Separation Anxiety Amid Social Distancing

Feed your faith and your fears will starve. Feed your fears and your faith will starve.

Max Lucado

Psychology Today says, “Separation anxiety refers to excessive fear or worry about separation from home or an attachment figure.” This applies to babies when they go through a normal developmental stage in which they are learning about relationships and how to master their environment. 

I remember well my children going through this stage, and how upsetting it was to see them struggle with being separated from me even when they were being taken care of by people who loved them. When my niece was very young, I would babysit while her parents enjoyed a night out. She would crawl under the table crying for her momma. There was nothing I could do to make her feel secure.

Reality: God Will Never Leave Us

Right now we are experiencing a type of separation anxiety which is excessive fear or worry. We are separated from one another and from those closest to us. Some of us are working from home, separated from our normal way of conducting business and our children are separated from their teachers and friends. We can’t visit our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes. We are separated from comforting our loved ones at a funeral or celebrating at a wedding. We can’t even go to church. All of these life experiences, we have certainly taken for granted.

This has hit me personally too, as I am awaiting the very near birth of my first grandchild. I can’t be at the hospital, and I am probably not going to be able to hold him in those precious first moments and weeks. The reality that I may only look at him through the screen of my phone is disheartening. It is breaking my heart, and creating a lot of anxiety. Then I think about my children and their jobs hoping that they will still have them when this is all said and done. These are real fears and disappointments. Not to mention my own health concerns, as I am one of those in the high risk categories.

I am sure you can create your own list of separation anxiety, fears, frustrations and disappointments, and I encourage you to write them down. List them on paper one by one. Now take that list with your real anxiety and fears, and listen to what God has to say (all emphases mine):

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” (Exodus 13:21-22)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not abandoned those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Take Action: What You Can Control

Take all your cares, worries, and anxieties that you have written down, and take them to God in prayer. “Let your requests be known to God.” Praise God for His word that sustains you, fills you with truth to quiet down your fears, and allows you to walk by faith and not by sight. Thank Him that He is always with you, nothing can separate you from His love. Repeat His word back to Him.

How should this change us? Do we believe God? Do we believe what His word says to us? Is He enough for us? Are we going to be that scared child cowering under the table crying in fear or are we going to trust Him even in the midst of so much uncertainty? Can you say like Paul did, “For I am sure”?

Our faith is being tested that I am sure. How will we respond? When we look back on this period of time, will we be found faithful?

Take that list you made, find a place to burn it. If you have a fireplace, burn that list in there. If you have an empty ceramic pot or a fire pit, make use of that to set your worries on fire. Then go for a walk, walking away from all that worry. Notice all the beauty and the new growth of spring as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to you. Re-frame your life through the lens of God’s love and provision for you. Then as new or old anxieties start to creep in, let that be a trigger to prayer.

From there generosity can flow from your life. When you release your cares into God’s hands, assured that nothing can separate you from God, then you can lift someone else up.

  • Buy extra groceries to give.
  • Continue to tithe to your church, because God will supply all your need.
  • Call that older member of your family that needs to hear your voice.
  • Be creative with generosity! You have a talent? Share it. It’s exciting to see others coming up with ways to contribute.
  • Continue to connect or reach out and connect to a small group through your church. Share one another’s burdens. We are not meant to do life on our own.
  • Pray without ceasing. There are a lot of people who need our prayers.
  • Remember, it is going to all be okay because our God is for us.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)

Let it go. God is good!

Grace and peace to you!