As we begin a new year, we are going to look at worry. And our goal is to learn to worry less and move in the direction of eliminating worry.
And as we begin, I want to make two clarifications:
There are some among you who believe that worry is inevitable. You would say that worry just comes with the territory of being a parent, owning a business, being married, actually caring about your grades, being a manager, having responsibilities. “I have a lot of debt, I have a lot of stress, I have teenagers. I worry.” There is nothing I can do about it.
I know what you are thinking. You think that the only alternative to worry is to simply not care. So you think, what other choice do I have?
There is a difference between having a legitimate concern and worrying. A legitimate concern requires you do something…some investigation or you take some precautionary measures to insure a concern doesn’t happen. You do due diligence. You get more information. You do what you can do in the present to address the concern.
Secondly, I want to posit a distinction I think is important between worry and anxiety. Anxiety is a psychiatric disorder, which should be taken very seriously: anxiety is persistent, sometimes overwhelming, perhaps even paralyzing thoughts and feelings, prompted by fears that are not or are no longer based in reality. It is a serious condition which can have serious consequences when not treated properly.
I’m not talking about the disorder of anxiety, and I’m not talking about legitimate concerns and cautions. I’m talking about the experience of worry. Worry is somewhat different and everybody experiences it. And it can be overcome.
Here’s how the dictionary defines worry.
Worry: to give way to unease; to allow one’s minds to dwell on difficult or troubling future scenarios.
It is the mental part of anxiety, its thoughts about fears of the future, which may or may not be based in reality. It’s asking the “what if..” question and constantly coming up with a negative answer.
Notice that by definition, worry implies a choice. It means to choose unease.
Meanwhile, our faith tells us, God is greater.
He is greater than the bully you are facing at school. He is greater than your loneliness. He is greater than your business. He is greater than your diagnosis. And to say he is greater than these things doesn’t mean these issues are unimportant. They are incredibly important. They matter, but worrying about them isn’t helpful, seeking God’s kingdom first is. Ultimately, we defeat worry by turning to God and making him a greater priority than whatever it is that troubles us and causes us to worry.
If you think about it, worrying is like praying in reverse. Whereas praying makes our issues smaller, worrying makes them bigger and bigger and bigger.
Worry is talking to ourselves about stuff we can’t control. Prayer is talking to God about stuff he does.