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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Bullied by Worry?

School is in session and the bullies are back. So who – or what – is hounding you this year?

If you’ve been on social media this week, you’ve seen the photos and hashtags: #FirstDayofSchool! Little kids with broad smiles sporting big backpacks. Tweens with casual outfits so-o-o carefully selected. High schoolers backing out of the driveway in too much of a hurry to pose for mom’s camera.

I scrolled through my feed this morning clicking, liking, commenting. And then the photos that stopped me cold: the ones of my own six-year-old granddaughter posing for her First Day pix. So proud, so excited, so ready for this next step in her life. But am I? No sooner had I added heart-shaped emojis to Libby’s pictures than the mental harassment began.

How do you know she’ll be safe? What if a bigger kid picks on your precious girl? She might be exposed to ugly behavior on the bus. And shouldn’t you be scared about school shootings?

Maybe worry has waggled his fingers in your face too. He’s the playground bully who pokes and prods and steals peace of mind as if he could spend it for lunch.

There’s plenty to worry about in other corners of life as well - medical crises in the lives of loved ones, financial pressures, once-valued relationships that turn a corner and slip out of sight.

I care deeply about these situations. You have them, too. So how do we disentangle legitimate concern from its illegitimate brother, worry?

If you’re as sick of being bullied as I am, here are a few strategies to kick worry to the curb.

Talk it out. Verbally processing concerns helps. Seeking information and talking it through with trusted advisors goes a long way towards alleviating anxiety. Talk to medical personnel, your pastor, your child’s teacher, or a counselor. Take notes, seek second opinions. Take your dark thoughts on long walks to expose them to the light. Pour out your pain to God.

Resist the rut. Someone described persistent worry as carving a rut into which all other thoughts drain. Once you’ve processed your concerns and taken them to those who are in a position to help, switch lanes. What you fear most might well run off into the ditch before it ever reaches you.

Pay attention to the positive. It’s there, you know. That half-full glass. The loved one who is getting better. That friend with Stage Four cancer who has a 50% survival rate. The marriage that might improve or dissolve, but in either case will not leave the suffering spouse in limbo forever.

I have an awful habit of inquiring anxiously, “Is everything alright?” when one of my kids calls unexpectedly. They know me well enough to laugh and say, “Yeah Mom, everything’s fine.”

But you know what? The next time a call comes, I’m gonna say, “Hey, what’s new and good today?”

What you fear may never arrive. But even if it does, you can still kick worry to the curb. Let him go bully someone else. Or better yet, grab a prayer partner and put your arm through hers. Then link both your arms through God’s.

Worry loses its power when we face the bully together.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

Copyright 2019 by Maggie Wallem Rowe.

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