I realized back in the fall that despite entering the pandemic with a goal of improving my eating habits, my weight reached a new high. Unfortunately, it still took me a couple months to react and deal with some bad habits adding to my expanding waistline.

The anxiety of lockdown, together with other worries were taking an unnecessary toll on my well-being. I say that my worries were unnecessary because I know better.

The Center for Disease Control issued new guidelines for wearing face masks on May 13 that offered great hope for more of us coming out into the open. After a year and a couple of months of isolation from seeing smiles and frowns, many of us are excited to rejoin the show in progress. A production that was interrupted when a deadly virus spiraled out of control. 1

The guidance mandates the wearing of face masks for the unvaccinated. The leadership of our church made the decision last month to allow persons to enter our building without wearing a mask. However, unvaccinated people are encouraged to wear masks to avoid the possibility of infecting a person unable to receive a vaccination because of age or medical conditions.

Coming out is easy for a lot of us and not so easy for most of us. “Is it really safe?” we ask.

Oli Aworth is a 24-year-old student from Surrey, England. In an interview with BBC News Reporter Annabel Rackham, Oli shared a few of his worries about coming out of isolation, back into the world of social mingling. 2

Oli believes that coming out of isolation is more complicated for him, stating that it “Piled on quite a lot of pressure, especially for me being in the LGBT community. It brings up issues of do I look good enough? Or will my friends want to see me? And whether I’ve achieved enough during the lockdown.”

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that half of American adults—even those who were vaccinated—were uneasy about returning to in-person interaction. But I’m wondering if even more of us are concerned now that re-opening is finally here.

This uneasiness goes by several names — lately, we hear more about re-entry anxiety. The adjective added to anxiety, in this case, refers to the discomfort created when we’re forced to leave the safe and comfortable environment we made over the past 18 months to cope with isolation.

Persons experiencing re-entry anxiety experience symptoms of a more common condition called social anxiety disorder. This condition refers to a wide range of sometimes crippling symptoms. Symptoms including changes in our mood that may play out as sudden outbursts of anger, long periods of sadness that seem to hang around, changes in appetite, or a feeling of hopelessness. This is only a partial list. 3

Social anxiety can cause us to lose interest in doing things that are usually enjoyable. We may experience feelings of being overly stressed and anxious. We may not want to leave the house — or avoid situations where going might be difficult. As a result, some lose their desire to socialize at all.

Do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.
Matthew 6:34

Taken to the extreme, social anxiety disorder can result in feelings of harming yourself or suicide. And sadly, many turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope. As a result, overdoses rose substantially in Genesee County during the pandemic.

While Scripture has quite a lot to say about worry and anxiety, the bible doesn’t promise a quick fix. Instead, the bible is more like therapy — offering a longer-term cure with benefits accruing along the way.

My problem with weight didn’t suddenly start with the onslaught of the pandemic. I wasn’t a healthy weight one day and over-weight the next day. And losing weight is taking months to accomplish, with benefits and setbacks along the way. My success or failure depends upon the decisions I make today.

One day Jesus was standing on the side of a hill speaking to a gathered crowd. He spoke to the crowd about various topics that challenge each of us with an opportunity for a healthier, more fulfilling life. At one point, Jesus says to the crowd, “Do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings” (Matthew 6:34).

A simple invitation that is easily missed and seldom ac cepted. We who worry for a living figure that this particular invitation isn’t intended for us. After all, a big part of my job is to worry about and put actions into motion that help make tomorrow better than today. Nevertheless, I’m confident that these words apply to every one of us — including me.

Experts seem to agree on one suggestion — focus your attention on the present. While the experts likely heard this recommendation in the classroom and read it in professional journals and books. Jesus knew this from divine insight. Regardless of how you came to know this pearl of wisdom try putting it into practice.

This month our series, Coming out, turns the spotlight on coming out of isolation now that restrictions are ending. But what is the new normal that we hope to come out for? Next week we examine the debate over critical race theory that is raging in some states. The topic for our final episode is climate change. Plan to join us.

We have a new button on the homepage of our websiteClick here to watch. This button takes you to a viewer to allow you to join live or watch later in the week. We’re also live on our newly launched YouTube channel. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy

1 “5 Steps for Overcoming Social Anxiety After COVID Isolation,” © Newport Institute, April 7, 2021.

2 Annabel Rackham. “Covid: How to deal with social anxiety as restrictions ease,” © BBC News, May 17, 2021.

3 Joseph Harper. “Too many men ignore their depression, phobias, other mental health issues,” © Washington Post, July 3, 2021.