An Open Letter to the Anxious (Including Me)
“I don’t know what to do. My employees are overwhelmed with all that is going on in our country. Our productivity is in the tank,” Mike told me.
“Tell me more,” I said.
“One of my execs, Bill, my CTO, is anxious to the point of being paralyzed. He believes the country he grew up in is disappearing. He can’t seem to focus on his work,” he said.
Nine months of social distancing, working remotely via Zoom, the political chaos, the constant barrage of angry news editorials, the daily charts showing more and more covid deaths, political text messages, social media censorship, the attack on the capitol, civil unrest in our cities, increasing crime rates, food lines, spiraling government deficits, the economic uncertainty, social injustice, the cancel culture, a thriving stock market, day trader speculators, IPOs setting values at billions that never made a dime, and the continued threat of getting and dying from Covid-19 is taking a toll on all of us.
It is like we are all waiting for the proverbial next shoe to drop. There seems to be no good news, just horrifying news. And it just keeps coming. We are screaming back at the television and our phones, “Enough already!”
Yet we can’t seem to turn off our TVs or put down our phones. We want to be on a media diet, but like any diet, the more we deny ourselves of something, the more of it we consume.
My CEO friend Mike is looking for an answer
I wanted to help Mike. But how do I help Mike get his workforce back on track when I can’t get myself back on track? I am suffering from the same anxiousness?
Last night I told Kathy, “I’m not right.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
I said, “I have a constant low-level anxiousness. It isn’t paranoia but this general feeling of something is not right. Like I am operating on the edge. The result of this is an inability to focus. When I can’t focus, I can’t think. When I can’t think, I can’t function. I find myself wanting to escape. To run and hide.
“I find myself waking up and wanting to stay in bed a little longer. I try to lie there and read something, hoping by doing this I’ll accomplish something and it will get me going. To start the day, I do my normal Bible reading, but it doesn’t speak to me. They are just words on a page. So I create my To-Do list and prioritize it. I look at the list, and I am unmotivated to tackle it. It takes all the discipline I can muster to do what must be done.
“The work that gets done is the work with a hard due date. A meeting I committed to. An entrepreneur interview for Paparelli.com. A publishing date. Bills to be paid. People and clients calling me for help. In short, there is no creativity, just forced productivity. And it is the creativity that provides much of the fulfillment.”
I share all this with you because, like Mike, I want the answer, a way out of this fog I’m living in. I learn by talking and writing. So I am hoping this article will give me, and you, some answers. I know I am not alone. I also know many of us can’t express what going on inside us because we don’t know how to put it into words. So we don’t say anything. We retreat to business as usual. We just live with this low-level anxiousness as the new normal.
I was watching our church service on the internet yesterday.
My pastor, Michael Youssef of Church of the Apostles, addressed this issue. He got up after the opening worship time and walked to the front of the church, not on the stage but on the floor. When he does this, it is like he is among us in the community and not speaking to us. And he doesn’t do this very often. This was one of those times.
He described this general feeling of anxiousness, helplessness, and loss. And his message was simple, “Trust in the sovereignty of God. Trust God. Our God is still on His throne.”
When he spoke these words of truth, I realized the root of my anxiousness.
I am trusting in man, including my own capabilities, for my salvation.
I am falling into the same hole God pulled me out of twenty-seven years ago when I walked into that first AA meeting. And it was there that I was introduced to the power of God versus the power of man. I could not stop drinking, not even for one day. I was anxious and out of control. I was instructed to give my struggle to God each day and over time he would take away my desire to drink. He would give me a new life and peace.
This personal, life-changing experience introduced me to God. This led me to his son, Jesus, and becoming born-again.
Today is no different. Our leaders and the other people in the media who have our attention are all yelling, “Trust me. I know best. I will make the decisions to protect you and take care of you.”
But this is rarely, if ever, true.
It is God who knows best, not man. God is the creator, not man. God is our redeemer, not man.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”