Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.”

C.H. Spurgeon

This photo was taken in 2006 while I was living in Casselberry, Florida. One evening after getting home from work I noticed that it started getting very dark outside. When I looked at the sky, these ominous clouds were moving in and covering all the clear blue.

The photo above is such an essence to what I am feeling much of these days. Trying to stay positive with the coronavirus all over the news and impacting so many lives all over the world. I am still going to work. Trying to stay safe during the work hours and keeping myself at home on the weekends with the exception of going for walks along the nature trails.

I know all to well that I am not alone in this anxiety prone event. As a matter of fact, I feel for many who are struggling in so many different ways. I do feel fortunate that my situation is pretty comfortable compared to others. I am thankful to have my health right now. I am thankful to have my cat, my apartment, the bird feeder outside on my deck and the beautiful nature trails not too far from where I live. I am thankful that the refrigerator is full and the bills are paid. Come to think of it, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff? And let’s say over that cliff was nothing you could see. Black. Pitch-black. And let’s say that you were making the choice to jump but, you didn’t know where you would land or if you would land safely. This is my anxiety. I don’t know what is going to happen next. There are things I can control and things that I cannot. It is more than a simple process of getting things done but, having to wait for a process that entails counting on things happening beyond my control.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

~ Psalm 55:22

I have a bird feeder, actually, two bird feeders hanging along my deck along with a small bird bath that is a ceramic piece of two hands cupped to hold water or seed for the birds. I saw this piece in a drug store and I fell in love with it. It is not very big so, it really doesn’t hold enough water to really be considered a bird bath but, the birds and squirrels use it to drink from. What I fell in love with were the hands. It is the image of the hands being cupped in a form that displays care. The hands are caring for the two ceramic birds perched at the top. Cupped hands also symbolize holding something or maybe waiting to be filled.

Feeding the birds is also a form of prayer.

~Pope Pius XII

I have often heard the term, “lay your burdens down at the feet of Jesus” or “lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross.” Once I attended a church service where the congregation was given the instructions to write on a piece of paper what burden they were carrying. Then people were directed to a cross in the church and told to place their piece of paper at the base. Later those pieces of paper were prayed over and then burned. I didn’t write anything on that piece of paper. I had a burden I was carrying but, I did not write it down. Why? Because the image of the cross does not give me the peace that it may give to others. I see sacrifice at the cross. I don’t lay my burdens there. This has always been an obstacle for me. This is going to seem a bit comedic and, in a way, it is. One minute I am being preached to that I need to pick up my cross and carry it and the next minute I am being told to lay my burdens down at the very same place. Well, which one is it? If I am being told to pick up my cross doesn’t that mean carrying the burden or at least part of it? I find the imagery and analogy confusing although, there could be a really good joke there. 😉

We do need a place to lay our burdens down and especially our anxieties. I know I do. When I look at the hands cupped holding water for the birds, I feel peace. That image works for me. It reminds me of provision. Gods hands providing for the birds and me. I’ve been reflecting on those hands a lot lately. I’ve been watching the birds a lot lately. That in itself has been meditation for me.

As I look at the storm around me and the ominous clouds that it brings, I am trying to keep my focus on the good. Trying not to fear, panic, or become overly obsessed with the fact that I don’t have control. Not having control is like sitting in the center of a tornado and waiting for the moment when the cycle of the wind’s edge grabs you to spin you around and toss you to “wherever land” which, could mean death or perhaps, better or worse, a new and different life.

Anxiety is harmful. It messes with my faith, it messes with my hope and it makes me doubt all the positive things I would say to someone experiencing anxiety. I am getting through only in daily perseverance. From what I have come to understand, at this point in my life, is that daily perseverance is really the only way to survive and overcome my anxiety. The meltdowns still happen but, once the tears dry, I get up again and face another day and get on with running the race as St. Paul would surely advise.

In November of 2019, I was taking a history class where I was studying the Renaissance and Reformation periods. I had to write a short essay on the Bubonic Plague. I opened that essay file again to re-read what I wrote. It would seem that every age in history has had its battles with illness, disease and viruses.

I am keeping this whole world in my prayers. I also keep close to my heart and spirit that God has the whole world in His hands and it will all, eventually, be ok.

Below is my brief essay.

Tara Bartal

HIS-374-Q2431: The Renaissance/Reformation 19EW2

November 3, 2019

The Black Death of the Fourteenth Century destabilized European society by creating an imbalance in population and creating a mindset that no longer operated with flourishing society. The Bubonic Plague permeated life in Europe from 1347 through 1350. There were more casualties resulting from the spread of the plague in later years and there are still cases today.[1] The initial spread is speculated to have been due to heavy trading from the sea of Asov and the Black Sea to many Mediterranean areas.[2] Regardless of the precise cause of the contagion, it spread and spread ferociously quick. The rapid infection took over crews on cargo ships within a matter of a week with victims arriving to port either dead or having clear visible signs of being sick. For a deadly illness to cause a mortality rate at the speed of one week would create a frightening situation that would eventually cause a heavily populated area to take note and feel the effects of in a short period of time. This creates a mass devastation to population which, in turn, effects all aspects of everyday life. Not only were there physical responses to the plague but, psychological.

“…the greater picture of ruined Europe in light of the plague, and the social order that crumbled because of the Black Death. The impact is mass trauma and anarchy that had been considered by scholars of that period as doomsday.”[3]

The impact and destabilization of great loss of life, estimated at 20 million, generates a self-preservation attitude and dilemma for survivors. The Black Death created a different outlook on life with its storming presence. It made people question their faith and it dissipated the normally held moral values. Dissociation is endemic to people under severe trauma. “…and nobody wept no matter what his loss because almost everyone expected death…”[4]

            In coming to a point of believing in the end of all things, a rational person might otherwise become irrational. Imagine living in times like those. It is a departure from any kind of good and thriving quality of life. This is mass destruction at its most powerful moment because it seizes hope and destroys it. It is the prevalence of war.

[1] The Disastrous 14th Century. Accessed November 3, 2019.

[2] Ditrich, Hans. 2017. “The Transmission of the Black Death to Western Europe: A Critical Review of the Existing Evidence.” Mediterranean Historical Review 32 (1): 25. doi:10.1080/09518967.2017.1314920.

[3] Ben, Ezra, Menachem. 2011. “Traumatic Reactions from Antiquity to the 16th Century: Was There a Common Denominator?” Stress & Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress 27 (3): 223–40. doi:10.1002/smi.1338.

[4] The Disastrous 14th Century. Accessed November 3, 2019.