Will the year 2020 go down in history as one of the most stressful times around the world? Like you, I have heard various versions of the following confession of anxiety and fear for many months.
“My part-time job, so perfect for our family needs and what I enjoy doing, ended during this COVID craziness. I wake up in the night feeling anxious about the future. I have loved the extra time at home with my two kids, even the schooling, but we need some additional income. And what about school health safety and academic continuity for my children? What if I get sick? I don’t even know how to pray!”
Bad news flashes in our social media feed and fills daily reports on our phones and television. Anxiety and full-blown panic bubble up in our minds and bodies as we worry about tomorrow. There seems no escape.
As John Ortberg describes in his book, Soul Keeping (2014), our souls, our God connection, are made to seek a future. God set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) as a blessing and a curse, because though we are driven beyond today, we cannot know the beginning to the end. So our hunger to de-mystify our future is natural and God-given, but humanly impossible. Sigh.
Growing in Knowing
Given our desire to know what is coming next, we can appreciate the books authored by The Apostle John. To stabilize new Believers in his day, he says repeatedly that the purpose of his letters is so that we would know.
• Know the Truth about Jesus
• Know that God loves us
• Know that we will be like Him
• Know that we will have eternal life in Christ
• Know the will of God
• Know that we are saved by Christ’s sacrifice
• Know that we are in Him
• Know Him, Jesus Himself
John commonly uses two forms of to know in the Greek language, ginosko and oido. Whereas oido relates to knowing information, facts, the ways things are in the natural world, ginosko refers to knowing through personal experience or relationship. The difference is like this: We may know(oido) someone’s name at first introduction, but we come to know(ginosko) them over time and through continued encounters in a much deeper way.
We start out knowing about God and His Son Jesus through stories, information, historical accounts in the Bible and other books. But the knowing that we gain walking through life with God is what brings the trust and faith responses we need to survive the troubles of this world. Our relationship grows and gives us confidence in the scary times that God is still with us, caring and providing what we need. Amazing. Powerful.
The Jesus I Know
I lived overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan for seven years, returning home in 2012. Having popped out of my job to leave the U.S., I faced a reboot on many levels when coming back. I had worked full time in education for decades but hesitated to jump back in immediately. Due to a difficult departure from a difficult place where I held high level responsibilities, I needed focused renewal efforts. I had no idea what my re-entry future held for me.
I entered willingly into counseling therapy and debriefing retreats for overseas workers. For several weeks I followed up these efforts with long-time friends and spiritual mentors, meeting to talk and pray through reflective questions. These exercises helped me assimilate the pain and growth of the Kabul years and recall what I knew (ginosko) about Jesus’ love for me.
As a counselor and life coach for many years, I recognize the challenge of transitions and the anxiety created by an unknown future. Waiting is hard. Not knowing is hard. COVID restrictions and isolation are hard.
What should we do when anxiety and panic rise in the clouds of future uncertainty and even terror? Here is my recommendation:
Prepare wisely in a general but beneficial manner. Exercise your mind and body, keep healthy and make right choices, sleep, get outside, and connect with selected people as possible. Tackle tasks left undone previously for lack of time or energy, bits at a time. To avoid total self-focus, reach out to serve in reasonable, prayerful, balanced measure. Read and write and sit in solitude daily, allowing God to interject words of direction and encouragement, or maybe just sense His care and companionship. Share deeply with trusted friends and consider reaching out to a mentor or life coach. Build resiliency. Believe in His faithfulness.
Finally, one day, all efforts to know this earthly future will be done and our eternal future will come. Our souls will have no more questions; the mysteries will be solved. We will know and be known completely and enjoy everlasting peace in His presence.