who we are

Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

Free Newsletters

on TCW

« Can We—Should We—Forgive Hollywood? | Main | Why Young Men Aren’t Manning Up »

January 24, 2012

Giving Up Worry

A coworker’s words recently led me to an unnerving discovery: I have a anxiety addiction. Here's what I--by God's grace--did about it.

anxious1.jpg
I’ve always been a little on the anxious side. As a child, I used to ask Jesus into my heart every single day, because I was afraid that I hadn’t actually done so—that I’d imagined it or dreamed it—the day before. I would sit on the dining room floor, cross-legged, picturing my four-year-old soul barreling toward hell, and in fear, I’d beg Jesus, once again, to come into my heart. I know, I know. Alert Freud.

As I got older, my worry grew over the safety of my family and friends. When my parents and I went to the Grand Canyon and I couldn’t find my mom for a few minutes (mind you, I was 15 at the time), I started to sob, positive she’d toppled over the side and fallen to a bloody death. (She was in the gift shop, by the way. Fully intact.) When my oldest niece was born, and I saw how tiny and delicate and beautiful she was, my anxiety developed into something much more constant. I’d never loved something so small and helpless before. Her existence kept me up at night, wondering about her safety, worrying about how fragile she was.

The more I’ve learned to love, the more I’ve learned to worry.

I suppose this perpetual state both lessens and worsens as I get older, depending on the day and the time. I’m almost positive it’s giving me early wrinkles, which of course makes me worry about being a wrinkly old maid at the age of 25. Vicious cycle. I worry about my future, about my job, about my friendships, about the health of my family...You name it and I’ve probably lost at least one night of sleep fretting over it.

So during one of our Kyria staff devotionals recently, when JoHannah Reardon, managing editor of ChristianBibleStudies.com, shared a bit about the “Worry Fast” she did over Lent last year, my initial reaction was one of skepticism. Sure, if JoHannah asks God to take away her worry, he’ll do it. JoHannah is sweet and good and peaceful—she is basically the Mother Theresa of our department. She’s a whole lot closer to being anxiety-free than I am in the first place. I, on the other hand, am cynical, sarcastic, over-caffeinated, and anxious. I worry. It’s my thing.

JoHannah told us that practicing the discipline of not allowing herself to worry was the most freeing thing she’d ever done. She told us that it changed her life and brought her closer to God.
She also said that at the core of it, worry is a heart issue—one that means we aren’t trusting God. She said that worry was a sin.

I was painfully convicted.

I went home after work that night and thought about how many recent nights I’d laid awake in my bed, staring at my ceiling and twirling my hair, fretting over my own existence. My worry rarely changes anything, it rarely makes anything better, and it never brings me to a place of peace. I wonder if God ever looks down on me and sighs at his crazy little daughter who still can’t seem to figure out how to live in the assurance that he has all things under his control.

That night, I decided I’d give JoHannah’s experiment a shot. I asked God right then and there to help me start saying no to worry. To start looking at worry not as a curse, but as sin.

It’s been two weeks since I first made this decision. Not to sound like one of those women who get to borrow Oprah’s life coach for a week, but this decision has actually changed my life. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

• I do have a choice. I can worry, or I can give it to God and let it go.

• My life will not fall apart the second I stop nervously obsessing over it.

• When I stress and worry about potential disasters all the time, I am putting excessive stress on my body, and my body actually reacts to worry as if the circumstances are taking place. Just another sign that Jesus knew what he was saying when he said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

• Worry is a sign of selfishness. I didn’t realize how much it has kept me from focusing my energy on loving other people.

• Worrying less also means being less tired all the time. Who knew?

• Worry and control are excessively linked—especially attempts at controlling the people around me. I’m learning to give up both.

• At some point, I will go through pain, trials, and loss. And when that happens, God will walk me through it.

• When I pray more, I worry less. (So simple, and yet such an elusive truth.)

• Satan uses worry to make God look smaller, and my circumstances look bigger. I have to recognize these lies in order to defeat them.

• Giving up worry has been the beginning of a renewal in my relationship with God. Relationships are about trust, and it’s no exception with our Savior.

Are you a worrier? What steps are you taking to stop?

Comments

worry ... anxiety ... fear ... worry ... anxiety ... fear.

A never ending cycle for any of us who had this modeled for us as children. Or have this swimming through our gene pool. Or haven't quite figured out how to switch gears and release the crazy cycle to the One who created us.

In Christ we are not defined by our inadequacies or our guilt, but he has transformed our finite brokenness into everlasting splendor. Thanks for sharing this, worry like so much of sin, is born out of selfishness. Thanks for so eloquently highlighting this truth.

Worry is not about selfishness. It's clinging to negative thoughts and entertaining them to the point that the subconscious begins to believe they need to be fulfilled. Fear is extremely pervasive.

Worriers are usually strapped by control issues, and allowing vulnerability and "loss of control" in, feels overwhelming. The woman writing this article is being very hard on herself, perhaps not realizing her humanness.

If you haven't read up on 'mindfulness', that would be a great start. It's helped me tremendously. Be gentle with yourself. Nobody is out to punish you, and worry is not a sin.

I'm guilty of worrying too, especially when circumstances are stressful. The Holy Spirit has been showing me how my worrying dishonors God because it reveals a lack of faith in His providence. If worry is a control issue, then I'm supposed to realize that God is in control, and I'm not. We can't separate faith from peace on this one.

I would agree that worry can become sin..it's what we do with our worry that matters..,the bible is very clear that we must acknowledge it and ask God to replace it with His peace....
The practice of "mindfulness"that originates in Buddust philosophy is dangerous. As Christians God does want us to confront anything that separates us from Him and allow His Holy Spirit to transform us..we can't do that on our own power...what a wonderful truth that you are learning and that God is using to conform you to His image!

Thanks for the reminder, Holly! You're right, we have to be careful not to try to just "empty" our minds, as that is a dangerous (and rather fruitless) practice. I've been trying to stop the worrying thoughts first, and after I give God what I am worrying about, I offer up prayers of thankfulness instead. It's not a perfect science, but God is faithful!

You must be my long lost sister. I am really working on this area. Thanks for sharing your funny and insightful post.

I have terrible anxiety issues, I have for my whole life but didn't even realize what it was. It came closer to reality when I was laid off from my job several years ago and I was taking care of my mother. When she passed I became completely lost and had to go through a great deal of time, therapy and prayer. I still can't work or socialize. I can't get the worry out of my head. There are always real issues - finances, where to live, how to get out of this hole that I have safely enjoyed being in. I love the Lord. He's the only reason I am here. How do you start getting on with life and stop worrying when you're too tired and lost to even find the desire to do it? Sorry, I've never responded to anything like this or shared my story with much of anyone. I hope I'm not asking too much in one moment - but your blog inspired me, and God would not let me leave this page without writing something! Thank you for the bit of encouragement I'm trying to open up to.

Hi, Angie.. I will pray for you. I thank the Lord everyday for everything I have faced. I understand that at times we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we must continue even in our weakest moments to stay with the Lord. For we need to understand that God himself knows how weak we are. For Jesus christ gave his life for us. We do have a choice and we can not blame the circumstances that surround us. I was so lost in my circumstances at one time that they controled my life. I saw no good in this life and really wanted to end my life. I would even ask God to take me away at times. I thank the Lord he never answered that prayer.. Or I would have never come to know Him and serve Christ.. I Love life now for Christ paid my debt and now I am free from my sin. I now know how precious life really is. God never said life would be fair but he did say HE is fair.. I learned to love life really truly. Only because I learned that Christ is all I have to trust in now.. God bless you and may Christ fill your life everyday. We must learn to see without seeing what is in front of us.For everything we see with this eyes is temporary. we must Trust in Christ for in Him everything is eternal..

Angie, thank you so much for sharing. You're right--there are real issues that we do have to face everyday. I understand how overwhelming and overpowering those worries can be. I'm still learning how to not let those worries overwhelm me, and it looks like I'm not the only one. But we have to remember that God is so much bigger than our worries. At some point each of us has to come to terms with the fact that he's in control, and we're not. Giving up that control is, in my experience, the first big step towards living in the peace that God has our lives in his hands. OUR JOB each day is simply to trust in the Lord, and trust that his will for our lives holds a perfect plan.

I don't worry about things that are not in my control, but I do worry a lot about what is in my control (e.g. have I spent enough time to do a job well, have I gathered enough wisdom from the right people to do the right thing, have I taken a task seriously, am I doing my personal best, have I followed-up with people to make sure things are getting done, etc.) Any suggestions on how to reduce this kind of anxiety?

Wow! I do worry, about being homeless, living with friends week to week, being jobless, trying to find work and no transportation, trying to take care of my son. His essentials. Didn't realize how selfish I was by worrying and being in control.

I am a constant worrier and I've been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder because of it. I don't take medicine for it so maybe that's why it's not under control but I've been praying for a long time now for it to go away but it won't. I know it's a sin and I keep apologizing to God every time I worry. I don't know what else to do. Any suggestions?

Dear Cecily..... I, too, have been diagnosed with OCD, and the guilt associated with my worry compounds the anxiety that I'm out of God's favor or that I'm constantly sinning. After several therapists and godly counselors, I've come to realize that my illness does not define me nor condemn me unless I allow it to. Just because my illness is mental and not physical does not make me a sinful person. I am learning to recognize my anxieties for what they are, and give them to God in prayer. Memorizing scripture and recalling them in my anxious moments often dispels the spirits of fear. I am learning to "set my heart at rest in his presence whenever my heat condemns me. For God is greater than my heart, and he knows everything." (I John 3:19-20) I hope this helps.

Worry and anxiety will steal so much of what we earnestly strive for weekly which is maturity in Him and new levels of revelation. Situations will continually emerge in our lives and it appears that even before the enemy tries to rob our peace( as that is a chief possession that renders us paralyzed) and hit us blindsided we have to make up our mind that Christ is bigger than what we face. I find reflecting on the ways He has worked out situations for my good, all in His Sovereignty, can serve as a defense against future attacks. Oh to know the love of God and His desires toward us through the Word and prayer needs to be a radical pursuit. It is only in this that we can lie our heads down in peace when the storms rage all around us. A settling resolve that even the bad is filtered through His hands of love can bring the worst circumstances cast at the foot of the cross. The enemy does not play fair and with new levels there are new oppressions. We must be vigilant in fighting with the Sword of the Word and know that the greater one lives in us. Our choice to fight for our peace or give in to continual torment will decide the fate of whether situations destroy us inside or serve as trophies to others of the benefits of walking in relationship with our Creator.

Cecily & Susan, I also have OCD and have made huge steps in overcoming it without medication by learning that the excessive worrying is the OCD & not me. "Its not me, its OCD" is a great phrase to remember. Also there are great books out there that describe learning how to change thought patterns associated with OCD. Its best to find a Christian counselor who fully understands OCD & the thought processes associated with it. I have dealt with obsessive worrying since I was very young and I am thankful that God has blessed me with the growing process I have faced with OCD....its truly a challenging trial to face. Worrying is a part of our human nature. I believe the more we learn to focus on God the more we understand that no one is perfect, we all have 'sinful' thoughts (cause we are human) therefore we can be thankful for His grace. He knows your heart so there is no need to overly worry about apologizing to God. Continue to honor Him, love Him by being the beautiful woman He created you to be.

I'm a worrier and have a tinge of undiagnosed OCD too. Thank you to all of your for sharing and for a great article, Ashley.

May I recommend Matthew 26:24-34. It's often helped me to keep on track and realise that worrying just really doesn't help most situations.

I also remember to try to "let go and let God"..... xxx

A pastor once said to my mom,"Did the Lord put you on earth to worry?"

My favorite verse helps me to let go,
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge HIM, and HE will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3,verses 5&6

"Is the Lord's arm too short?"
Numbers 11, verse 23

This article came just when i needed it. It's comforting to read about the challenges others are having with worry. I think we just feel since we can't do anything about something we hope for or do not want, we simply have to worry. I have made up my mind to trust God even when my heart skips and getting ready to worry knowing that everything i need(peace, job,finances,safety,etc)HE HAS ALREADY PROVIDED. His hand is not too short.

I am a worrier. I have been doing much better overcoming in recent years. Nothing has worked better for me than simple prayer. If I talk to Jesus and tell Him every detail about my situation, I feel more secure and confident that I will be okay. I know that He already knows my issues, but when I can verbally express how I am feeling, there is reassurance in my heart. I am able to combine getting the issue off of my chest with my determined faith in Christ. It gives me peace of mind. This may mean praying a lot through out my day, but fortunately God never gets weary of me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your candid confessions about anxiety and worry. I, also, have struggled for years to overcome. Slowly, slowly, I am learning to make prayer my first resort, instead of my last.

"Giving up worry has been the beginning of a renewal in my relationship with God. Relationships are about trust, and it’s no exception with our Savior."

It can be hard to trust when one has experienced great pain in the relationship.

Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences. I've had a problem with anxiety for many years and it increased about 6 months ago. I would wake up in the night with anxiety attacks, unable to calm my mind. During the day, my thoughts would spin out of control and even though I talked myself through it and prayed for peace, sometimes the anxiety would not stop. I went to my pastor for prayer, thinking it was spiritual attack. When he prayed, he also asked the Lord to show me if there was something else causing it. I discovered that my anxiety spiked after eating sugar. I went to my naturopath and discovered there was a physical reason for my anxiety. Since I've been taking vitamins for stress and cutting out sugar, the anxiety is manageable and now when I pray or reframe my thoughts, I can get control of the anxiety. It's so important to take care of our bodies, eat nutriously, and exercise.

I am really impressed with this article and I am enjoyed lot.
I think fear is part life. But it can be good and but some times it can be bad.I think fear is a one kind of mind set, their is need to avoid the fear and face the challenges.

I loved this blog post. And I love the idea of a worry fast. I did a financial fast a few years ago, and I think I'm going to try this worry fast. I wouldn't call myself a worrier, but other people seem to think I am. :)
Can I just say one thing? A lot of people commenting seemed to miss your point(s). I don't know why Christians are so hard on each other, but I wonder if worrying is at the root. I think you hit this topic even better than you might have intended.
Thanks for you post.
Blessings,
Jennie

I have so much anxiety - but am moving in a direction that is so towards God it seems as if my life was jump-started out of worry. Many (most!) of the avenues mentioned on this blog are so important - understanding that worry takes us away from where God wants us; scripture memory to bring us back to center; radical prayer. One of the things that struck me was the comment of taking things directly to Jesus. I could pray for anyone...but myself! This became crucial - letting Jesus know where I hurt/was fearful/anxious. Because I would get 'stuck' in anxious places, I am learning to deal with that, too. God has provided many experiences for me to remember, how He has provided for varying situations. So, I have to start with that - appreciation moments. Can I recall those times when He brought me through? I've had to write them down - when I get 'stuck' - there is no way I can remember them. This is how more of my trust is being developed. I can come to Him from a point of appreciation, this quiets my anxiety and I can hear His voice. For me, it's usually through the Word that He speaks. One thing that has helped (myself and a bunch of friends) is a little book called, "Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You.

Day 3 of the Worry Fast, and I caught myself worrying. This really was a fantastic blog. I jumped on again just to say thanks.

Jennie, I'm so glad you're joining me in the fast! Keep going. :)

I am just catching this article on the worry fast!!! I wish I had seen it sooner. Need to catch up:) I really need this. I have been trying to do this on my own, but it's so much better with other believers......:)

Post a comment:





Verification (needed to reduce spam):

tags

see more

books we're reading