I awoke last Monday and immediately felt disturbed. My mood was low and the thought of facing a day left me feeling troubled. Whatever was the matter with me? I knew it was to do with the business of the virus and the lockdown, but couldn’t exactly pinpoint the actual matter. A read of social media didn’t help. The previous evening, Sunday, the country had heard from the Prime Minister – it wasn’t a great speech – leaving us with more questions than answers. Later that evening, and throughout the night it appeared, people had taken to venting their anger and frustration on Twitter, Facebook and other media – putting it ‘out there’ that they were very unhappy.
I can’t criticise anyone for feeling like that or for wanting to rant – goodness me, the handling of this whole crisis has been quite bizarre at times. I’m often left baffled or irritated, thinking often that “they” have got it totally wrong – again! “Why didn’t we lockdown earlier? Why weren’t we more prepared? And I have often taken to FaceBook to vent myself – knowing that actually it’s my own little echo chamber, where most people on there, because they’re my “friends”, understand where I’m coming from and will, mostly, agree – or at the very least offer some comfort in reponse. So my intention is certainly not to knock anyone for posting their feelings about the government’s handling of the crisis, or for being highly critical of it. On the contrary, I can fully understand an irate reaction.
No, there was something more going on inside me. I felt weary and troubled. My anxiety level was up. Now, I don’t tend to get anxious about much, but I do recognise the physical symptoms. My reflection told me I looked bothered; my heart-rate was faster than normal; I had butterflies in the tummy. I felt like this throughout the day. An exercise class with a relaxation session that evening, helped, but soon after, I was down again.
The following morning, ahead of our Team meeting, our lovely vicar sent out a Bible reading to reflect on before we all met. It was Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
You know how there are those moments when you read something and it just right away hits you in the solar plexus? Well, this was one of them! I was indeed in a ‘slimy pit’! That’s how it had felt. A really ikky place. Stuck, and feeling unable to help myself.
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord
I immediately came to see, as if God himself were speaking directly to me, that I had let myself slide into something that was sucking me down and threatening to overwhelm me. Then here he was, lifting me out of it! And how? By commanding me to look up, put myself in his hands, start singing that ‘new song’ and get praising! How long had it been since I had given thanks? “Blessed is the man [or woman!!] who makes the Lord [their] trust” I read. Indeed! Now that’s what my head needed to absorb – He is the one who I can trust. That’s where reassurance lies – not on FaceBook or Twitter!
I sat and reflected on the words for some time. I thought about things I’d read on social media. So much anger. So much frustration. There’s bound to be – and it’s undestandable. I had to ask the question though – what was it doing to my soul? Because what it all amounted to was a cloud of negativity descending around me; enveloping and choking me. It had got to the stage of me not wanting to read what many of my good friends were posting. Now, I am not saying that what anyone was sharing was wrong. Often, it would be a news article about failures of the government or criticism of them. I actually agreed with most of it. However, what it did to me was swamp me with feelings of helplessness. It didn’t help me to feel as if I could cope better with what was going on – on the contrary, I was left feeling impotent and depressed, and beginning to feel anxious.
I tried to imagine what it might be like to share like this in real life. Would we be sitting in the pub, or a cafe, showing each other these articles and news-pieces? Would we be sitting around, lamenting the idiocy of the Prime Minister and enumerating his inadequacies? I don’t think so! On social media, we tend to share mostly when we feel angry about things, or when we feel especially happy. Because, during these challenging times, we are very often roused to anger, there seems to be a greater sharing of such pieces. Thus, this sense of me feeling ‘swamped’. We wouldn’t do that in real life. Our meet-ups would not be characterised by “Have you seen what this nincompoop has done now? Have you heard they’re intending to re-open schools? How ridiculous is that?” Well, we might a bit – but mostly I think, and I hope, we’d be so glad to be in each other’s company we’d be sharing our good news stories. Laughing together; smiling at our shared joys. Wouldn’t we? What I mean is – there would be more BALANCE. But it might just be me who thinks that.
So, I had to do something about my state of mind and soul. And I knew the way forward – it had been given to me in this psalm – “a new song” and a “hymn of praise” had to be sung. The same morning, lovely vicar had also sent us a link to a wonderful praise song by City Alight – “Good and Gracious King”. I wept a little as I heard:
I will give to You my burden
As You give to me Your strength
Come and fill me with Your Spirit
As I sing to You this praise
This is often how God speaks. A friend will share something beautiful and you recognise the Lord’s voice in it. God knew I felt burdened and I didn’t need to be. Hadn’t Jesus said he would take that from me? So here he was reminding me to let go of it – give it to him who is vastly more able to carry it. And he would give me his strength. As I began to praise him, I felt his Spirit filling me and I experienced joy again. Anxiety lifted as I regained a right perspective. A view of things through a God-shaped lens. The relief was enormous.
I knew I had to re-balance. So, more time in his presence and especially, more time giving thanks. Even in these awful days, I have SO much to be thankful for. I am locked down with a wonderful man who loves me. I have a lovely home and I hear from my family every day. (I actually get a Facetime call from my 8-year old granddaughter every day, which is fantastic!) I have good food to eat; great walks from my doorstep; wonderful friends we can laugh with; a fabulous church community; great books to read…..I really could go on! I challenged myself to spend more time practising being thankful; more time praising and more time simply basking in his love. I walked on high ground more often – giving myself a more far-reaching view – literally lifting myself from the valley and seeing beyond my own place. I read more poetry and listened to more music. I prayed intentionally for those in government – remembering that they’re human, also loved by God; they make mistakes (some of them catastrophic) but they don’t set out to do evil, I’m sure. (Their bluster I think is all part of their failings and inadequacy and I figure therefore they need even more prayer!)
You know what? It worked! I can honestly say that I feel more balanced, more joyful and definitely more thankful. It’s not a magic bullet. It has taken hard work. It may not last. I might have to give myself a kick up the bum in another few days. Then again – I have surrounded myself with people who offer me words of wisdom pretty often – so if I do get down, there are those who will point the way up again. It was such a good idea of Jesus’ to put us together in Church!!
Ok, enough jabbering….just off to check my FaceBook……