Bombarded with fears about what will happen to the United States? Feeling the crush of election anxiety? You’re not alone.
I am a registered Independent because neither party has a platform that I fully endorse. I dislike the lack of civility, the tone of campaigning and the name-calling that has infiltrated our political system. And I’ve experienced fears for our democracy that I never expected to have in my life. As Sarah Young writes in “Jesus Listens,” “People are calling evil good and good evil.” This leads to anxiety.
Jesus does not want us to lead lives filled with dread. So we have to deal with anxiety thought by thought by thought. We can be sure this is possible because Paul tells us to “take captive every thought.” (2nd Corinthians 2:5) Christian mindfulness makes it easier to fulfill this advice.
To take your thoughts captive and overcome anxiety, you have to do five things repeatedly: Notice. Stop. Pray. Refocus. Act.
NOTICE: Listen to your thoughts. We know that paying attention on purpose helps us to listen to the chatter in our minds. It’s a good thing, too, because our thoughts direct our emotions. Whenever we get wound up in anxiety, bad thoughts are at the core.
STOP: Take a few deep, slow breaths.
PRAY: Once we feel a bit more calm, we need to pray for God’s grace to help us keep focused on Him. You can pray:
REFOCUS: God wants us to focus on His presence in the moment. So visualize Jesus alongside you. Think about God’s character and all the ways He is with you. Focus on God’s goodness.
ACT: God wants us to be a light shining in the darkness. You can do this if you practice the presence of God. If you seek His will for what you should do to become a force for good. Fill your calendar with things that you know God wants you to do. Such as?
- Spiritual practices, such as all types of prayer, Bible study, Sabbath, gifts of your time and money, and intentional Christian fellowship in church and small group.
- The seven spiritual works of mercy: Counsel the doubtful. Instruct the ignorant. Admonish the sinner. Comfort the sorrowful. Forgive all injuries. Bear wrongs patiently. Pray for the living and the dead.
- Acts of corporal mercy to address the needs of the poor and helpless: Feed the hungry. Visit the imprisoned. Buy clothing for those who need it. Care for the sick. Shelter travelers. Offer drink to the thirsty.
- And what you say. If you can’t communicate in ways that show the gifts of the Holy Spirit, be quiet. Talk to God about your concerns, instead of dumping them on family, friends and social media.
Focus on the good you can do. God has prepared works in advance for you to do. As you become a force for good, your anxiety melts away.