Thursday, February 5, 2015

4 Practical Ways to "Don't Worry About It!"

“Don’t worry about it.”

Easier said than done, right?

Fact of the matter is, worry is a big part of the human condition. The fact that our ability to worry is somewhat hardwired into our consciousness does not mean that we have to become slaves to this instinctive behavior. Empowered by the gifts God has so lavishly given us, here are four simple and basic ways we can transcend the temptation to worry and actually start living life!

1.         Focus on what you know.

Much of the worry in our lives comes from what we do not know. We do not know the outcome of a given situation so we worry how it will end. We do not know what someone is going to say so we worry about how harsh or awful it will be. We do not know how to solve a problem so we worry about how miserably we may fail when we try. We do not know where someone is or what they are doing so we worry about the implications of their absence in the moment. You get the idea. Worry, in this instance, often erupts when our mind tries to imagine all the possible outcomes and explanations for what we simply do not know. Now, if we want to get into the messy world of statistical probability, perhaps there is a slim chance that the worst scenario imagined is true, in all likelihood, our imagination is far worse than reality. The question then becomes, why focus energy on reacting to an imagined reality when you truly have no definitive basis for knowing it is actually true.

The focus then is simply to concentrate your energy only on what you actually know. Jesus focused on this very point in the 6th chapter of Matthew. Beginning at verse 25 he simply says not to worry about your life, or body, or clothing. Using the animals of nature as an example he draws attention to the fact that they concern themselves only with what is present and now. “Even Solomon in all his splendor was not clothed as one of them,” he says reminding us that God’s love for humanity is sufficient for us to also bask in the blessings of God’s love.

2.         Focus on what is genuinely within your control.

Most worry is over things that are beyond our control. It is a simple, yet profound reality that many people never take into consideration. Again, in the 6th chapter of Matthew, Jesus asks a very direct question. “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Of course, the answer is no. (And, quite notably, medical science has demonstrated that worry can take time away from your life—both in the lost time and quality of life during the exercise of worry and the lost years at the end of life due to stress-related illness, disease, and premature death.)

The fact of the matter is, if you can’t control the situation, there is no good in expending precious energy worrying about it. Therefore, it is imperative that we place our limited energies on the tasks where we can make a difference, where we genuinely can exercise control, and where we are able to authentically remain productive. An important note of caution here: you cannot authentically control others even if you think you can. Remember, only yourself, your thoughts, actions, and reactions, are under your control. Begin there.

3.         Immerse yourself in God, gratitude, prayer, and positive reflection.

Worry is, quite frankly, all-consuming. In Philippians 4:6, Paul simply says not to worry about anything. Some translations say to be anxious for nothing. Appropriately, the idea of being full of worry or filled with anxiety point to the same reality—we are no longer in control of ourselves but fully consumed by a powerful and debilitating force. Yet Paul reminds us that this never need be the case!

Rather than give into the powers of worry, Paul says to begin by rejoicing in God. In the face of a situation or circumstance that triggers the all-consuming anxiety of worry and fret in our lives, we have a choice. We can give in to the dominating power of worry and lose ourselves in the debilitating destruction it brings, or we can focus our efforts in prayerful reflection. Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:4-9 are powerful, and also very basic. He says to rejoice, give thanks, mediate in prayer, and focus on the positive. Honestly, when worry tries to take over my spirit, I find it wonderfully refreshing and strengthening to get out my Bible and read that passage from Philippians—and put it into immediate practice.

4.         Remain aware.

Many years ago a man came to me who was very angry over a situation at the church. It was clear from his tone and angry outburst that he was worried over the situation. It had consumed him and the worry was in total control of his emotions at the moment. In fact, he was so worried about the situation that he interpreted my lack of emotional anxiety to mean that I either didn’t care or didn’t understand the gravity of the problem. It took some calming and careful conversation to demonstrate to him that I was truly fully aware of the situation and was taking it very seriously. I simply was not anxious or worried about it.

Difficult decisions and challenging circumstances require acute awareness and focused, intentional thought. It is no surprise that worry strips us of these vital faculties. Yet, for many the lack of noticeable emotional distress is interpreted as ignorance to the severity of the situation. Through a disciplined application of the first three points, focusing on what you do know, what you can control, and calling on the power of God through prayerful reflection and meditation, one’s ability to truly remain focused and aware without the distraction of worry is truly possible.

Worry is a part of life. Situations will arise when you will feel it coming on. Often, we are drowning in worry before we truly realize it has taken hold of our spirit. Yet we never need to stay in the deadly waters of dread or live in the confounds of calamity—even though worry will tempt us to do just that.

Instead of worry, consider the wisdom of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul and choose life over worry.

Addendum to my original blog post:

As requested by a reader, here are the two primary Bible verses referenced in this blog post. Yet, don’t take my word for it. Please, mark these in your Bible and refer to them every time you feel that tinge of worry coming on!

Be Blessed!


Jesus on Worry: Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)
25  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
28  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,
29  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31  Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?'
32  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34  "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.

Paul on Worry: Philippians 4:4-9 (NRSV)
4  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
5  Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
6  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8  Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
9  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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