As I’m writing this I’m watching both of my kids dangle from harnesses thirty feet in the air. While they’re fixed on conquering the rockwall, I’m fixed on all the ways this could go wrong. “They’ve done this 1,000 times. Stop worrying about what could go wrong and love a little more what’s going right.” Awesome idea- in theory.
Although I’m not a helicopter parent, I’ve worried a lot about how to protect them from, well, anything. My worrying, however, risks teaching them how to fear everything. That’s how anxiety is born. How can I teach my kids not to worry in excess when they’re only modeling me?
The Worth of Worry
For worry to be so pervasive in society, you’d think it would be good for something. Worrying feeds the illusion that we have enough control over the situation for our worrying to make a difference. If only it were that useful.
In reality, worry is good for sleepless nights, anxiousness, physical ailment, over-reactions, and complete loss of peace. To be fair, a reasonable amount of short-term worry can be beneficial, such as becoming aware that something needs attention, like family, health, job performance, financial matters, or relationships. If we never felt concern, then we risk not having motivation to properly focus on critical areas of our lives. Too much concern, however, can be paralyzing, and dishonoring to God.
God’s Word on Worry
Worry is about control. When we have control we fear making mistakes; when we don’t have control, we feel helpless and fear someone else’s mistakes. The main point that is often overlooked is that we never had control to begin with. It belongs to God, who is the First, and the Last (Revelation 1:17).
God’s word tells us 33 times to not be anxious or worry. One of the most simple scriptures comes from Jesus himself when he told his disciples “don’t’ be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36). I think C.S. Lewis sums it up well for worrisome believers by stating, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” Trusting God’s word means that we are willing to accept God’s definition of what’s best, instead of our own. When we release our fear of control into the only One who can bring freedom from fear, we can begin to know peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Wrangling in Worry
So what happens when we are still knocked down by gut-wrenching worries? In this broken world there will always be problems and pain, so how can we wrangle worry while still honoring God?
1. Give worry its proper weight.
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Mark Twain had it right. We should keep a proper perspective on the reality and magnitude of what is likely to happen, and not what could possibly happen at some point in the future. Be forward thinking, but present-minded. It’s good to think about the future and make thoughtful planning, but when that is accomplished, think on what can be done today. Burdening ourselves with future worries that aren’t actionable today can rob us the joy of our present lives.
2. Consider what can be done.
While some worries are out of our control, others may be within our realm to influence. Think through what proactive steps can be taken to positively address the worry. Taking action, no matter how small, can help overcome feelings of helplessness. Even if we feel unsure about what can practically be done, God is ready to supply wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5).
3. Find support in community.
God gave us each other to shoulder burdens, share resources, and help think through life problems (Galatians 6:2). Moreover, God commands us to have forbearance with one another’s weaknesses, and encourage the disheartened (1 Thessalonians 5:14). The body of Christ exists to glorify God and care for each other. In doing so, we find comfort in our time of sorrow and need. Seek community in the church, with godly friends, or in Christ-based counseling to help you through this season.
Finally, but most importantly, approach God in prayer, and lean in faithfully. His command to not worry is meant to provide freedom, and increase trust in Him. Your Father knows what you need, and He is faithful to deliver it.
Struggling with stress and worry and want help navigating the road to peace? We are ready to walk with you along your journey. Call 225-341-4147 today to talk with Cheryl or another counselor at Crossroads.