Has this become your Sunday night? Your bag is packed, your lunch is prepared, and you’ve even gone so far as to find a fresh mask that will match your shoes—but you still don't feel ready for the week to come. Your body is restless. Your brain won’t focus. You’re not able to shake the overwhelming anxiety that creeps in the closer you get to Monday morning.
You’ve just come down with a case of the Sunday Scaries.
You’re not alone. I think of the teacher with years of experience who’s been wondering how she's going to make it another day in the classroom, much less another two decades. I think of the social worker who’s been considering calling in sick so she won’t have to face the week. I think of the friend posting pictures in her “Sunday Scaries” sweatshirt, secretly hoping that if she wears the label across her chest, it will replace the unease in her heart.
The Day the Lights Went Out
Until this year, I’d never experienced that kind of Sunday night dread.
In March 2020, back before the world shut down, I carried a hand-drawn poster of a coronavirus cell into my classroom and prepared an activity that I hoped would address the unspoken anxiety I saw my students carrying. The lesson ended, I looked at their worried faces, and before I knew it, we were on spring break, unaware that stay-at-home restrictions were about to keep classroom lights off for seven long months.
When it came time to return to the classroom for in-person instruction, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread about teaching inside of a psychiatric hospital in the middle of a pandemic. I missed seeing my students’ faces, but the fear I was experiencing felt deeper than any form of Sunday Scaries I’d experienced before. The school year was covered in COVID-19 shaped shadows, darkened by a disease none of us could control.
Two days after we went back to the classroom, the power went out in the hospital. As the air conditioning unit grumbled to a stop and the projector beeped and turned off, I sat at my desk in the dark. I felt both relieved and ashamed over my relief that I now had a reason to go home. As I gathered my belongings and began the long walk back to my car, I followed a familiar path through the dark. I’d taken that path through the unit to the hospital lobby so many times, my body remembered the way, even when I couldn’t see it clearly.
The anxiety returned when I got home and realized I’d have to return to work the next day. You don’t have to be a teacher to know what that feels like.
What do you do when simply going to work causes anxiety to flare?
You may long for God to give you a new place to go, a way out of the current circumstances, but what if well-worn paths are the ones God uses to guide you to His peace?
This year, if you’ve been facing the Sunday Scaries (or the Monday Scaries or the Tuesday Scaries or the Every-Day-Is-Scary Scaries), you’ve likely carved your own path throughout your house in an attempt to cope. If you track the anxiety trails, where do they lead? Do they take you to the couch, where you numb your feelings with Netflix or a stack of novels? Do you go to the fridge, thinking that if you feed your feelings, you won’t feel so worried about tomorrow? Or do you, like me, end up in the bathtub with a bag of Epsom salt, hoping that magnesium sulfate will accomplish in your body what you haven’t been able to accomplish in your heart and mind?
These strategies may help temporarily, but if you’ve walked these roads before and found they don’t last until morning, let me suggest another way. Sunday afternoon self-care routines can only go so far: what we need is to get our minds off ourselves and onto the God who cares. We need old faith to face our new normal.
If we are going to thrive in our current positions, we need living, breathing hope that we can come back to again and again and again. It might sound simple, but one of the best ways I’ve found to fight the Sunday Scaries is to walk through passages in Scripture that remind my heart of who God is.
Grab a few Post-it notes and get ready to flip to the first chapter of four books of the Bible. These passages are some of my well-worn paths that I hope will help you to trust Jesus with the fear you’re feeling this year.
Genesis 1: Back to the Beginning
When you feel overwhelmed by the path you’re on, it can help to trace your steps to the beginning. Let’s go all the way back to Genesis 1.
“In the beginning”—before the coronavirus had a name, before Christ came, God existed. He is more powerful than anything we could comprehend. You know the big fears you’ve been facing? They need a big God, and no God is greater than the one capable of creation.
It can be tempting to believe that if a story is too old or too familiar, it won’t be impactful for us now. We all crave new teaching, when what we need is Truth that stands the test of time. Read the story of Creation slowly, asking God to show you what these familiar words reveal about who He is.
When your world starts to feel like the walls are closing in again, walk back this way and remember that He is the God who turns darkness to light.
Hebrews 1: He Remains
When you’re ready to turn to the New Testament, head all the way to Hebrews for a description of Jesus I recommend reading out loud. In verse 3, Jesus is called “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful Word” (CSB). When you feel like you’re falling apart, who else should you turn to but the One who holds everything together?
You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end. (Heb. 1:10–11)
When it feels as though everything keeps changing and it’s too much to keep up with it all, tell yourself the Truth: God remains.
1 John 1: Remembering What’s Real
When you need to remember what is real, spend time in 1 John 1. In the first paragraph, John explains that his testimony is based on what he saw with his eyes, what he has observed and touched with his hands, concerning Christ. His communication about Jesus is based on firsthand information. He was there. He knew Him.
You and I haven’t experienced Jesus in this same way, but we can know Him. If it feels like you’re floundering and failing to grab hold of what’s true, stop and list what you have experienced in Christ. What examples of His love have you seen with your eyes? How have you felt His grace?
We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:4)
As we walk in fellowship with Jesus, we experience joy that’s not available anywhere else. Conditions at work may be unstable, but you can have stability and peace in Christ.
Psalm 1: Two Paths
When it comes to how we live our lives, Psalm 1 describes two paths we can take: one way is to follow the advice from those who don’t follow God’s view, while the other way is to find joy in God’s Word by meditating—reading and running our minds over Truth constantly.
At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic began, I added a few verses from Psalm 1 to the letterboard I keep in my kitchen. I changed the pronouns of the passage to make the verse a bit more personal, never thinking those words would sit there all year.
Instead, [her] delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and [she] meditates on it day and night. (Psalm 1:2 CSB)
You may not have much control over the circumstances of your job this year, but you have a choice to let God’s Word guide your steps along the way.
Old Faith for the New Normal
On Sunday night, when the uneasiness starts to slip in, you have a choice: you can try to run from it on the treadmill or by walking back and forth to the fridge. Or you can open up your Bible, flip to these four passages, and fight these feelings with Truth.
You don’t have to walk around with the Sunday Scaries for another week. Ditch the sweatshirt. Ditch the fear. Face your new normal with old faith in Christ.