Tag Archives: Anxiety

A Trauma Survivor’s Advice for Surviving a Global Crisis

Our Wesleyan tradition holds a rich heritage of understanding the way the whole of our created being functions. We share a long history of encouraging one another to health and wholeness in every way, just as our God designed. We believe that we are responsible for the well-being of not just our souls, but our bodies and our minds as well, in line with the command to love the Lord our God with all that we are. Sometimes that becomes difficult in times of hardship, adversity, and trauma.

As a survivor of both extended childhood trauma as well as  intense crisis situations as an adult, including my time working as a crisis responder for a domestic violence agency, I have learned some things about the effect trauma has on my brain. In the years of healing I have engaged, I have learned some key truths about trauma and times of crisis. These have helped me during this year of incredible global turmoil and an astounding level of transition and crisis in my own personal life. I’m hopeful that the things I have learned on this journey can help others to care for themselves and others well in these challenging times. Here’s my best counsel for surviving times of crisis:

Now is not the time to make large decisions.

When you are going through a traumatic situation, your survival depends on being able to make the kind of in-the-moment decisions that ensure your short-term survival or well-being. Sometimes this is a necessary sacrifice to make, but sometimes our choices are not as limited as they seem when our survival-focused brain gets involved in the decision process. While your brain is focused on the crisis at hand, it is blind to other details that are critical to consider when making large decisions. Emotions also tend to become difficult to manage during times like these, and emotions can alter and even drive your decision-making process in ways that are less than ideal. Survival situations can make it very tempting to choose options that solve short-term problems but create much larger, long-term issues.

If you must make a big decision during this season, here are some tools for overcoming the shortfalls in your brain’s crisis response:

1. Take your time.

Give every large decision 24 hours at minimum to consider and pray about your decision. You need time to hear from God at the very least. It is harder to hear the more noise there is in your life, and crisis is loud. The bigger the decision, the longer you should deliberate about your choices. Besides, that gives God time to act! You wouldn’t believe how many problems He solves without our intervention.

Physiologically speaking, time gives your emotions time to calm down and gives those immediate-release adrenaline-related chemicals time to dissipate in your brain, leaving your thinking much clearer. You’ll be much better able to look at your situation objectively and see more of your options when you are calmer. Reactions are rarely helpful; responses are  needed. The difference between a reaction and a response is time.

2. Take a nap.

You cannot think clearly if you are hungry, tired, or stressed. Sometimes you can’t do anything about being stressed, so while you are observing suggestion number one above, take the time to give your body some good rest, good nutrition, drink some water, and take some time to release some stress before approaching your big decision. Nutrition, hydration, and rest will make all the difference in the world in your brain function, so it is going to drastically change your ability to make a sound decision.

3. Take a poll.

Involve as many people who are wise and trustworthy in your decision as you can. They can see things that you cannot. During a crisis, your brain will be hyper-focused on certain details, leaving you blind to others. Finding a broadened external viewpoint can be immensely helpful in making a sound decision, but you can’t achieve one on your own from inside your situation. You need other people for that. Besides, they may have access to or knowledge of solutions that you don’t. You can make up for the flaws in other people’s opinions by choosing a wider variety of people from several areas of your life to include in your decision. Just remember that ultimately, your decision is yours to make, and your inner circle should be supportive and loving, not controlling and manipulative.

Now is not the time for a New Year’s Resolution.

Hear me here. We are coming up on the end of the year, and January is closing in. I, for one, will be glad to see an end to 2020, but global apocalypse rarely observes the Gregorian calendar, such as it is.

Perhaps the most traumatizing part about being in a crisis situation is when you don’t know how long it will last.

Aside from the impending new year, how many of us have shamed ourselves for gaining the dreaded “Covid 20?” We have abused ourselves for everything from gaining a few pounds to being less productive at work and school. What’s worse is taking a fearful half-glance at the relapse and overdose rates for those struggling with addiction and the suicide rates for those struggling with severe mental illness.

The truth about the brain in trauma is that it will adopt any type of mechanism that is readily available in order to help you survive and cope with what is happening. A lot of these, we call “negative” coping mechanisms (think  substance abuse, promiscuity, gambling, risk-taking, cutting, etc, but also things like shopping, overeating, biting your nails, and other behaviors we use to make ourselves feel better when under stress). Some of these so-called “negative” coping mechanisms should never be engaged: I would never recommend that someone indulge a drug addiction in order to get through a crisis situation. Someone who relapses while in a crisis situation deserves support, treatment and love; relapse is very understandable, but obviously it would cause more damage than any good it could possibly do.

However, some of these less-than-ideal coping mechanisms don’t cause much damage. If biting your nails can help you get through a terrible year, then don’t beat yourself up for munching away. Bite your nails shamelessly if it helps. You can break that habit later when your situation and anxiety level are manageable. If you gained your Covid 20, love every inch of your fluffy self. You can hit the gym later when your energy isn’t devoted to getting through this. The same is true for all of you who, like me, were afraid to say that they actually lost weight during this pandemic due to stress and other factors! Regular exercise and nutrition are important, and they help during times of high stress. We have to remember, though, that gaining (or losing!) a few pounds is not something to beat yourself up about. Be as healthy as possible and love yourself while you are weak. Make space for yourself to be okay with being imperfect.

Now is the time to play.

You heard me right! In the midst of a crisis situation, the pattern we tend to follow is to pile all the work onto our shoulders and carry it as far as we can humanly go. We all have to pull from our reserves of strength from time to time and do what has to be done. Humanity’s history is full of people achieving the seemingly impossible in the face of great adversity. This is something we highly value as noble, and rightly so. However, we need to remember that trauma is caused by high levels of stress over extended periods of time.

In order to counteract and reduce the trauma your brain is taking in seasons of crisis, you actively need leisure. Leisure pursuits (hobbies and things we do to relax) allow our bodies to come out of that stressed state and begin to relieve those stress-related hormones, replacing them with the hormones that come from laughter, deep breathing, loving relationships, and relaxing or positively-stimulating pursuits. Leisure time will make your work time much more productive and will allow you to help your mental health through this crisis season.

What Is the Proper Response to Pressure?

Rev. Kaloma Smith, Senior Pastor of University AME Zion in Palo Alto, examines wisdom from Acts 12 for times when pressure is on the rise.

“As we face our sixth month of dealing with challenges of this pandemic, there is a significant amount of pressure in the world. We’re watching companies fall to bankruptcies. We listen to parents and school districts try to figure out the school year. We see organizations and governmental structures facing the same challenges. Our structures are under pressure, medical systems under pressure – there’s so much going. The church of God is under pressure. How do you maintain community, how do you maintain a broadcast, when you haven’t really seen people in six months? How do you do all the stuff that you wanted to do before – but you can’t do it right now?

How do we respond properly to all of these pressures?

In Acts, the church is facing a challenge it’s never faced before. What does the church do when it’s under pressure?

We must stand.

We must discern.

We must pray.

When Stephen was stoned, the church dispersed; they ran. But something happens. This time, the church decides to stand right where it is. The church was in significant danger. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give yourself is to stop and stand, when God is calling.

James was killed, Peter was in prison. The early church had firsthand experience with resurrection. But the church was able to discern what the right prayer was during that season. Some of us are praying for dead things that God is not going to bring back, instead of discerning what we’re supposed to pray on. God isn’t interested in resuscitating the past, he’s interested in rescuing the future.

We’ve made the concept of prayer as simple as “thoughts.” A thought is internal – cognitive ability, how I feel. We’ve tied the idea of prayer to “thoughts.” We’ve taken communication with the Divine, with the God of heaven and earth, and boiled it down to human thoughts! We devalue our greatest tool, strongest form of communication – all that we are. Prayer shifts the reality we’re living in. Prayer is the way we connect with God who created the very earth. God designed us to pray in this season, to pray without ceasing. We have to reclaim the power of prayer.

The correct response to pressure starts with prayer.”

Watch the sermon in its entirety:


Featured image courtesy Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.

Plans and Power: Our Limits and God’s Goodness


“Plan your work and work your plan.” That phrase is great – in theory. Usually, it carries with it a practical application. But sometimes those plans are suddenly laid aside.

That’s where our churches found themselves in March of this year.  We planned our work ahead of schedule – but then weren’t able to work that plan. Coronavirus took the lead role in our play called, “Think Again…You Actually Thought You Were in Charge?”

Actually, yes; we did. If not us, who?

Well, that would be God, of course. Proverbs 16:9 makes that clear. “We may make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps.” (NLV)

James wrote about this when he said, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

It could not be any clearer.  In this play, no one sits on the throne but God. It’s not that God is against our making plans. But God has always been the One in charge, and despite the feeble attempts of humans to control history, our choices ultimately fall under the good wisdom of God.

In the South, where southern fried chicken is a staple, we grew up knowing that if you have a pulley bone – a wish bone – at the dinner table, then two can pull that v-shaped bone with all their might, but only one will get the long part when it snaps. That one gets to make a “wish.” Silly little nonsensical talk. However, be very sure that no wish – no plans or intention – can override the power of God. If we can understand this, we can move forward with a sense of security and deep thankfulness.

How this actually works – how God directs our steps – is often a mystery. Let’s consider what it is not. God does not direct your steps if you are willingly walking away from your Creator. God does not direct our steps into sin. That comes under your free will, an unbelievably generous gift from our sovereign, loving God. God is not directing your steps if you decide to purposefully hurt someone.  

Napoleon, at the height of his career, is reported to have given this cynical answer to someone who asked if God was on the side of France: “God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery.” Then came the Battle of Waterloo.  Napoleon lost both the battle and his empire. Years later, when he was in exile on the island of St. Helena, completely humbled, Napoleon was reported to quote the words of Thomas à Kempis: “man proposes; God disposes.”

During this time of a far-reaching pandemic, it is easy for us to throw up our hands and completely give up, with questions like, “Why is God doing this?” or, “Why did God let me put all that work into my plans?” or even, “Is this the beginning of the end of time?”

In answer to the first question, God does have purpose in allowing this virus to infiltrate our lives. Not one person on earth, even the wisest of scholars has the perfect answer. God’s power to weave tragedy for good is far too wide and too high for our finite minds. In answer to, “Is this the beginning of the end of time?” the answer would be, “Absolutely not. It is a continuing of the beginning of the end of time that entered our lives 2,000 years ago. Jesus ushered in the last days. Since we are 2,000 years into that ushering, it seems that God is not in any hurry to bring this truth to its final purpose.”

Maxie Dunnam captures this in succinct explanation: “The coronavirus is not the will of God; this is not his deliberate judgment upon a sinful nation and an unfaithful church, and it is not any sort of announcement about ‘end times.’ Listen to me now, listen carefully. I am not questioning God’s power. Even the winds and the waves obey God simply through the word of his Son. This is not God’s will, but God has a will in the midst of it.” (Where is God in this Raging Coronavirus? March 27, 2020)

And one more thing. When our plans go out the window and upheaval stirs anxiety, recognize who your enemy actually is. The very real ruler of this world is out to steal and destroy. Don’t let him. If you are a believer, then the Power that created the world lives – in you. The enemy has already been defeated. Read this truth in the following scripture: “Greater is he that is in me than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

What do you see as God’s will for you right now, today, in the midst of this virus? Maybe God is pointing out a need for a recharged moral compass or sense of discernment. Somewhere in these past years, have you lost yours?

Our solutions are fairly simple when we search for God’s will when our plans come to nothing – simple, yet decidedly difficult to carry out: Open our eyes. Speak out against injustice. Make our presence known to others.

Where we find our limits, we also find God’s power and goodness.

Featured image by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Michelle Bauer ~ When You Need the Strength to Stand

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. – Deuteronomy 6:5

So many times we hear this familiar verse as a command – something to be obeyed. But what if we heard it as an invitation?  God, who loves you with all of his heart, soul and strength, is inviting you to love him back. That changes everything!

On some days and in some seasons of our lives, standing is hard. Perhaps you are in one of those seasons now. Maybe you are supporting a friend or family member who is walking through a difficult season. Whatever your circumstances, be encouraged that God stands with you today and always.

God promises to never leave us, to provide refuge and to strengthen us. He also gives us his promise that he knows and cares about us.  Regardless of how it seems sometimes, God is not distant. He is near and working in your life to restore and guide.

May these promises provide the strength you need to stand firm in every season of life.

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 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 1:1-9

Three times the Lord challenges Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” God is giving Joshua a big job to do! He is tasked with leading “all these people” into hostile territory for a direct confrontation with their enemies.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you” must have given Joshua great comfort. What big job has the Lord given you to do? Ask God today to comfort you with the promise that he will never leave nor forsake you.

“The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Where will you go this week that you will be grateful to have God’s presence with you? What difference will it make to have God with you in that place or situation? When you are discouraged or terrified, how easy is it to make the choice to be strong and courageous? In what situations is it most difficult for you to be strong and courageous? Talk to God about the feelings or questions you may have about this challenge.

 What would it look like for you to be strong and courageous in the most difficult places of your life? Ask God to give you a reminder of his presence with you in those moments. Take a moment now to imagine him with you. What is God communicating to you through his words, posture, or proximity to you?

With God’s promise come a few reminders. We are to be obedient to his Word and careful to follow his instructions. How does his presence offer you the strength that obedience requires?

Is there a time in your life when you felt like God had abandoned you? Talk to God about that experience as honestly as you can. What question would you like to ask God about that time? How has that experience affected your ability to believe God’s promise?

Leave this time trusting that the Lord will never leave you.

Michelle Bauer ~ Finding Joy and Peace this Christmas Week

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.  – Luke 2:21-33, 36-38

Christmas is almost here! Thinking backing over the last few weeks, when have you felt the most peaceful? When have you felt the most stress or anxiety? As you think ahead to the coming week, what are you looking forward to? What, if anything, are you dreading? Offer those things into God’s care.

Christmas Eve: The whole world waits today for God’s peace to enter the world in the form of a baby. Place yourself in the story and imagine what Mary and Joseph must have experienced as the time drew closer. What do you notice?

Christmas Day:  “The Lord is come!” Simeon and Anna were so overwhelmed by Jesus’ birth that they burst into prophetic praise to God. What would you like to express to God about his great gift?  

Wednesday: Despite the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph take great care to follow the Law. What do you learn from their example? How do you imagine this experience at the temple affected Mary and Joseph?

Thursday: In what ways does Simeon demonstrate peace in waiting? What is something that you are waiting for? In what ways have you experienced peace as you wait? In what moments has peace been hard to find?

Friday: Instead of losing hope, Anna spent her life worshiping, fasting, and praying. How do these practices affect our peace?  Consider the ways in your life in which you worship. What is fulfilling and what needs adjusting?   

Saturday: What are your hopes and expectations for the New Year? Offer these to God and ask him to sustain you. May God give you his peace in 2019!

Leave this quiet time resting in the peace that Jesus came to bring.

Aaron Perry ~ The Troubled Savior

“Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1-31).

Imagine how the disciples are feeling in this moment. Jesus has just predicted Peter’s denial and another’s betrayal: they could hardly be a happy group. How would his words have been heard? Would they have been comforting?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Certainly more easily said than done. How are we to hear them? The word “troubled” has been used before in John’s Gospel.

Jesus was troubled when Martha wept at Lazarus’ death (11:33); Jesus was troubled as he saw the time for his death had come (12:27); Jesus was troubled when he told the disciples of Judas’ coming betrayal (13:21). Do you see the connection? They are all connected with Jesus’ death. (Read the previous article in this brief series to see the connection with Martha’s weeping at Lazarus’ and Jesus’ death.)

Jesus was troubled at his own death, yet he tells the disciples not to be troubled. Why would he do this? Better yet, how could he do this? Isn’t it inconsistent?

Recall John’s narrative of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. John tells us that the hour had come for Jesus to go to the Father and that Jesus, having loved those who belonged to him, now showed them his love to the full (13:1). In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus took the posture of a slave, a posture Jesus would show fully on the cross. So, why was Jesus troubled by his own death, but told the disciples not to be troubled?

Because Jesus was taking their trouble on himself. Jesus was troubled because he was going to die a death that would make a way for their life. He took their “trouble” and made it his own so that his life could be made theirs. He took their trouble, so there was no need for them to be troubled.

Let’s go a little deeper. Jesus said he was going to the Father and that the disciples would follow at a later time (13:36) and by going to the Father, Jesus would make room for us to abide (14:2). Jesus also said that he and the Father will come to abide (“make our home”) with those who love Jesus (14:23).

Do you see what is happening? Just as God made a way through the waters in the Exodus (and recalled in Isaiah 43:16), so does Jesus walk on the water in John’s Gospel (6:16-24). When pressed by the disciples’ ignorance of where he is going and their subsequent ignorance of the way, Jesus says, “I am the way” (14:6). Jesus is the way to the Father. Through his death, Jesus opens a way to the Father. He has made a way through trouble by his death and so while his death troubles Jesus, through it he is able to say, “Do not be troubled.”

“Wait a minute,” you might be asking. “Didn’t Jesus say that in this world we would have trouble?” The phrase comes from John 16:33, but John uses a different word here. In John 14, John uses the word tarasso (trouble) whereas in John 16:33 he uses the word thlipsis (tribulation).

We might say it like this: Don’t let the tribulations trouble you. Tribulations are those things that press us down, that afflict us. They are profound and they matter. They are the expected pressures and trials of life, of being part of a world at odds with God. But trouble is a deeper disquiet, anxiety, uneasiness. Trials will come and even so troubles can be dismissed because Jesus has made a way. The deepest danger of life has been solved.

But this brings us back to the start, doesn’t it? Don’t be troubled? Isn’t that easier said than done? It is.

It is hard to endure the tribulations and to dismiss the trouble. Let me draw a seemingly light-hearted parallel. “Don’t worry; be happy.” Do you remember the phrase? If not, then go to YouTube and watch the video. Even if you don’t know the song, the phrase can still be heard in everyday conversation, even 30 years after it was used as the title of Bobby McFerrin’s hypnotic tune that stayed atop Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks in 1988. The words are effortless, epitomizing what it means to be “easier said than done.”

If you’ve ever been told, “Don’t worry; be happy,” “Calm down!”, “Just take it easy,” “Settle down,” or, for our purposes, “Don’t be troubled,” you might know that the words can have the opposite effect. Without due seriousness, they can sound dismissive, raising our suspicion rather than calming our nerves, coming across as condescending rather than empathetic. Depending, of course, on the speaker. “Don’t worry; be happy.” McFerrin’s song was prevalent on the relaxed island in the wake of Hurricane Gilbert. If the words came from a Jamaican survivor of this devastating hurricane, then you might pay attention. When people have gone through actual turmoil, pain, and anxiety, their words might carry a little more weight. I think we can learn to take at his word the one who gave us these words.

“Do not be troubled” means something coming from the one who took our trouble on himself and made a way through his own trouble.

These are not easy words; they are good words. They are not flippant words, rolling off the tongue; they are earned words, spoken because the cross was endured. So, how ought we to hear these words?

Perhaps, especially on days when their application seems so impossible, we can hear them as a promise. A way has been made; a day is coming when our hearts will not need be troubled.


Note from the Editor: The featured image for this reflection is “Christ in Gethsemane” by Vasily Perov.

Matt Hook ~ A Dialogue Sermon on Fear, Love, and Anxiety: The Heartbeat of God

Note from the Editor: What do you fear? This dialogue sermon between Dr. Matt Hook, a pastor, and Dr. Marty Fletcher, a mental health practitioner, delves into the psychology of fear and anxiety through the lens of the scriptural text, “perfect love casts out fear.” This proactive dialogue on anxiety, panic, and mental health took place in a congregational setting as part of Sunday morning worship. 

This sermon starts around minute marker 1:30. 



Elizabeth Moyer ~ Anxiety in Worship

Note from the Editor: We’re pleased to feature this important piece on mental health, anxiety, and communal worship. It also may be helpful perspective for clergy leading Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services.

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” – Hebrews 11:25 (MSG).

What if worship has become so creative that 18% of the population is on the outside?

The pendulum for creative contemporary worship has swung so far in many regions across denominations that segments of the population cannot assemble with others. Many Christians gather weekly and experience a one-sided worship celebration. It is one-sided because, even though everyone is welcome, these worship gatherings are not for everyone.

Welcomed may not mean hospitable. Someone living with an anxiety disorder (or any medical condition) that makes being in loud, dark areas or separated from family  unendurable does not feel welcomed. This is not a commentary on the theology or religiosity of the “turn up the volume and dim the lights, no children allowed” movement. The concern here is how the Body of Christ meets those who would dare join in for worship.

Collectively, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population (National Institute of Mental Health). Moreover, in the name of the contemporary worship experience, the real needs of this segment of the population are disregarded.

What are anxiety disorders? Anxiety disorders are panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder, to name a few. It is not uncommon for an adult or child to receive a diagnosis at some point in their lifetime (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Still, in the name of the experience, the church turns a blind eye, and in many cases, does nothing to reasonably accommodate these individuals or their families. (Reasonable accommodation here would refer to any change that would not cause undue hardship to the house of worship.)

To ignore is not to be concerned about the “one.” When the church is not worried about the one, the church ignores Jesus, our example. Like Jesus, the Body of Christ must be concerned about the one (see Matthew 18:11-13, Luke 15:3-7). To turn a blind eye is to ignore the command to love.

The heart of the matter is that by disregarding these issues, the church may be causing many families to separate for worship or not to worship in community.

Loving the people of God, desiring to live out the mission of God, and suffering from varying degrees of anxiety disorders is a battle my family tries to navigate weekly. What does this mean for many families like mine during worship? It means a constant struggle between being part of and serving within a faith community that continually divides.  It means surviving an entire worship service, with immediate discomfort when the lights go down and the music goes up. It means feeling unsafe in a dark worship space full of strangers, Christ-followers or not. For those suffering from anxiety disorders, there is something profoundly disconcerting about the inability to truly see what is going on around.

Yes, the focus should be on the worship experience, the Word coming forth, and not the aesthetics. But families comprised of individuals who have suffered childhood or adult trauma struggle make it through the entire service. From the moment the lights go down, there is a need to escape the darkness, the loudness of the drums, the sheer uncertainty of the environment and the familiarity of the dangers of such uncertainty. Many people have a clear and distinct need to hear and especially to see what is going on in a room. Understanding or feeling as if they are in the minority and believing that there is no place for them to hear the Word is disheartening. Many followers and would-be followers of Christ forsake assembly to avoid the discomfort that may lead to a panic attack, flashback or other undesired response.

Having had countless conversations with individuals from all walks of life who love God, follow Christ, and yet forsake assembly, there is not an easy response. When children are not allowed in worship,  families may immediately find themselves on the outside of the local church. Separation anxiety is a disorder that impacts many. When music is deafening, those with any number of anxiety disorders are adversely affected as well as those with hearing impairments and those with chronic daily headaches.

So while I enjoy some elements of contemporary worship, it saddens me that the church is unashamedly leaving many on the outside. I am not naïve: I do not expect any local church to change what is working for them. However, I would offer the following points of accommodation:

*A multi-service congregation might consider offering family or traditional worship.

*Turning the lights up even slightly can make a difference for many.

*Adjusting the bass would be life-giving for some.


*Be honest and upfront and consider adding a disclaimer to the church website that simply states, “may not be suitable for those with anxiety disorders.”

To reach the one, the church must remember that one size truly does not fit all.