by Berry D Simpson
Is it always bad to worry about stuff? People say that 90% of what we worry about never happens, but isn’t that an argument in favor of worry? As for me, I worry about things all the time. It’s just that I do my worrying on the inside, to myself, so it isn’t obvious to everyone else.
I recently attended Pantego Bible Church with my daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Drew, and in their Community Group (I would call it Sunday School), we talked about our tendency to worry, and about Jesus’ admonition from Matthew 6.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (from Matthew 6:25 and 34, NIV)
The problem I have with this verse is that I don’t know how to stop worrying on command. To tell me to stop worrying is like Cyndi telling me to “just relax” when we’re dancing. If I could relax on purpose I would be relaxed already. Likewise, if I could simply stop worrying, I would. I need a strategy, an activity to do, in place of worry. Maybe it’s the same for you.
So the very next Monday morning I read a great follow-up to our Sunday discussion about worry, from
Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young: “Sit quietly in My presence while I bless you. Make your mind like a still pool of water, ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop into it. Calmly bring matters to me … then simply do the next thing.”
Sarah Young gave two good strategies for handling worry, the first was contemplative meditation. She said that instead of trying to solve all the problems and work it out myself, I should settle my mind and let God drop his thoughts inside. Wait for him to speak.
Here’s how it works for me. When I’m buried by worries I often find myself praying, “Lord I don’t know what to do with this, my attitude stinks, so I’m asking you to speak to me.” Then I start writing in my journal, creating a dialogue, even argument, with myself, going over all the worries I’ve had, and listing my own crazy solutions.
It’s important for me to physically write these down on paper. Just thinking about them, or even talking about them, doesn’t do the same thing. Over and over God speaks to me while I am writing, while I have my pen in my hand scratching on paper. When I finish I’ve written out ideas and solutions that had never occurred to me before I started writing.
Another thing that happens: Sometimes I hear from God directly. I would say I hear an audible voice but that’s too spooky to put into print. But it happens in the most unlikely of places, such as in the stairwell at my office, or cycling down Highway 191, or running on the dirt roads near my house, or even in the shower at Gold’s Gym. It never comes all at once and the solution is never what I expected, but there is no mistaking God as the source.
Those two scenarios (writing in my journal or hearing God’s voice) have happened so often I’ve grown to expect them. Instead of worrying on my own, I’ve learned to relax into the process and trust that God will indeed, speak to me again.
Curiously, this reminds me of when I started reading Tom Clancy. With the first book, Hunt for Red October, I fell into a predictable pattern: (1) I struggled through the first third of the book trying to learn the characters and keep up with the threads; until (2) I realized Clancy would remember the characters I needed to know so I relaxed and enjoyed the middle third of the book; but (3) I would lay awake in bed half the night trying to solve the rest of the puzzle and save the world. Eventually I reminded myself that Clancy was better at figuring out the solution than I was, and besides, he had already written the book. So I got out of bed and finished the last third of the book that night. I let the expert tell me his story instead of trying to figure it out myself. Instead of losing sleep worrying, I lost sleep reading, which was much better.
And while you might think I would remember this solution with the next Clancy book and avoid the sleepless nights, I never did. I repeated the same entire sequence of trying to do it myself before letting the expert handle it. At least a dozen times.
This is how I’ve learned to trust God. When I find myself paralyzed with worry over an upcoming choice or conversation or confrontation, I have to remind myself to trust the expert. God has already worked out the story. Just let him tell me the details in his own good time.
I wish I could say I remember this whenever a new problem comes up, but I don’t. I repeat the same sorry sequence of trying to do it myself before, finally, writing and listening and letting the expert handled it.
Back to Sarah Young’s advice, “Calmly bring matters to me (God) … then simply do the next thing.”
This is the tricky part. If I ask God to speak to me, and I ask him to change my heart, I’m obligated to step gingerly through the next opening, next idea, next pattern, or next attitude. Seeking God only works if I’m willing to step through his openings into his solutions.
QUESTION: How about you, how do you cope with worry?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org