Winning Over Worry
It's Monday morning. The weekend is over. The alarm clock blares out its hideous jangle and suddenly you are snapped into the world of reality. First comes the struggle to get out of bed, then the rush to get to school or work on time, and then comes the stress of trying to juggle all one's seemingly endless responsibilities.
Is this how your week starts? And aren't these pressures mild compared to the ones you face as the day and week wear on?
We live in a world of ever-increasing stress and worry with school, work, family, financial and social pressures. Not many people are free from worry of some kind.
Worry or anxiety is a major problem of contemporary society. In excessive amounts it can take years off your life.
Some people like to think that things don't bother them. "No problem," they say as they put on a brave front and reach for the aspirin or alcohol bottle to deaden their fears.
However, it isn't possible to deaden inner anxiety. It will reveal itself in many ways.
For instance, George withdraws when he is upset, hurt, or uptight. Susan talks endlessly to cover her anxiety. Bill chain smokes to avoid facing his. Harry attacks when he feels threatened. Jack dominates and Joy procrastinates. Dennis is a constant complainer. Joan is a compulsive eater, Fred a compulsive drinker, Tom a compulsive worker, and Frank a compulsive gambler - all because of unresolved worry and anxiety.
Anxiety may also express itself in a physical way. Stuttering, abdominal pains, high blood pressure, a twitch, allergies, ulcers, nervous stomach, tension headaches - all have been named by doctors as symptoms of anxiety and worry.
Yes, sooner or later anxiety will win out. When one fails to talk out his worries, he will act them out in one way or another.
Long ago the Bible pointed out that "a relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life."1 Jesus himself said, "Don't worry about things - food, drink and clothes ... don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time."2 And the Apostle Paul wrote, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus."3
However, it's one thing to know about God's peace and another to experience it. It begins with being able to see and admit your real fears, by facing and resolving them, and by learning to give them over to God - and not take them back.
The causes behind worry can be many and varied. The following are some of the major ones with some helpful tips for winning over them.
First: If anxiety is situational - that is, caused by adverse circumstances or too much work, I find it helps to list all my worries on paper. This is half the battle. I then eliminate the least important matters, work on the things I can do something about, and am learning to accept the things I cannot change and stop worrying about them.
Second: If the problem is repressed, pent-up feelings, such as resentment, hurt or anger, those feelings need to be expressed in healthy ways. If you're nursing a grudge, you will need to put things right with the other person concerned and forgive them.4 Some feelings can be talked out with a trusted friend or counselor. Or, if it helps, go for a drive in your car with the windows closed and shout your feelings out, go to the bedroom and cry them out, or write them out as David often did in the Psalms.
One night when I was worried and couldn't sleep, I got up and typed a letter to God sharing all my feelings with him. Within a half-hour I had released my pent-up feelings. I then read them back to God, tore up the page, went back to bed, and fell asleep immediately.Good, hard physical exercise is also helpful when you're feeling worried or anxious.
Third: If your worry is caused by unmet emotional or spiritual needs, you can remedy this by growing in your relationship to God and other people-both of which are keys to vital, worry-free living. A spiritual growth group or a good twelve-step recovery group can be a big help for this. As you open up to others and to God and feel their love and acceptance, you can slowly change feelings of fear, guilt, anger, inadequacy, anxiety, and worry for feelings of hope, confidence, peace, and love.
"Perfect love drives out fear,"5 writes the Apostle John in the Bible. So we need to ask God not only to help us overcome our fears, but also to fill us with love. The more we love and trust God, the less we fear man and circumstances.
Every day, visualize yourself opening to God and being filled with his love, joy and forgiveness. In 1929, business tycoon J.C. Penny was in the hospital because of his severe anxiety. One night he was sure he was going to die so he wrote farewell letters to his wife and son.
But he survived the night, and hearing singing the next morning in the chapel, felt drawn to go in. A group was singing, "God will take care of you," after which followed Bible reading and prayer.
Penny said, "Suddenly something happened. I can't explain it. It was a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt it before.
"I realized then that I alone was responsible for all my troubles. I knew that God with his love was there to help me. From that day to this, my life has been free from worry. The most dramatic and glorious minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning."6
The cause or causes of our anxiety and worry always lie within ourselves. At best they are triggered by outside circumstances. Only when we admit to and resolve these causes, are we free to fully surrender our worries and anxieties to God and experience his peace.
Whether this peace comes instantly or over a period of time doesn't matter. The important truth to remember is that God is always there. His love and power are constant and available to all. As we reach out to him through the fog of our worry and damaged emotions, we discover that he is waiting to help us if only we will respond to his love and give him the chance.
1. Proverbs 14:30. 2. Matthew 6:25,34. 3. Philippians 4:6-7. 4. See Matthew 5:23-24. 5. 1 John 4:18. 6. S.I.McMillen, None of These Diseases, (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming Revell Co., 1963), p.98.
Copyright © 2001 by Dick Innes