I have to admit that I had nearly perfected the art of worry. Not that I would worry about things I couldn’t control like a satellite falling out of the sky and hitting me or global warming, but I would worry about all kinds of things in my life – money, kids, job, family, house repairs, church. I especially liked worrying about my finances. There was something twistedly satisfying about trying to figure out how I would get myself out of this mess. I never did figure that one out. I also liked worrying about my job. That one was especially rich because I could worry about all sorts of things. I would worry that my projects wouldn’t work or would overrun my budget. I would worry about getting fired, because I thought that the company would figure out that I didn’t know what I was doing and fire me. When that didn’t pan out (I’ve been with the same company 19 years now although there is still a chance you know), I worried that I would be stuck in a dead end job. I never did worry about my health, even though diabetes runs in my family. Well guess what happened to me a few years ago? I should have worried more about developing diabetes, at least I could have justified the worry time.
One worry that is especially fun, is worrying about worrying! As in, “I wonder why I worry so much. That isn’t healthy. What’s wrong with me?” You can get a lot of mileage from that one.
As you might expect, the Bible has quite a bit to say about worrying. Here are two passages that I particularly like.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5)
For years I would read those verses and even though my brain would understand the words, my heart would actually hear, “blah, blah, blah, blah…” It just didn’t sink in. Worry was so strong, so consuming, that simply hearing that I shouldn’t worry didn’t make it any easier to stop. I didn’t know how to stop.
But as I thought about those Bible verses, I realized two things. First, I realized that worry is an insult, an affront, to God. By worrying, I am saying to Him, “You really don’t care about me, so I have to take care of myself.” When I looked at my life, I saw that He did care about me and had taken care of me. I was blessed way beyond anything I deserved. So what was I worrying about? I could count on Him to be with me in my present and future just as He had been with me in my past. So I decided to believe that He cared for me, and I mean really believe it. I wrote that verse on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket. Every time I put my hand in my pocket, I would feel that piece of paper and remember that God cared for me. I did that for a few months.
The second thing I realized was that the verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians gave me the antidote to worry – thanks giving or gratitude. I realized that since God really does care for me, I can come to Him with my requests, my fears and my anxieties encapsulated with gratitude. When I do that, worry loses its grip on me and peace gains control.
Gratitude is an attitude and expression of joy that flows from our hearts as we begin to understand, maybe to grasp, the extent to which Christ cares. Gratitude can say thank-you for the conditions we find ourselves in. It looks at life without moaning, complaining, whining, anger, envy or bitterness and acknowledges that even though we don’t have all, we have the One-that-is-All. We learn to look for God in our every day and recognize his presence, in the midst of pain or joy. We learn to acknowledge the Source of all we have and realize that it is not ourselves.
Gratitude doesn’t come easily. Life seems to have a way to choke it out. Satan will do whatever he can to cause us to focus on ourselves, our woes and our needs. Gratitude needs to be nurtured and exercised. We look for new ways to express it. Maybe we simply start by throwing a little “thank-you” God’s way throughout our day for any little thing good or bad. Later, we more seriously contemplate our lives and think about those parts, events, people that God used to mold us into the person we are today. It may be hurtful and difficult or fun and encouraging. Either way, we acknowledge that in every time and place in our lives; God was present to bring good into our lives – because He cares for us.
One more thing. When I talk about gratitude, I am not talking about a superficial, everything-is-fine, name-it-and-claim-it Christianity that tries to cover up real life. I am talking about a genuine, deep heart, God-is-really-good type of relationship with Him. I mean getting real with God, getting out of our own pity party and believing Him.
The power of gratitude as weapon in our spiritual armory is immense. Worry has no counter-offensive. How can we be anxious when we are fully immersed in God’s presence? What can Satan say to the one who only hears the Father’s voice? How can anxiety break through a shield of gratitude? Gratitude is one of the main beacons along our journey to the center of the soul.