Jesus told them, “Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” I didn’t think I was a worrying person. In fact, I valued my worry-free disposition. As an extroverted, spontaneous, “embrace the moment” person, I was pretty sure that I didn’t worry much. I can vividly recall the exact moments I thought to myself, “I can’t think about that today! I’ll just go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow,” but with much less theatrical Scarlett O’Hara flair. No, I didn’t have a problem with worry.
I saw what worry and anxiety looked like up close and personal when we would drop off groceries to my grandmother’s apartment. My mother’s fear of heights, flying, and her need to keep life inside her comfort zone influenced my counter-familial decision to be a free-spirited. I wasn’t a worrier. I wouldn’t be a worrier.
Worry doesn’t want a little corner in your life. It wants to own all of you. When you don’t give worry the time of day over the small things, it doesn’t mean you’ve won the battle for life. When something we deeply value and love is threatened or challenged, worrying can feel like a comfort. We open our minds and hearts to it because it can feel like we are doing something. This is how worrying hoodwinked me.
Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
I write this as a humbled woman. I have come to terms that I struggle with worrying about the bigger things in life. I worry about the people I love so dearly; ones I wish I could gather up and rescue and envelop in secure, bullet-proof love. And I must confess, I worry about the “medium stuff”, too. I worry about my kids’ education and preparedness for this crazy world. And I see how I worry about the little things, too. I worry that I’ll fail at teaching my daughter to merge successfully onto a highway (our third to learn to drive, and we cross fingers that this one won’t total a car). I worry about what I'm cooking for dinner. Lord, help me not to worry about tomorrow. Today has enough problems of its own.
Do they like me? Is it good enough? Are my kids getting into trouble? Does my computer have good anti-virus software? Did I spend too much time in the sun as a teenager?
There is a deeper cost to worrying. Often, worrying is the cause for your brain fog and inability to focus or the gnawing, empty stomach feeling of impending doom. When we feel that much of life is spinning out of control, it may be under-the-surface worry. We slip into compulsive behaviors that become habits, become overly critical of ourselves and others, or find it nearly impossible to just slow down and rest. Often, we aren’t consciously and deliberately worrying. We may not even be aware that we are. It’s hard to stop doing something that you won’t admit you are doing. Do we feel guilty or weak when we worry? I wonder.
Jesus says to us, “Refuse to worry.”
When I have my creamy iced coffee in hand, I really don’t want to pair it with broccoli. My taste buds want a bagel, bacon, or a handful of pretzels but NOT spinach salad. The thoughts we give a home to creates a chain reaction, too. One thought often leads to another like-thought. After the first taste of worrying or negative thoughts, it takes a strong action to disrupt the flow. The worry train grows, builds strength. Refusing to worry means I must choose to chase down faith, trust, gratitude, and joy multiple times a day. Our thoughts directly lead to our feelings, which then create the outpouring of our spoken words, our physical state, and our behaviors. Just like my appetite, I will need to make a concerted effort and choice to at some point, stop with “less healthy” thoughts and choose whole-life-thinking. The sooner, the better. We need to bring the worrying thoughts out of the little corner and onto the table and deal with them.
But worries are sneaky little things. Remember how I told you about my alternate reality where I didn’t worry ever? Worry will come, and it will either sneak in or roll in like a thunderclouds. Worry will know which entrance works best on you. In a way, worry is a living, breathing thing. It has an energy all its own, attaching itself to us.
Learn to recognize what worry looks like and sounds like in you. Become comfortable with pulling it up and throwing it on the table and dealing with it.
Talk out your worries. Go for a walk or a run and be the crazy person talking to herself. Talk to your dog or the trees. Talk to Jesus. Do something physically active while working your thoughts from worrying to praise. Write it out in a notebook, journal or create a list. Use my Circle of Influence sheet to reduce your worries and make a simple plan in less than 10 minutes. Whatever you do, however you do it, the worry must go. It is the thief of purpose. It is the robber of joy. It adds absolutely NOTHING to your life. It kills creative problem solving. It ruins relationships. Jesus said, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Worrying cannot add a single hour to your life. It cannot add peace of mind. The answer that seems simple, is the answer that works for me. Jesus’ love gives me the courage to refuse my worries. He calms my mind. I’ll go for a drive or a walk and talk to Him until the worries appear smaller and smaller. The ones that won’t get small enough, I ask Him to be patient with me and help me chip away at it each day, handing over tiny particles of anxieties.
So, I worry. It’s true. You do, too. You may not worry as much as others, or you may really struggle with worrying. You may need people beside you, supporting you. You may need to give yourself grace when you are too exhausted to pull out your chisel. You may need to get real with yourself that you have worries. We are all different in that way. Yet, God is constant and faithful. You can trust Him today, wherever you are in your faith. Jesus said to the entire crowd that day, "But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own."
See Matthew 6:19-33, I Peter 5:7, and Isaiah 26:3 for more on worry.
I have three reoccurring dreams. In one of the dreams, I’m in a school building, racing through a maze of hallways.
Seconds before the tardy bell, I enter the classroom for the first time. Only, it’s the last day of class and I realize that I’ve not shown up all semester, nor have I turned in any math papers or taken the exams. I am a failure. I wake up drenched in sweat, heart racing, and talking myself down, “You are 48 years old with four kids and a dog. It’s just a dream… school cannot hurt you anymore”
The week when report cards were issued always found me an anxious, panicky mess.
I don’t recall one time in my years of schooling where I felt successful at the end of a quarter. I experienced some proud moments with a successful creative assignment, oral report, or project that received a “good grade”, but in my role as student, I felt like a failure. But I remember this one report card that was different.