by Amy Simon
I’ve wrestled a lot with worry over the past few years. After living a relatively crisis-free life, I lost my mother, grandmother, and two babies—all within a span of eight months. Suddenly, not only could bad things happen, they were happening to me. No longer could I find security in the normalness of life.
I started worrying about everyday things—like our family’s health and safety or what would happen if I became seriously ill. We conceived again and had no problems. Even so, it was difficult to enjoy my pregnancy because I was constantly wondering if something would go wrong. We now have a healthy son, but I find it hard to keep from worrying that something will happen to him. There are so many possibilities: SIDS, choking, and illness, to name a few. The world gives us plenty to worry about. Any number of things can go wrong and wreck our universe.
Worry paralyzed me and kept me from enjoying life even when things were going well. Thankfully I realized I couldn’t live like that and needed to make some changes. Although God is still working on me in this area, I’m not the worrywart I used to be.
God Is in Control
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). For a long time I believed that since God loves me and is in control, nothing bad should happen to me. I thought, If he controls it all and loves me, why would he allow bad things to happen? As I wrestled with this, it occurred to me that God’s priority is not my happiness, but my transformation into his likeness. Sometimes the bad circumstances in my life bring about the most transformation.
As a parent, if my highest goal for my children is their happiness, then their lives would look very different than they do now. They would watch TV all day, skip school, eat nothing but pizza and ice cream, never do any chores—you get the idea. Since I have their long-term growth and development in mind, things look at bit different. My children trust in my love for them, understanding that the “bad” things in their lives (chores, vegetables, math homework) are for their long-term good and are required because of love. In the same way, we must trust that what God allows in our lives is ultimately for our good. Yes, bad things happen to us, but we don’t need to worry about them because God will go with us and see us through. Ultimately he will use them for our good.
Tame Your Thoughts
Worry is a choice. We may think we have no control over it, but we do. We choose what to think about and what to dwell on. We can’t worry about something we’re not thinking about. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Instead of worrying, choose to renew your mind by filling it with God’s Word. Look for specific passages of Scripture that address your particular worry. Some great “worry verses” are Matthew 6:25-27, Philippians 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:7.
If something concerns you, do something about it or think about something else. For example, I’ve been tempted to worry about my baby getting vaccinations because of potential adverse side effects. I can choose to do something with my concern, such as talking with my pediatrician, researching the side effects versus the benefits, praying with my husband over it, and seeking God’s will. Then we can make a decision we believe to be God’s will and trust him for the results. Problem over. No worrying. No more thinking about it.
I can worry about my health and what would happen if I were to become seriously ill, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything. Instead, I can get regular exams, talk to my doctor about specific health concerns, and then leave it to God.
If you’re concerned about the economy, make every effort to save money in case you lose your job. But once you’ve done what you can to address the problem, don’t keep worrying about it. Leave it in God’s hands.
Sometimes something as simple as watching the evening news can lead us to worry. It’s good to be informed about current issues and events that affect our families. It’s helpful to be aware of important world affairs so we can pray. If there’s an escaped convict in our neighborhood, we need to know about it. When earthquakes and tsunamis ravage nations, we need to be informed and prayerful. But we don’t need to dwell on the many unspeakable things that happen across the country. Ask God for wisdom to discern what is helpful for you to dwell on and what isn’t. I’ve limited my news watching so my mind doesn’t dwell on so many negative situations. Keep in mind that news outlets are also businesses looking for reader and viewer funding. The more sensational and shocking the story, the more people will be pulled into reading or watching.
Worry may come from physical causes as well. We often make sharp distinctions between the physical and spiritual, but the lines may not always be clearly defined. Lack of sleep or excessive sugar or caffeine consumption can make it difficult to choose trust and peace over worry. When we’re jittery and nervous because of our diet, our minds tend to search for something to be anxious about. Increasing exercise may also help. Take care of yourself physically and you may find it easier to make good choices spiritually.
If you still find that worry is a constant battle, there could be a deeper issue in your past that is causing the struggle. Spending time journaling or talking with a friend or counselor about what is causing your anxiety may prove helpful. For a while I experienced near panic attacks over the fear that my children would drown. As I examined the issue, I remembered a time from my childhood when my younger brother almost drowned while I was watching him. I felt paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. Everything turned out fine, but the scene haunts me to this day. As I work to forgive myself for that incident, it helps ease my worries about my own children.
The Scriptures make it clear that worry stems from disobedience and lack of trust in God. “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). Instead of being anxious, the apostle Paul says that “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, [we should] present [our] requests to God.” When we do, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7). Paul follows the command by listing things we should think about—things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. If our minds are dwelling on these things rather than on worrisome things, God will give us his peace.
It’s one thing to know what we should do and quite another thing to do it. Prayer connects the “should do” with the “doing.” Ask God daily to rid your mind of worry and show you when you start thinking in ways that don’t lead to peace. Sometimes our habits are so ingrained we don’t realize what we’re doing. That’s where the Holy Spirit can lead us and shed light on our worries. Freeing yourself from worry will open up avenues of joy and peace you never thought possible.
Amy Simon is a freelance writer in Jackson, Wisconsin.
More Worry-Free Thoughts:
The Idolatry of Worry
by John Greco
Should You Worry, Plan, or Pray?
by Mark Beeson