Laying Down the Shield of Worry

Putting Down the

I come from a long line of worriers.  Worrying is actually seen as an admirable pastime for responsible people in my family.  If we aren’t worrying about what could happen, what might happen, what may happen, we won’t be adequately prepared for the future.

Crazy as it sounds, my worrying ability is almost a source of pride.  I’m good at it, and I feel like my family is better off because of it.  My shield of worry protects us from the dangers of salmonella (cook that chicken thoroughly!), burglaries (lock the doors every night!), and naked babies (pack a change of clothes!).

This past weekend I went to a conference, and one of the speakers re-framed my relationship with worry.

If we worry, it’s a sign we don’t really trust God.

Whoa.  That thought made me pause.  After all, I do both, thank you very much.  I worry AND trust God.  So there.

The speaker continued.  If we trust God, we would understand that whatever today or tomorrow holds, it will be used for His glory.  Whether that’s suffering or celebrating, trust involves an acceptance of God’s will.  Even if it hurts.  Even if it’s unexpected.

Ouch.  I believe that God can use whatever mess we make in life for some greater good.  But that hasn’t kept me from being anxious about all those potential messes.  Maybe I’m not simply “preparing for the future” by worrying about the smallest of contingencies.  Maybe I’m actually trying to control everything because deep down I don’t trust that God is in control.

I’ve heard Matthew 6:27 about a hundred times before.  It’s always sort of made me roll my eyes.

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

No.  I get that.  But that’s not a huge incentive to change.  My worrying isn’t to try to make myself live longer.  It’s to prevent All The Horrible Things from happening.

The more I thought through that statement on worry and trust, the more I realized it was true.  Even if All The Horrible Things happen– God is there.  I don’t need to have read every article on disaster preparation in order to get through it.

I tiptoed around the edge of this thinking a few years ago when prepping became popular.  Water purification systems, long-term food storage systems, generators– they were all the rage.  I bought a big bucket of dehydrated meals and  squashed the fleeting thought, “Do I really need 72 dehydrated meals in my basement?  If something goes down, ten-year-old oatmeal isn’t going to do much.”

It isn’t going to do much, indeed.  When I get all wrapped up in worry, brandishing my shield, it becomes impossible to see the suffering of others, where I’m being called, or the shower of blessings I’ve received.  I fixate on the details, leaving no room for God to provide.  The quest to control everything doesn’t end up accomplishing much.

Turns out this whole worrying thing is a big obstacle to growing in faith and holiness.

I ended up purchasing this workbook from another speaker at the conference whose focus was Christian stress management.  It seemed to be a practical way to move away from my lifestyle of anxiety and toward a lifestyle of trust.

David and I started working on it in the car on our drive home from the conference.

We are already starting to see small changes in our family dynamic.

That was a blessing I didn’t expect.  Dealing with our stress and anxiety in a healthy way is causing ripples throughout the rest of our life.

With a daughter facing a chronic, hard-to-treat diagnosis, our overall family stress level is high.  We worry a lot.

It’s going to be a long process, shifting from perpetual worry to trust.  I’ve got a lifetime invested in worst-case-scenario-ing.  But this was a good place to start.  The exercises  have been helpful.

At one point during our car studying, I slammed the book shut, though.

“Wait a minute!  This doesn’t actually make it less likely that we’ll be attacked by a bear or involved in a terrorist attack.  It just makes it so we’re not thinking about it.”  At the time, my worrier self was irritated.  The exercises weren’t minimizing my risk or solving the big problems that constantly occupy my thoughts.

After a few moments of silence, it hit me.  “I guess that’s okay.  Those things aren’t particularly likely around here anyway.”

Embracing an attitude of trust isn’t an invitation to make dumb choices.  Responsible people do plan for the future.  Responsible people do wear seat belts and eat vegetables and pack a change of clothes for the baby.  But responsible people don’t need to be crushed under the weight of a million “what ifs.”  As Christians we trust that even if we eat a donut for breakfast and or forget to put gas in the car, ultimately we’ll be okay.

When I look back over my life, I can see that trust in God makes sense.  I can see that I have no reason not to trust.  I can see that my worrying hasn’t ever really accomplished anything.  And it’s in the darkest moments that it’s obvious God’s plan is much bigger than anything I could have constructed.

For example, I was beyond upset when I didn’t receive the scholarship I’d been expecting at my top choice college.  Begrudgingly I decided to go to a completely different school that offered me a better financial package.  And that’s where I met my husband.

When I was pregnant with our oldest daughter my husband got laid off, and our landlords (who had been offering us a smashing good deal) decided to increase our rent drastically.  It was in that drought of options that building our own home miraculously became attainable.

I couldn’t have ever guessed the path that my life would take.

Trust.

I’ve spent a lot of time trusting in my own cautious nature, my own intelligence, my own abilities.  But looking back, the bumps and holes in the road of my life have been largely out of my control.  There wasn’t anything I could do to either prevent or cause them.  And somehow I’ve gotten through.  Somehow they have been part the larger tapestry of my life.

Trust.

The process of trusting is an ongoing battle.  Writing about those challenges has helped me keep moving in the right direction, but I’ve never realized how much I cling to my worrying ways in order to protect myself.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely;
In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.

~Proverbs 3:5-6

There is such relief in giving myself permission not to dwell on every single bad thing that could happen.  I’m committed to lay down the shield of worry and to be open God’s providence.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Laying Down the Shield of Worry

  1. Maybe you’ve heard this before, but I think it’s a great quotation: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

    This is a great post and now I’m interested in buying the workbook–not for me, but for my husband, who just won’t believe me when I tell him all his worrying isn’t doing anything but making him ill.

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  2. MaryJo

    It does no good to worry, no matter what the issue is. With 14 kids (10 adopted), we have had plenty to worry about over the years and still do as psychological, medical, emotional, and familial issues invade my peaceful life. Worry prevents you from focusing on everything else that is going along coincidentally with the present worry issue. As long as I have done what is humanly possible to make sure my part of the solution is complete, then it is up to God. It is amazing how much joy there is to letting go and letting God. When it isn’t the outcome I had hoped and prayed for, it is a joy to watch the plan unfold in God’s terms. He has never failed. Some of the solutions I didn’t plan for, pray for, or see coming, have not been the solution I really needed all along. I don’t have the insight or foresight to see what God does and what I really need to happen. He is the smart one, so hang on and enjoy the ride. And God bless you all as you work hard to grow in the presence of GOD.

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    1. Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy

      Your words are very comforting MaryJo! Thank you for sharing. Now I need to go back and re-read them. ❤

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  3. Well-said. A key phrase: “Embracing an attitude of trust isn’t an invitation to make dumb choices.” Luke 14:28 seems to say something similar.

    As you said, worry, anxiety, doesn’t make sense. Avoiding daft decisions does.

    A possibly self-congratulatory example: When Y2K was in the news, I ran into examples of worry – but my wife and I realized that some of the concerns were well-founded.

    We decided that by draining the pipes and blocking access to the basement, we could live in the basement for a few weeks: using water stored in the water heater and long-shelf-life food we normally had on hand. It’d be chilly, and dark, but tolerable; and when power was restored we’d move back upstairs.

    January 1, 2000, came and went; the sky didn’t fall and the seas did not burn; and life went on.

    I’ve found that life generally *does* go on. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Of Shots, Truth, and Worry – Sweeping Up Joy

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