“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Anxiety has been on my mind of late. We used to have a name for someone who worried a lot—“worry-wart.” I do not know the origin of that name, but ever since I was a child I never wanted to be known as a worry-wart; somehow that moniker seemed to imply a weakness of character.
As I said at the start, I have been thinking about anxiety of late, but that is not because I am currently worrying about anything, because I am not. However, a number of my friends and people who have come into my life for various reasons are going through trials that I would categorize as worrisome if they were happening to me, and that got me thinking about the concept of anxiety.
I know, I know, I am worrying about worrying about something that other people might be worrying about that is happening to them and not to me.
A friend of mine, a psychologist, told me that the human mind naturally worries about things—it is how we are wired. Rather than fight the worry, his advice is to let it run its course—worry about all of the worst case outcomes that might come your way in a particular worrisome situation, then decide how you will react to the worst case scenario, and then put it to bed—applying a doctrine of “worry once, but not twice” solution. He also wisely advises that you put some energy into thinking about how the situation may resolve much more favorably than you can imagine—like that will happen. I have used his wisdom from time to time, and it works much better than re-hashing the same old problems and possible adverse outcomes over and over and over again.
Jesus admonished His Disciples not to worry (Matthew 6:25) about their life or their body because God has promised to provide all that His people need. In a concise and cogent argument, Jesus informs us that worry never achieves anything but rather distracts us from our call and our faith. Moreover, Jesus reminds us that since we control nothing at all, worrying about something completely out of our hands is foolish.
It bothers me to know how quickly I leave the comfort of God’s provision and move into a world that only exists when I bring it into creation—namely, a world where God is not standing right beside me 24/7, encouraging me, sustaining me, uplifting me, and protecting me. That is the only world where “worry” would actually flourish and come to life.
I keep a journal and from time to time I review my thoughts and life circumstances as recorded in it. In thirteen years (the length of time I have kept the journal) there is not one entry where God has not delivered me from a “worrisome” situation and blessed me beyond measure. Not one. With such a record at my disposal I am amazed and disappointed I still find things to worry about. But I remind myself that the Disciples had short-term memory loss when it came to trusting Jesus in all circumstances. Even Paul worried (see Philippians 2:28)!
What I have been thinking about, in my current “worry-free” environment, is what I will do when the situation again turns adverse, as it will surely do. Here is what I have resolved: I will mentally draw up an image of Jesus, one of my favorite pictures of Him, one where He is smiling, full of a young adult’s vibrancy, fully alive, fully present, fully my God. I will “turn my eyes upon Jesus, and look long in His wonderful face.” I will endeavor to remember to thank Him for the adversity because through it I will get to know Him better. I will lift my cares to Him, and with my hope resting in Him, I will think about things I can do, strive to choose wisely and prayerfully, and act if acting seems right. I will record the situation in my journal because the outcome will be memorable, at least for me, and I will beat down with a stick my propensity to dwell on the uncertainty.
And when I meet others who are worrying about real circumstances and difficulties, things I hope never to have to face, I will love them. I will not tell them not to worry, because that seems as foolish as telling someone who has lost a loved one that “they are in a better place.” Christians, like everyone else, experience grief, we just grieve differently because of the hope that is in us—but grief is real and necessary.
And, I will remind them that God is with them, loving them, caring for them, and He is in control of all things. I will urge them to cry out to God for resolution, faith, hope, courage, and strength. God is good. He will “work all things to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).