“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? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27
For all my precautions against robbery, I allow a lot of theft to take place in my life.
The deadbolts are checked, then checked again. Valuables are never left unattended. Schedules are rearranged in anticipation of package deliveries, and that car alarm must beep TWICE before walking into the store.
No one is taking my stuff. I make sure of it.
I protect it.
I control it.
Material possessions, things that can be replaced, are easy to guard. But that which is actually important is a whole other story.
True valuables: the health of my family, safety of my kids, laughter, memories, happiness, precious moments, the future, security; all much more difficult to control.
So what does one do? Compensate.
Kick the control into overdrive. Turn worst case scenarios over in your head formulating plan A, plan B, and preparing your emotions for calamity.
Stories of other’s misfortunes just add fuel to this fire. A two year old drowns during a family fishing trip. Grandpa only looked away for a second. Another expecting mother in your friend group suffers a miscarriage. Church van rolls on way home from camp, three teens and youth pastor lose their lives. IRS seizes couple’s assets over clerical error, family looses home.
It’s not within my power to keep my kids from getting cancer, make other drivers drive safer, keep my husband’s company from downsizing, or keep others from having negative opinions about me. But it is within my power to not hand life’s greatest treasures over to the thief of worry and anxiety.
The lie is that if we somehow live life under the constant defense mechanism of waiting for the other shoe to drop, then we’ll somehow stop tragedy from getting the drop on us. Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t enjoy that financial security too much. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. The result is that our preservation attempts become the very thing that steals our joy, peace, and experiences.
I get angry when I think about all the things that I’ve allowed to be taken from me: The friendships and fun events that weren’t experienced because of fear that my social awkwardness was obvious so I just stayed home. Opportunities that my children have missed out on out of my fear for their safety. Happy memories seen only through the lens of sadness because of how I might feel looking back if something bad were to happen one day. Adventures. The rewards of risks. Abundant life. Stolen. By the very thing that was trying to protect.
Im not saying the answer is to become reckless and unprepared, throwing caution to the wind for the sake of living it up. Im not talking about not trusting your gut when a creeper is eyeing you in a dark parking lot, or saying , “Screw you” to your seatbelt. Let’s be real. We shouldn’t have our heads buried in the sand to the fact that bad (and often preventable) things happen – even to God’s people who trust Him completely. The Bible says, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” But freedom can be found for people like me, with chronic stinking thinking, by learning how to replace the “What ifs” with the “Even ifs”.
Instead of, “What if I let Silas go to that Boy Scout camp with the neighbor’s son and he gets bitten by a rattlesnake or lost in the woods which could have been prevented by keeping him home” say, “It’s not common for Boys to get bitten by rattlesnakes or lost in the woods during a boy scout camp because of the experience and precautions of the leaders, but even if something grievous happens, he was doing what he loves and wasn’t living life in a prison of bubble-wrapped regret that he would have passed on to his kids, and so on.”
Instead of, “What if I go to that moms group and I don’t fit in or make any connections?” Say, “Even if I go to that moms group and don’t fit in or make any connections, at least I tried, and if they don’t like me it’s their loss.”
Instead of, “What if I start this business and it fails?” Say, “Even if this business fails, the experience I’ll gain will help me in the long run.”
Instead of (and this is a big one for me), “What if my child dies?” Say, “Even if my child dies, I am so thankful that God blessed me with this precious person that I didn’t deserve and allowed me to be their mom for as long as I was and I am not about to let fear of the unthinkable steal from me the joy of my time with them.”
Even if the world falls apart around me, it was going to fall apart around me anyway, whether I worried about it or not, so I might as well choose joy. As the words of Jesus above say, we can’t add to our life by worrying about it. We can’t add to anyone else’s life by worrying about them, either. Worry is not a giver. It only takes, and what it takes is more costly than anything that can be kept under lock and key.
Unlike car prowlers and purse snatchers, worry requires your permission to rob you. Stop believing the lie that you are in control. Take back what the thief has stolen from you and lock the deadbolt on anxiety forever.