A powerful tornado that roared through Nashville this week. A stock market plunging wildly. A worldwide panic over a possible pandemic.
Sometimes the things we fear may not touch us personally, but we can't turn away from the images online that grab our hearts or the texts from friends that send fear racing through our veins.
A loved one's mother hospitalized with double pneumonia and possible sepsis. Friends scrambling to put their lives back together in the middle of rubble. One very dear to us quarantined far from home awaiting test results to determine if he has contracted COVID-19 as his host has.
A hand-wringer by nature, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to distinguish worry from its sibling, concern. They share a family resemblance, after all. Both are kin to care. Each has its ancestry in the state of apprehension.
How do you separate these conjoined twins?
When I reentered the corporate workforce in a new profession at age 53, I sat at my desk the first morning staring at my computer, wondering whether I’d ever learn enough to truly be useful. Worrying about failure? Futile. But caring enough to work hard to reward the confidence of those who hired me? Totally legit. I printed out a simple sign in big block letters to remind myself that every day I learned something new would be a good day at work.
There’s been plenty to worry about in other corners of life, though - medical crises and sudden deaths in our extended family, financial pressures weighing on many we love, once-valued relationships that turned a corner and slipped 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? You’ve stayed with me this far because worry has waggled his fingers in your face too. He’s the playground bully who pokes and prods and steals your peace of mind as if he could spend it for lunch.
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 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.
“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
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, come alongside them and put your arm through theirs. Then link both your arms through God’s and face the bully together.
Worry and concern can feel like conjoined twins, but prayer has the power to sever the connection.
Adapted from This Life We Share by Maggie Wallem Rowe. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.