Finding Peace in a Guilt-filled World

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

What if?

Who can identify with dealing with a multitude of “what if” thoughts these days?
For those of you who don’t know, I dealt with extreme OCD and anxiety in my early to mid-20s. The uncertainty of what I wanted to do with my life and feelings of loneliness were almost unbearable.

Amidst feeling like it would be easier to just curl up in a hole somewhere and die, God brought people into my life to encourage me and remind me that I was not on this journey alone, that there were others, too, in the world who were like me and were searching for answers.

In our current culture and climate, there is an immense pressure to “stay home.” In fact, if you don’t stay home or take certain protective measures, there’s a shaming, sometimes verbal and very public, that takes place.

Part of my journey through anxiety involved fear of sickness – mainly, spreading some unseen germ to other people within my own family. If I was cleaning a toilet, for example, I had to wipe it down numerous times if I felt that any possible germs were still in existence.

Or, if I washed my hands, I had to not touch the handles after washing them (because what kind of germs could be on the handles?). Or, if I did touch the handles while turning off the faucet, I had to wash them again, and then turn the faucet off with my wrist or elbow.

But if I then used my elbow to turn off the bathroom light, I would have a nagging fear in the back of my mind that I had somehow passed on the germs from the handles to the light switch and then the “what ifs” would start.

“What if I had some small microbe on my elbow that will now contaminate a family member and get them sick?” “What if I have germs from that individual who is sick in the house on my elbow or hand, and now I get everyone else sick because I didn’t adequately wash my hands?” And if there was an event coming up that we didn’t want to miss due to sickness, the fears would be even worse.

To be honest, I still struggle occasionally with these OCD, guilt-filled thoughts. But I have learned that this type of thinking is not healthy. And I think most of you would agree.

What I learned during those days is that I can’t live my life that way anymore.

First, I had to realize that God does not put the expectation on me to be “absolutely certain” about germs. He knows that it’s not healthy for me to live that way. I had to find the balance between responsibility (washing my hands) and extreme, unhealthy behavior (doing it multiple times in a row, to the point of rawness).

Second, I had to re-train my brain to think logically – “What is the actual chance that someone would get sick from me just touching the handle of the sink?” Very slim. Most people do not operate the way that I was, and they weren’t dying or killing their family members.

Third, I had to surrender the unknowns to God and realize that He is in charge. I am not supposed to control other people’s destinies, or even necessarily my own! I had to surrender the fear of unknown germs, which was really just a reflection of my desire to control my unknown future, to God.

Are you living in light of COVID like I was with my OCD? Are you allowing the fear of possibly getting another person ill, even one of your family members, to keep you from living with peace?

The Enemy wants nothing more than to see you isolated from your peers, from your family. To see loved ones in nursing homes die alone. To see kids separated from their teachers and peers. To see extra stress on marriages and families and incomes. To see churches closed and people fearing the very presence of community.

It’s time to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Like I had to do to my fear and OCD.

It’s time to look – and really look – at the statistics, and say, “To live my life as if I am going to kill everyone around me, is illogical.” To look out for our elderly and vulnerable, and honor them perhaps by wearing a mask in their presence or not touching, but show the world what trust in Christ looks.

This might look differently for each of us – but the point is, do not allow fear to control you, to control your thoughts, to keep you from others. Find ways to be around others that respect your current position, but still embrace the freedom that God has given you.

And I will say one last thing.

It’s not your fault if you are careful around the vulnerable and sick, and someone happens to get COVID and something awful happens. Yes, it’s true. It’s not your fault.

I will say it because the culture around us will not – God is responsible for when any individual goes home to be with Him, NOT you. You are only called to use your brain, and trust Him with the rest.

So don’t allow the fear or hysteria to hold you back any longer. As Scripture says, “…since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2.

Praying for us all.
Jacklyn DeGraff-Cipriani
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