Don’t Worry. Be Healthy.

“Now I don’t have to worry.”

I heard that quote in an ad for a prescription discount card. Really? We’ve got far better reasons than that to stop worrying. The best reason of all? God says “fret not” over and over in his Word. Need even more convincing? Here’s the short version of a great article by Don Joseph Goewey.[i]

Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” Now there’s a study that proves it. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen. Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened. As for the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.

Most of what we worry over is little more than a fearful mind punishing us with exaggerations and misperceptions. And worry is no joke. The stress hormones worry dumps into our brains have been linked to serious physical, mental, and relational problems. Get rid of worry, and we have a better shot at living longer, happier, and more successful lives. We can rewire our brains to stop worrying. Here are three tools to get you started.

1. Decide not to believe the misfortune that your worried thoughts see in your future. Make the decision to stop worrying, and don’t waste another moment on it. Think of all the energy we can gain by deciding not to worry. Think of all the anxiety we’ll spare ourselves, all the needless stress we’ll avoid.

2. Rewire your brain to quiet the worry circuit. A tool as simple as The Clear Button can get you started. Here’s how it works.

Imagine a button at the center of your palm.

Press it and count to three, thinking of each number as a color.

        Breathe in, count 1, think red.

        Breathe in, count 2, think blue.

        Breathe in, count 3, think green.

•        On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.

Here’s the neurological reason why the Clear Button works. The part of the brain that causes stress reactions literally has the intelligence of a toddler. And every parent knows you don’t stop a tantrum by appealing to a child’s logic. You distract the child. This tool distracts the terrible two-year-old in your brain before worry can take over. This takes practice, but the more you bust stressful thinking during the day, the more your brain will strengthen synapses that end worry.

3. Another simple approach to dissolving worry is called “Finish Each Day and Be Done with It.” Let go of the day’s problems so you don’t take them home. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders, losses, and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; let today go so you can begin tomorrow well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Each new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”

I believe the Lord covers our mistakes. He wants to give us peace, and happiness, and a good night’s sleep. Perhaps tonight he will use Emerson’s words, and those of Don Joseph Goewey, to do just that.


[i] Don Joseph Goewey / https://proattitude.com

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Freaking Out?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I asked, via Facebook, “What one word would you use to describe what life is like right now?” Most of the responses clustered around a half dozen or so general ideas:

              “Hard, limited, stalled, confining, constricted, muy difisil”

I’ve been there. I also believe God uses all hard things, even if we can’t see his hand in them right away.

              “Expectant, warning, new, challenging, interesting, prophetic, Advent (prayerfully waiting to see what God will do)”

I love this quote from Travis Clark, pastor at Canvas San Francisco: “You typically only know that you were in a defining moment when you look at your life in reverse.” This time, I think we all know that this year is one long defining moment.

              “Anxious, worried, stressful, overloaded, depressed”

              “Unpredictable, unknown, confusing, inconsistent, conflicted, confused, bipolar (I particularly liked that one!), paradoxical, chaotic, weird, surreal”

Living in uncertainty pushes many of us toward anxiety or depression. If you’ve read this blog before, though, you know how deeply I believe in the power of prayer and our Lord’s promise that, if we bring our needs to him, we can trade anxiety for peace. Here’s one of my favorite Pastor Matt quotes: “You can freak out about the unknown, but Biblically it does not make sense to” (Matt Werner).

              “Content, hopeful, joyful, relaxed, rejuvenated, blessed, quiet”

I’m so glad some of you are walking through this time in a positive way. One very smart contributor listed half a dozen words, many of them antonyms of one another, explaining that it depends on how much she listens to the news. One said, “opportunity,” and others posted words that communicate a call to action, like these:

              “Motivated, driven” to serve wherever God puts us.

That friend is serving by painting inspirational rocks and secreting them on to neighbor’s porches. This made me wonder, what could I do for a neighbor today?

              “Bored

How is “bored” a call to action? That contributor is fighting boredom by watching at least 2 remote church services every week. We have access to a whole wealth of spiritual growth opportunities. I need to start tapping in more often!

              “Prayerful

We need a constant river of prayer flowing through our days. One friend used the word “steady,” and I don’t think anything can ground and steady us like consistent prayer. Get alone with God and tell him everything that weighs you down.

              “Perseverance”

Are you tired of all this? Me too. But in a war, the soldiers can’t say, after six months or a year, “I’ve had enough. I’m emptied out. I’m going home.” The book of Lamentations says our Lord’s love, compassion and hope are new every morning. We just have to keep refilling, every day.

One of you simply said, “We’re living.”  Yes, we are. Take heart. Embrace each new day. Choose the words from this post that help you the most, and hang on with patience and faith!

Many thanks to all of you who helped me write this week.

How Do We Quit Worrying?*

Last week I challenged you to look at worry as sin, but as sin that we can conquer by the grace of God.  So, what do we do if the sin of worry is ingrained within us?

First, we ask the Lord to help us identify the worries and their sources, and to help us break free. Then we rely on him to show us our way of escape from that temptation.

We can use this verse as a prayer, asking the Lord to invade—and clean up—a worry-prone thought life. “May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:44). We’ll have to set about renewing our minds as a moment-by-moment process, pushing out worrisome thoughts, when they arise, by turning to deliberate thoughts of thankfulness and proclamations of trust.

We certainly have plenty to be thankful for. Each of us have a detailed list just waiting to be brought before the Lord in prayers of gratitude. It includes our many blessings, the faithfulness and love God has shown us in the past, and the faithful loving care he has promised to provide in our future. At a loss for those thankful words? Give these verses a try.

  • “Praise the Lord, oh my soul. Remember all his gifts. He forgives us, heals us, redeems us, and showers us with love and compassion. He satisfies our desires with good things and renews our strength” (Psalm 103, my paraphrase).
  • “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
  • Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Note that phrase, “the sacrifice of praise.” Words of thanksgiving may not be bubbling out of us all the time. Often, their utterance requires a difficult choice, an act of will. Look at what Paul and Silas did in Acts 16. They were in prison and in pain, beaten, their feet fastened into stocks, yet they chose to trust God and give him thanks, “praying and singing hymns.“ If they could give thanks, so can we.

Philippians 4 (the same chapter that tells us not to worry about anything) tells us to concentrate on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or worthy of praise. Paul then tells us to put into practice whatever he has taught. Put it into practice. That means we need to train ourselves to be godly thinkers. 1 Timothy outlines our anti-worry training exercises:

  • Rejoice always.
  • Pray continually.
  • Give thanks in all circumstances.

Fortunately, we have the power of Christ within us to help us accomplish that list. This world will never be free of troubling times, but we never have to worry. We are, in fact, meant to live lives free of worry. And so, I pray that you will gain a peaceful heart and be used of God to spread that peace to many others! May you find joy, trust and thanksgiving in this day!

*This post is inspired by Wise, Janice. Walk out of Worry: Choosing God’s Path to Peace. Gospel Light, 1999, still available at www.amazon.com.

photo credit: @calebwoods via Unsplash

A Hard Question

“The more we worry, the more it appears we care.”[i]

Most of us have fallen into the “Worry means I love you” trap at one time or another, but it’s time to climb out of that pit. Janice Wise, author of that quote, continues it by writing, “Yet once anxiety has established a stronghold in our lives, it robs us of faith, turning true compassion into a self-preserving concern. We become ‘worried witnesses,’ and the world finds little in our anxious behavior to draw them to the One we call Lord.”

Ouch!

In many Christian circles, worry is accepted as normal and natural. No one asks the hard question: Is worry a sin? The Bible says quite clearly,Do not worry.”

  • “Do not fret…Trust in the Lord and do good…Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him…do not fret…do not fret—it only leads to evil” (Psalm 37).
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
  • “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippian 4:6).

If God tells us not to do something and we do it anyway, doesn’t that mean we’ve disobeyed? And isn’t disobedience also called sin? If God tells us not to fret or be anxious—in other words, to stop worrying—then when we worry, it looks to me like we are giving in to sin.

Oh, we have plenty of excuses.

  • Maybe you were raised to be a worrier. Your parents taught, modeled, or even encouraged the habit. But do we allow “I was raised that way” to be an excuse for any other sin?
  • Perhaps we’ve come to believe that those who refuse to worry are somehow calloused and uncaring. Isn’t that just like Satan to twist the truth in order to hide the damage that sin is doing?
  • Then, of course, there’s the age-old excuse that, “everybody does it.” Sin is not defined by its popularity and acceptance, but by God’s Word. And God’s Word says “fret not.”
  • Lastly, we may think, having lived with a pattern of worry for so long, that we simply cannot change. Now, there is a bit of truth to that statement. Anytime sin has a stronghold in our lives, we cannot change alone. But, nothing is impossible with our God. He is the one who gives us the power to overcome worry. Let’s go back to the Bible on this point:

Hebrews 2 tells us Jesus suffered when he was tempted and is therefore able to help us when we are tempted. Isaiah 26 declares that we can remain at peace when we trust in God. I Corinthians 10 promises we will never be tempted beyond what we can bear, and that God will always provide us with a way out.

So what do we do if the sin of worry is ingrained within us? I have a few thoughts. You’ll find them in next week’s post, because this one is long enough already…

[i] Wise, Janice. Walk out of Worry: Choosing God’s Path to Peace. Gospel Light, 1999, p. 5. This entire essay is inspired by that book, still available at www.amazon.com.

photo credit: @aaronburden via unsplash.com

 

Words for the Worried

Funny, the things that stick in my head…(Quotes in italics below, my take in parentheses)

  • A line from “Imagination Movers,” the latest Nick and Kate video fad: “We had a problem, but we figured it out!” (Isn’t that, by God’s grace, true of most of our problems? How quickly we forget the last solution when the next problem arises!)
  • An editor’s comment over dinner at a writers’ conference: “My mom worries all the time, so I told her, ‘Mom, worry does not burn calories!’” (This makes a good point. Worry never does any sort of good.)
  • A line from my pastor’s Ky’s recent sermon: “We are here to serve, not to solve…We can’t be God in another person’s life.” (How often do we get all wrapped up in worry about how someone else’s life is turning out, and about how we can fix it?)
  • From Pastor Matt: “Anxiety is an enemy of intimacy with the Lord.” (Now that’s convicting!)
  • Paul to Timothy: “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear.” (Typical Paul. Blunt. True.)
  • David Jeremiah (paraphrased): “What we’re really saying is our version of, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, and I’m going to fail this test.’” (What’s your version of Psalm 23?)
  • Uncredited, but probably my lifegroup leader: “What you worry about most is what you trust God with least.” (Ouch.)

So what are we to do?

  • Father Tim in a Mitford book: “‘Don’t worry about it.’ That sounds trite, but it’s what Jesus said!” (It does sound simple, doesn’t it? I suppose all obedience sounds simple, even though it isn’t always easy. But, Jesus did indeed say those words, and he always equips us to follow him.)
  • Joseph Prince (in “The Real Story” via YouTube): “Look around, you’ll be distressed. Look within, you’ll be depressed. Look at Jesus, you’ll be at rest.” (That old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” speaks volumes in the title alone!)
  • Paul Washer: “Preach the scriptures to your heart.” (Now that’s some serious worry-busting advice!)
  • Oswald Chambers: “Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is!” (Enough said!)

 

 

Change Your Mind

They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. But have you ever actually tried to change your mind—in a deeper sense, as in trying to change how your mind works, what your default settings are, and how your thoughts affect your actions?

 

Our church has been covering the spiritual aspects of that question lately, and here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.

What you feed your mind will lead your mind.

Catchy? Sure, but also a good warning to watch our input, to make sure the sources feeding our minds are controlled and the input we choose matches the output we want. We can begin to meet that challenge by:

  • identifying toxic thoughts, whether they come from within us or are pumped into us from without.
  • identifying the truths that fly in the face of those toxic lies.
  • identifying the sources of our thoughts, whether true, toxic, or simply distracting.

If this already feels impossible to you, remember, the Bible says that we are to:

  • take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ
  • be transformed by the renewing of our minds
  • think on what is right and true and lovely.

God doesn’t ask us to do anything he isn’t ready to empower us to do.

There’s an old and powerful book called The Practice of the Presence of God. The title itself is lesson enough today. We have to practice keeping our minds on Christ, staying aware of his presence. So much of our thought life is based on habits we’ve built—or practiced—over time. So what, exactly are we practicing? Here are a few clear directions. I challenge you to memorize one of these verses this week. ‘Hope you’ll let me know which one you choose.

  • “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”(Philippians 4:6).
  • “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

*photo by johnhain via pixabay.com