I can remember the day. Hardly able to contain my emotion any longer, I jumped off the yellow school bus and ran for the house, a 12 year old facing ruin.
I had just attended English or Creative Writing class – I can’t remember which now, and we had been informed by our teacher that anyone who wrote a run-on sentence (one that was way too long), would get an automatic F no matter how good the paper was.
I was in knots. “I’m going to get an F,” sobbed my little perfectionist self. “I am sure this will happen to me!”
I loved school and I loved doing well in it. I was a good student. I was good at writing – there was no way I was going to fall into this trap of failure. But in my young, hysterical head, my “plane had already gone down in flames.”
It all sounds so silly now, and yet, I would never make light of my own or someone else’s worries at any age. They can seem so real and so hard.
But it’s good to remember an oft quoted line of a French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne. It is said that he is the author of this quote, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”
It’s a sad truth that we worry about a lot of things that never happen. But right now, in this season of the virus scare, many have real reasons to worry as they have lost jobs, closed businesses, worried about infection, etc. and wonder how they will make it in the days ahead.
Sure, it is hard, but will less worry ease the hardship? I think so.
How to Stop Worrying About the Future
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount spoke about worrying. This is a familiar passage to many, but let’s think again about his words.
He said,“Therefore I tell you, 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?” (Matthew 6:25)
And then he began to describe how easily the birds are fed and how beautifully the flowers of the field are “clothed.” He said the birds don’t gather food and the flowers don’t “labor or spin,” yet they both are fed and clothed by the Father who takes care of all these matters to the smallest detail.
Jesus then said that people are far more valuable and so, will not God also take care of each one of us? And besides He added, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (v. 27)
He wrapped up these words on the uselessness of worry – it takes away, it doesn’t give any protective value to life – and on the abiding care of the Father for us by saying,
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you AS WELL. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
Jesus’ advice – focus:
1) Focus on the day in front of you.
2) Focus on the Father and his love for all creatures, especially people.
3) Seek his kingdom first and his righteousness (the good, connected, established relationship through Christ) and everything else will fall into place.
How to Stop Worrying by Shifting Your Focus
Yes, Jesus did say focus on the Father’s love, focus on the day in front of you. His advice was to take one day at a time. And he said, “Focus on the kingdom.”
Focus on constructive stuff.
Some would say, “But when I get in that worrying loop, my mind goes round and round and I can’t seem to break out of that thinking.”
It’s at that time that we need to actively work to distract ourselves, jar our thinking, exert will to put our mind somewhere other than on the worry.
All of this reminds me of giving birth!
I remember the contractions with both my children. With my son, my first child, I did the breathing techniques with each contraction. I had beautiful and interesting pictures on the wall in the labor room. They were semi-effective.
With my daughter, my second child, I was much more of an experienced hand at this business. With her, I would take a mouthful of ice chips and the sharp cold in my mouth proved to be very distracting from everything else going on aimed at bringing that little girl into the world!
My point is we have to experiment with what works to yank our thoughts away from worry or discomfort. My hope is that all who read this will do as Jesus urged us to do, seek the kingdom of God first. Perhaps worship music, prayer walking, exercise of any sort, if possible – if there is some activity that can loosen the grip of fear on your thoughts and get your mind moving in another direction, do it.
I often prayer walk on a hillside trail near my home listening to worship music. The combined moving, the beauty of nature, my even breathing, and the powerful praise music in my ears gets me “pumped” in the Holy Spirit. I’m ready to take on an army once I get through the walk. There’s no place for worry as I use those “ice chips of distraction.”
Discover what works for you to lift you up and over the trouble, to get you on a Spirit flight above your clouds.
Bible Verses to Help You Stop Worrying
There are so many verses in the Bible, so many promises that we can say “over” ourselves or pray back to God. In hearing or reading those words, our minds reset to God’s hope-filled reality – the reality that he is a loving, caring Father who wants to provide for us. He wants to give us strategies mixed with his supernatural power.
Here are 5 verses or portions of verses to build up your worry-free state:
“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid…'” Hebrews 13:5-6
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant…” Psalm 34:4-5
“The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.'” Psalm 46:1-3, 10
Peace always surrounded Jesus in every storm, and nothing has changed in that regard. He said these enduring words, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)