October 28, 2020
“Worry is like a rocking chair. It’ll keep you busy, but you won’t get anywhere doing it.” I first heard this line from a 16-year old kid in a rehab program I was working with. I’ve repeated it hundreds of times because a great deal of the stress and anxiety we experience in life is related to things we have very little actual control over. In the current season of our lives, constant anxiety is easy to spot. Folks are worried about the pandemic, the election, instability in our cities, economic dangers, and a million other things. It seems like everywhere you look, someone is trying to get you freaked about about something. The problem with this is that if we spend enough time worrying, we can reach a point where we just worry all the time. It’s not uncommon for people to live in a place of heightened anxiety, so much so that they are worried and looking for reasons to worry. This is because the brain is designed to keep you alive. Heightened anxiety makes sense if you could potentially be attacked by a pack of wolves at any second. In that situation, you want to be ready to fight back, run away, or hide. The earlier you see danger, the better. However, danger isn’t quite the same anymore. Sure, there’s the possibility of life-threatening danger breaking into your house while you’re sleeping. But the likelihood of that taking place is quite low in the grand scheme of things. However, that doesn’t stop us from worrying about it taking place. Jesus once asked if anyone, by worrying can add even a single hour to the length of their lives. The answer, of course, is no. In fact, we know that constant worry is far more likely to shorten your life because of the strain the stress places on your heart. When Jesus asked his question, He preceded it by pointing out that birds don’t go to work and God feeds them. Flowers don’t go to work, but God takes care of them. The message is simple: trusting God is the cure to worry. I once read that worry is like a rash that rises from a lack of trust in God’s control over our lives. If God is real, if He is all powerful, if He is watching out for us, and if He wants what is good for us because He loves us, then we must trust Him to take care of us. We might ask: Then why do bad things happen? This is a great question. I’d suggest that bad things happen because the world is broken. Trusting God means we trust Him when things are easy and when they are hard. The solution to worry often boils down to a simple idea that is often repeated in AA circles: “There is a God, and I am not Him.” Allow God to be God and trust that even bad outcomes are in His hands. This doesn’t mean we don’t act. We must do our best and trust God with the outcome. Other strategies I often suggest for folks who worry include asking questions about our worries. Is worrying about this helping? Is my worry very likely to happen? What can I actually do to make this better? Are there things I can do to change my focus (like turning off the news or walking away from inflaming social media posts)? What can I do to de-stress, rather than dwelling on these issues? Is there someone level-headed I can talk to about this to help get it out? It’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel helpless in the midst of the craziness our world is experiencing right now. It is extra vital right now to be proactive in settling down our overstressed minds.