The Flip Side of Worry
I’m going to take a deep breath now and admit something. Here we go…
I’m a worrier.
Well, maybe I can’t use the word “admit”, because I’m not sure it counts as an admission if everyone who has ever known you responds with, “yeah, obviously.” In either case, I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying- about my family, our future, what to make for supper, whether my plants are dying (they usually are)… Anything my mind can catch hold of.
I’ve read the verses about worry in the Bible but I never seem to internalize them the way I know I need to. But recently I was reading a devotional and the writer quoted Rick Warren when he said, “Surprisingly, if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate on the Word of God. Worry is when you take a negative thought and think on it over and over and over. When you take a passage of Scripture and think on it over and over and over, that’s called meditation.”
I have always wanted to be someone who takes time to meditate on scripture, someone who opens my heart and lets the truth of God’s goodness seep into every part of my life. But I usually end up distracted and frustrated, eventually abandoning the effort altogether. Why? Because I’m too busy worrying!
Warren’s words jolted me into the realization that worry and meditation are really two sides of the same coin; if I can do one, I can do the other. The only difference is what I choose to focus on. It’s like mentally standing at the fork in the road, one path leads to worry, stress, and exhaustion, the other to freedom and rest in Christ. The choice seems so obvious, but in our human weakness we so often meander down the path of worry, of thinking we have to control everything in our lives and worrying about the ways it will fall apart.
The power of these thoughts is mentioned throughout the Bible, like in Philippians 4, where verse 8 says:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent and praiseworthy- think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
I find that during times when I am able to consciously focus on the good in my life and in the lives of my loved ones, my worry is diminished. When my mind is occupied with these praiseworthy things I begin to relax and trust that I don’t have to control it all. After all, I was not the one responsible for that gorgeous sunset, for blessing my friends with a healthy new baby, for calming my heart in the midst of grief.
Similarly, storms, famines, and illnesses all take place with no regard for how much sleep I have lost worrying about them. Both beautiful things and terrible things will happen regardless of what takes place inside my brain, the only thing these thoughts affect is my attitude.
Like so many things, this is a lesson I need to learn over and over again. I am diligent in patrolling my thoughts for a while, then life gets busy and worry creeps back in and takes over. But with Rick Warren’s lesson fresh in my mind, I will try again to flip my worry on its head. My new goal is turn it into meditation on the word of God, either throughout the day or in a particular moment, and in the process to set my mind free to experience beauty instead of expecting the worst.
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