I’m not sure if it’s the kind of coffee I’m drinking or just the general intensity level at which I live, but most mornings by around 9:30 or 10 I notice my hands have a subtle shake to them. I can usually make the shaking stop with a light snack and some water, but it drives me crazy that I can’t control it.
As a generally anxious person, I tend to notice when other people exhibit similarly anxious behavior. This past weekend we were out of town when I decided to take the Kindergartener to a salon for a quick haircut. She’s a busy little person, so it’s not unusual for the stylist to have to work fast on her. But, this time I thought the stylist seemed particularly hurried. It wasn’t until she had finished and handed me the iPad to sign for the charge that I noticed her hands were shaking like a leaf. This might not matter in every profession, but I feel like it’s important for surgeons, combat soldiers, and hairstylists to have fairly steady hands. Fortunately the Kindergartener’s hair is curly enough to be forgiving of a less than perfect cut, but I can’t imagine that any of the hairs on her head are even at this point.
On Sunday afternoon I ran into a local paint store to have a quart of paint custom matched to a can we already had at home. As I watched the worker behind the counter thumb through the file for the sheet that had the color formula on it, I noticed his hands were shaking so badly he could hardly separate the papers.
I have no idea why these two individuals were having such a hard time steadying their hands. It could be a condition, a medication they’re on, a coffee buzz, nerves, etc. What I do know is that it seems like the world now moves at such a pace that shaky hands may just be a side effect of trying to stay afloat. We’re inundated with news, much of which is alarming or scary, at every turn. We are pinged and alerted by our devices with information twenty-four hours a day: a new email, a school text thread, appointment reminders, unmet fitness goals, weather warnings, and social media updates. Add to this intensity the fact that stores are decorated and playing Christmas music, and it’s hard not to feel the additional stress/panic associated with holidays that are still weeks away.
Honestly, it’s surprising that everyone isn’t walking around with shaky hands.
As a Christian anxiety has always been frustrating and perplexing to me. We can read verses that remind us, “Do not be anxious about anything…,” or, “Cast all your anxiety on him…,” and immediately feel shame for not being able to follow the directions and grab hold of the peace being promised. We can feel defeat or despair when we can’t overrule our own anxiety or “take captive” our own thoughts to make them obedient… or at least rational.
But the sheer fact that anxiety is addressed so many times in scripture seems to indicate that God knows something of its power and potential to plague us.
As recently as a few years ago I would have assumed the best help we as Christians could offer an anxious world would be to extend a steady hand to their shaky one. Basically to get a grip on our own anxiety so we could meet their weakness with confidence and strength. To pass along a bookmark with a verse about peace on it and act like we believed it.
But, I’m starting to think what the world really needs is to see us to extend our own shaky hand to theirs. Instead of offering our confidence, maybe we just offer our compassion. Our kindness. Our empathy. Instead of pointing them to our steadiness and togetherness, we would do better to show them something of our own need for and reliance on the only One who is truly unshakable.
The hand of God is often described in the Bible is as a “mighty hand.” No unsteadiness, no weakness. Mighty.
One of the most oft-quoted verses on anxiety, 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” follows a verse that seems equally important in releasing our anxiety because it reminds us why we can.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
Last year about this time when the 3rd Grader was having all sorts of anxiety about getting sick at school, I learned a lesson. It took me weeks upon end to realize it, but she didn’t need me to extend my steady hand. She needed to see that my hand was shaking, too. She needed to hear me say, “You know what? I have your same fear. I’m afraid of getting sick, too. The fear is real. And this problem is bigger than you. It’s bigger than me. And neither of us can make ourselves stop worrying. But, God can help us.”
Because He is able. And He is mighty.
May we be willing to take our shaky hands to the only one who can steady them with His mighty hand. And may we be humble enough to let others see our need and point them to that unshakable hand as well.