I’ve never been a good worrier. I have met people my whole life who could out-worry me and were frustrated I wasn’t as worried as they were. I have often thought worrying just wasn’t my issue, something I was … above.
A few months ago I was combing over the Sermon on the Mount with some friends. I tend to look past the worry passage in Matthew 6 because I have always told myself “I don’t struggle with that.” All the talk about what we eat, drink and wear has never been very convicting to me. I’ve eaten cheaply, been content drinking water and been quite happy with thrift store clothes for many seasons of my life.
As I meditated on the verses, waiting for confessions from others, the phrase came out of my mouth, “I hate August.” I had never verbalized this before or even realized it. “I hate August,” I said again, “because it comes before September.” As summer wraps up it thrusts me into September, my busiest and most crucial ministry month of the year. What happens in these 31 days determines whether I will be equipping a lot of leaders or only a few, feeling like it was stellar ministry year or an off season. I put the hope of the year on what I can accomplish during that month.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)
Tomorrow will have enough issues, and worry doesn’t solve things. Worry is almost always equated with the two “p’s”: provision and protection.
The worry of provision. While provision worry can sneak up on me, especially in the bipolar journey of raising support, God has shown me much in this area. He has provided for a foreign adoption of two kids, a sudden shift from a regular salary to raising support and He has placed us in a home bigger than we need. I have learned to battle through fears and trust God a little more with each provisional need in our family.
The worry of protection. I have always been a trusting person, and have never had major wrongs committed against me. I sometimes fear for my kids’ protection in their public school setting, but God has given me perspective on our role to send them into their school as salt and light in the midst of darkness around them. I am fully aware that fights, girl drama, and dirty talk will happen. I know I can’t protect them from life at school. I know God is a good Father, keeping an eye on the bullies trying to steal their lunch.
So, if I don’t chronically struggle with these two areas, what am I so worried about? Why do I spend one month a year wishing I were in Tahiti or still running a landscaping company? My diagnosis is this: I fear I won’t have enough opportunities to accomplish things for God. I know, it’s terrible theology. My fear is about production.
The worry of production. I easily slip into believing I can please God by what I accomplish in HIS name. This focuses me on accomplishing new, greater tasks this year than last year. I think about giving reports of bigger numbers and better results in a support letter. I think about how if I do a lot this month I can equip people to be released into God’s mission all year long.
Turns out I don’t trust God to put the right leaders and the right opportunities in front of me. Turns out I worry in a way that’s harder to diagnose than dollar signs and locks on my door. Turns out my worry leads me to work hard in areas where others often give me a pat on the back. Production worry is the one issue no one will hold you accountable for. You’re producing things this world values. You’re succeeding. Turns out my everyday theology is different from what I preach in sermons. I think this issue has its paw prints all over the North American church, and it’s largely going unchecked. I am a recovering worrier about what I can produce, and occasionally other things. It has been helpful to define worry and its nemesis, courage.
Worry: choosing to focus on my deficit
Courage: choosing to focus on God’s overflow
I have heard anxiety referred to as “worry sickness.” What do we do when we’re sick? We go back to the basics. We attend to simple needs like more sleep, hydration and eating healthy. Oftentimes a wrong way of living has forced us into sickness and our body simply shuts down, forcing us to refocus on the right things. In anxious seasons and moments I am choosing to change the focus from BUSY to FOCUSED and from OVERWHELMED to DILIGENT. Here are a few helpful things to remember in your battle against worry.
Worry comes in layers. When the object of your worry is gone, you’ll have something else to worry about. While some are more prone to chronic worry, it’s an impulse we must fight. We don’t have a worry quota, it’s more like a worry muscle we choose to exercise or to atrophy. Ask a few questions to bring focus to your worry areas. Am I an anxious leader? Where do I easily replace trusting God for hard work? In which areas do I justify my worry?
Worry is based on our success metric. Start with the end in mind. Redefining success is one way to choose courage instead of fear. Make sure you are aiming at the right things, the things Jesus would want you running after.
Replace your fears with God’s promises. Trying hard not to worry won’t do the trick. We must replace our quicksand worry with the bedrock of God’s promises in the pages of scripture. I will leave you with a scripture I am choosing to cling to each day.
Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Chronic worry is something you choose, but so is courage. Every day I am choosing to put my trust in the Almighty a little bit more.