Overcoming Worry

It seems that we’ve spent the better part of 2020 in crisis mode, trying to fight against the invisible enemy of COVID-19. The physical threat from the virus, especially to our loved ones who are most vulnerable, has been piled onto by the cascade of all of the falling dominos that have come because of it – isolation, children trying to learn remotely, parents caring for kids while trying to maintain vocational productivity, loss of employment, wedding plans/graduations and vacations turned upside down. Add to this the rising anarchy of lawlessness and widening racial fissures and it feels like our lives are sitting precariously at the base of a volcano that is ready to explode. In short, there’s no shortage of things to worry about! If there was any time where worrying seemed reasonable, this would be it! We may have even convinced ourselves that not worrying would be a sign that a person just doesn’t care or is dismissive of the seriousness of the situation. Yet Jesus said, ‘…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?’ In other words, worry doesn’t provide us with any tangible benefits. Worry doesn’t prolong life, in fact almost all medical research indicates it shortens it! I’m aware that just by addressing this issue I run the risk that some people may now worry about worrying too much! But identifying the problem is a necessary first step to overcoming it.

It may sound like splitting hairs but there’s a significant difference between worry and concern. All people have concerns because they are intrinsically tied to things we care about. Parents have concerns about their kids, employees have concerns about their work, pastors have concerns about their flock. But people who worry tend to focus on all of the negative things that could happen. Like the old vinyl records or CD’s that were scratched, people who worry get stuck in the rut of their patterns of thinking. Ironically, they fail to see that by focusing on the potential negative outcomes they are usually experiencing actual negative outcomes – poor health, mental anguish, strained relationships, and lack of peace.

The good news for people who worry is that they can break free from these unhealthy patterns. The lie that the enemy has planted in the minds of a person who struggles with incessant worrying is that they cannot change. They may even believe they were born this way or that since they are not willfully choosing to have negative thoughts they are a helpless victim to a mind that has run amok. Let me share 3 keys that have helped me to overcome worry in my life.

Distinguish Between a Fleeting Thought and a Focused Thought
We can’t necessarily keep all fleeting thoughts from passing through our minds, but we can choose to focus our thoughts on things that are healthier for our souls. Paul’s words from Philippians 4:8 encourages us that we can do this.

‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’

If worry comes from continually dwelling on the negative, then the antidote is dwelling on the variety of praiseworthy things. This is where singing worship songs can break through the poisonous thoughts and bring the fresh, cleansing wind of the Spirit.

Trust in God’s Ability Not Your Own
The person who worries places their trust ultimately in their own ability to determine their desired outcomes. This often causes significant conflicts in their relationships because they tend to insist that those closest to them conform to their prescribed rules and behaviors. By shifting their trust from their abilities to God’s, they no longer carry the burden of having to keep their world spinning. They can also release others from having to do everything according to their way of doing things.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Find Peace in God Not in the Outcome
While everyone desires to avoid hard and difficult situations, the person who worries can find peace by resting in the arms of their loving Savior instead of managing to dodge all of the bullets that fly our way. By resting in our relationship with the Lord we can guard our hearts against feelings of betrayal and bitterness in those times when we actually experience the very thing we dread. God is always our protector but that doesn’t mean He will always protect us from every hard thing. Finding our peace in God will also keep us from blaming ourselves and others and obsessing over what could have been done to avoid the pain we experience in life.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Even as things may get harder and harder, lets remember that God has provided a better way to respond that will bear great testimony as we rest in the arms of our loving heavenly Father.

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