MCO Day 10 27 March 2020
Anxiety is Spiritual and Emotional Bondage
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Anxiety is an insidious emotion. It is a stealth emotion which with time become invisible to our consciousness and awareness. Many of us must be feeling this by now, the 10th day of our Movement Control Order (MCO). The worsening of the situation in certain areas is not reassuring. By now, many of us are not feeling anything. We are suffering from COVID fatigue syndrome. Our senses have been overwhelmed, our mind tries to distance ourselves and we feel nothing. Our emotions are flat. It is not true that we feel nothing. We feel anxious but this anxiety is so well hidden from our awareness that we just feel numb. An overdose of anxiety makes us feel numb, disorientated and distanced from our lives. We do not care anymore. There is no motivation to do anything. We just want to be couch potatoes consuming endless mindless entertainment. We sleep but wake up tired. We are disturbed and do not feel any peace. We know we should do something useful but just have no energy or motivation to do it. We are all in anxiety bondage.
Anxiety is an emotion and there is nothing wrong about being anxious. Being thinking and rational beings we should feel anxious. I feel anxious every morning when I leave for work because I do not know whether I will be infected by the SARS-CoV-19 virus from the next patient I treat. This anxiety is good because it makes me more vigilant in making sure I can practising the anti-infection protocol diligently. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians is not saying we should not feel anxiety. Paul does not condemn us for being anxious. He is asking us to master anxiety and do not let anxiety master us. And this is remarkable because it is likely that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote this. If anyone should be anxious, it should be Paul! Prisons are not pleasant places and Paul has no idea whether he would be tortured or executed. Yet, Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation…” (Phil.4:6a).
Trust is the antithesis of anxiety. In trust, we place ourselves in the hand of One who is sovereign, who is in control of all things. Anxiety is living in fear in an environment we have no control over. We embrace this trust when we pray. Paul continues,”… by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil.4:6b). In our prayers, we make our requests to God. We place before him our specific needs. Being our Father, we know that he will answer and give us what we need, not what we want. There is sometimes a difference between our needs and wants. A child may want lots of ice-cream for dinner but we know what the child need is a meal with rice/bread, meat, and vegetables. We are also asked to pray with thanksgiving. Gratitude is a good attitude to cultivate. Praying with thanksgiving is not reminding God what he has done but reminding ourselves about what God has done for us. If God has been so generous and gracious in the past, will he not do the same now?
Remembering what God has done for us and be grateful to him, and have the assurance that God listens to all our prayers helps us to build trust. This trust in God is the instrument to break the spiritual and emotional bondage of anxiety. As we continue in our daily life we will feel anxiety. It is useful to memorize Phil.4:6. The following further steps may help
- Acknowledge that you are anxious
- Ask yourself why are you anxious?
- Can you do anything about this situation? If yes do it.
- Bring this situation to God in prayer (whether you can do something about it or not)
- Practice gratitude and thanksgiving
A pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. We do not know when this lockdown will end. We do not know how many more people will die. We do not know whether we will have jobs when this is over. There are too many unknowns and these are anxious times. Paul the prisoner reminds us not to be anxious but to pray and trust in God.
27 March 2020