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.
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?