While fretting over a long list of things that should be done before I go into the hospital on Wednesday, I succumbed to one of my bad habits. Rather than organizing the items on my to-do list into rational categories—must-do, perhaps-do, and what-in-the-heck-were-you-thinking—I expanded the scope of my worries to what if \ . . . What if I forget to throw out that soggy head of lettuce in the refrigerator? What if I neglect to contact Payroll about an outstanding contract at work? What if there are complications during the surgery? What if they replace the wrong hip? (Just kidding about that last one.)
It’s time to take a deep breath, to un-tense my shoulders, and to consider the value of worrying. Surprise: worry has no value—but it does have a cost. For me, unchecked worrying can lead to subtle and pervasive apprehension which results in more worrying. I have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep under the best of circumstances, but if I’m worrying about something, a restful night is nearly impossible. Just ask my husband. I bet many of you do the same thing.
So why do we indulge in worrying when most of what we worry about won’t come true, and the rest will come true whether we worry about it or not? Perhaps we think that worrying indicates how invested we are or how much we love someone. (It’s a parent’s job to worry about their kids, right?) Perhaps it’s a habit. Perhaps it’s related to trauma. Whatever the reason, worrying is at best, a waste of time and at worst, physically and mentally destructive. Do everything you can to discover the cause of it, examine it, and diffuse it. (It’s not my intention to be flippant about the reasons why we worry, but I wonder how much heartache we could avoid if we would stop worrying about things that are beyond our control.)
The title above is from the comedian Steven Wright. Mark Twain said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles . . . by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” I say that when you want something true and substantial when worrying is getting the best of you, look to Philippians. Sermon over.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 4:6–7