Worry. We all do it. We worry about our families and our finances. We worry about whether we are doing enough or too much. We worry about the weather and the country and the world. We worry and worry and worry. In older books you sometimes see the word worry used in reference to an animal shaking something around with its teeth. This is an apt description for what worry looks like in our lives. We sink our teeth into something and thrash it about, making ourselves sick and tired and getting absolutely nowhere despite the effort. Why do we do this?
I actually used to think I wasn’t a worrier. I thought I was laid back. When I tell this to people who didn’t know me as a child they find it very funny. Now they know me as a borderline hypochondriac, frequently sick to my stomach from stress, clinical over-thinker. The truth is that I really wasn’t much of a worrier until my twenties, then I spent the next ten years making up for being late to the worry game which was about as much fun as it sounds.
I come from a long line of worriers on both sides. It was passed down to me like my green eyes, wavy hair, and pear-shaped body. I didn’t know that coming from a family of worriers skewed my perspective. I may not worry as much as other people I know, but I do worry a lot more than I should.
I know enough about life to know that worry does not have to be my reality, but I also know that it will probably always be a struggle. God’s grace has set me free, but this is a hard world we live in and we aren’t always able to fully walk away from everything that binds us. I’m grateful, though, to be aware of my worry, its place in my life, and also to be in conversation with God about it.
Recently I’ve noticed a few places that worry was filling in my life that are inappropriate. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that does these things so I thought I’d share them with you.
- Worry fills time. Waiting is the pits and I should know. I’ve had to wait an excruciatingly long time for some important things, like adopting my son. Waiting is hard and feels passive and it is so easy to fill in the space of the wait with worry. It’s like a hamster on its wheel. We might not be going anywhere but at least we’re moving. But, the truth is worry is always passive and waiting does not have to be. Waiting can be filled with all sorts of unique joys and lessons.
- Worry shows I care. This is such a sneaky one. I worry about people. I worry about my husband and my son and my parents and my siblings. I worry about my friends and my friend’s children. It’s easy to think that I worry about them because I love them. This is a lie. I care about them and pray for them because I love them. I worry about them because worry makes me feel like I’m doing something when there is nothing I can do. Also, nobody has ever felt loved because someone was worrying about them. In fact, I find that worry saps my strength and keeps me from doing things that would have actively shown the person my love.
- Worry shows I’m thinking. If I actually had cancer all the times I thought (I mean, worried) I did, I would be dead by now. I often justify my worry by believing it shows I’m aware of my health. But awareness does not change the situation. This type of worry/thinking in place of action shows up in any number of ways – finances, jobs, that weird sound outside. It’s important to either choose to stop thinking about it, or take action to acquire concrete knowledge about the issue. Sitting in worry-limbo solves no problems and diagnoses no illnesses.
So, the next time you find yourself bogged down in worry, think about what space the worry is filling. Are you trying to fill time? Show someone you care? “Think” about the problem a lot? Name the situation for what it is – Worry – and then take those thoughts captive instead of wasting your energy on something that can do nothing for you.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27
Anna is a lover of books, history, nature, and all things beautiful, whimsical, and grounded in authenticity. She earned a degree in History with a minor in English, then went on to get a Masters Degree in Library Science, and spent several years working as an academic reference librarian. After years of infertility, she and her husband Jason welcomed their son Nathan home from his birth-country of South Korea in July 2012. The journey to become a mom and the daily struggles to mother Nathan and his unique needs to the best of her ability have stretched and strengthened Anna’s faith and relationship with God. Anna is passionate about social justice for orphans and women as well as keeping her eyes open to the little gifts of grace God gives her throughout each day. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, calligraphy, playing piano and blogging at http://comehitherandstay.com. Anna and her family make their home in Dallas, TX.