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!

June 1st Can Be Your January 1st

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Colossians 3:2

Raise your hand if the month of May has been crazy busy. I know if you are a parent of school age children or a teacher then you are raising both hands. End of the year award ceremonies, parties, graduations, field trips, or moving out of your (or your child’s) college dorm or apartment only to soon be moving back in to another one in a couple of months can run us ragged. ‘Tis the season! But you can use this to your advantage, if you will look at it as a fresh re-start.

The end of the school year and the beginning of summer, even if you aren’t a teacher, parent of students or a student yourself, can be a new season. This is a good thing. Really, it is.

The year may be the same, but we can approach the summer months with the same sense of hopefulness and focus. By this time our New Year’s resolutions may have passed away, (RIP gym membership), and maybe some of them needed to go. Now is an opportunity to re-assess and focus again on what truly matters most to us.

However, unlike the new year which forces us to think of resolutions and new beginnings, once the summer months begin we can let the days speed on past. Before we know it, vacation has ended, it’s time to get back into that routine. Don’t let the summer state of mind throw you off track, instead “set your mind on things above.”

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a

Jesus invites us to come to Him, and to find rest in Him. In John 15, Jesus teaches us that God, the Father is the vinedresser. The vinedresser cultivates or prunes the grapevines. Our heavenly Father is carefully and purposefully cultivating our lives to bring a harvest of fruit. Our lives are meant to bring Him glory. Yes, pruning can be painful, but it is necessary. On my rose bush, I cut off the dead or dying roses so that it can make way for new buds resulting in more beautiful roses to enjoy.

Has God been lopping off dead stuff from your life over the past several months? Has He brought into the light of His grace areas of your character that need changing by the power of His Holy Spirit? Thank Him for it. Thank Him for all of the painful, difficult circumstances even if you don’t see the beautiful new growth yet. Thank Him for His discipline because He loves you.

Jesus is the true vine, our true foundation, and we are the branches. Jesus tells us that we must abide in Him because apart from Him we can do nothing. We will not produce fruit if we are not attached to the vine. A branch lying on the ground not attached to the vine will quickly wither and die. Looking back over the past several months, do you see fruit growing? Or are you stagnant? Maybe you are off trying to bear fruit in your own strength. You will not succeed and you will eventually wither, burnout and find yourself giving up. Don’t give up. Look up.

How I am setting my mind on things above

We need to be present in our most important relationship. Ann Boyd in her latest blog post, “How to Plan Your Summer Growth,” offers up some ideas for looking back. Why look back? Ann says, ” During the academic year, life can hurtle past at such a breakneck pace that we don’t have time to fully absorb experiences as they come, but there is time now to reflect and consider intense moments with care.”

Look at June 1st as an opportunity to abide, re-evaluate, take a breath, and realign ourselves back to God’s purposes. I am taking a few pointers from Ann Boyd, reflecting back and asking the questions she poses. If this list overwhelms you, then just choose one question:

  • “What positive, joyful moments can you remember from this year?
  • What painful, embarrassing, or grievous moments can you remember from this year?
  • Consider jotting down a few notes about these memorable events. As emotions arise, present them to the Lord. He may have an invitation for you through them, or you might like to just hold them before him.
  • Do you recall any helpful actions, patterns, or habits that you built into your life this year? Make note of those — and good job, you!
  • Do you recall any unhelpful or destructive actions, patterns, or habits that arose in your life this year? Pause with these and ask the Lord what next step he might have for you in those.”

Screen Time

There are a couple of ways that I will share with you of how I am putting these principles into action. First, I am putting down my phone more. I have an iPhone which has a great little tool in Settings called “Screen Time.” I have put daily time limits on social media, and I have disabled almost all my apps (excluding texting and phone calls in case of emergency) after 8:00 p.m. This allows my brain to settle down for the night so I can sleep better, and it also allows my heart to get a break from over consumption of social media. Do I cheat sometimes? Yes, I confess that I do. That is how addicting it has become in my life.

Little by little

I have a home project that I have been procrastinating and it remains to be completed. This has been a drain on my soul, but small steps are powerful. I have taken this goal and broke it down into small doable steps. Every week I have written down one step that I can accomplish, and by the end of the summer this project will be completed. Doesn’t seem very spiritual to you? Whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God.

Delighting myself in the Lord

Just the other day, as I was writing out my to-do list for the next day, a thought popped into my mind, “I need to sit out on my front porch in the morning.” I knew that I needed to just get away with Jesus. It was the weekend, so I took advantage before my day started off to get alone, sit on the front porch in my favorite chair and look out at creation. No other agenda. When was the last time you stopped everything to appreciate the beauty of God? Make time.

Summer is here

The choice is yours. Will you spend this summer as you have every other summer? Or will you slow down, take a few moments to pray a simple prayer and “seek first the kingdom of God”? He knows that what you need more than anything is Him. Everything else will line up as it should when we first put God above all. Don’t get overwhelmed, if you are then you are missing the point. Start with one thing.

And take heart, you can still have a do-over.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

These are just a few of the ways I am positioning my life to abide in Jesus. What is one way that you are being intentional? Also, if this has encouraged you, as I pray that it has, then let me know by commenting or contacting me through email (click on “Contacts” at the Menu above). I would love to hear from you!