping others. When we are anxious, it is harder to make wise decisions and avoid saying or doing things we will regret later. If I can be one of those who are less anxious it will influence others the same way. “Feelings are contagious,” as a psychologist friend of mine said.
So I am trying to be one who is at least less anxious even if not non anxious. I want to do that for my own peace of mind so I can work productively and sleep well. But also, I want to be someone who helps others settle down. Social media are filled with disagreements and wild comments that only serve to raise our emotional temperature, sometimes to a fever. What can you and I do about it? Be one of the less anxious people. Don’t get into verbal fights. You can influence others best by being less anxious and not needing to “insist on your own way.” You will help others become less anxious, too. That’s how it works. So which will you and I be? How can I be that calm person I want to be?
It helps me some that I believe America has a deep vein of stability and that the vast majority of citizens have always accepted election results, even when it was against their wishes. On a deeper level, I hope I can be calm because God is the foundation of my life, not my favorite politician, nor “my” Social Security or the USA itself.
Each morning lately I have been listening to a few chapters of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel. Many passages describe war, torture, desperation, starvation, executions, slavery and death as people turned away from God. God’s people have suffered in the past and many are even now in places of war and persecution around the world. So I appreciate all the more my relatively quiet life, the people whom I love and who love me. Most of all, I am secure in the love of God.
My faith that Jesus is Lord is the rock of security upon which I stand. He will be there through every storm of confusion, doubt, and even death. So I can be a non anxious presence in this small moment of confusion in our country. I hope the same for you.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s Letter to the Phiippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
© 2020 Stanley Hagemeyer