That’s a fun anonymous quip, but unfortunately it’s true. In our minds we think worry takes us somewhere “good” but actually it’s fruitless and powerless. Many times we don’t even want to worry but it seems to overwhelm us. We wonder why.
In this particularly fearful time of the pandemic, let’s look at some reasons why we worry.
Worry comes from believing I know what’s best
MOTIVE: I don’t like feeling I’m not smart.
Many times when I worry, I’m basically believing I know better than God.
There was a time in my life when I worried about my children. I reasoned they were young and vulnerable. Plus, I believed any difficulty was not good for them. I justified my worry by calling it prayer and then told God what to do. I thought being a good mom meant convincing God shouldn’t give challenges to my children.
In time, I was able to have a heart change of trusting God enough to believe He intends good through every challenge every person faces, even my children! It was hard to let go and diminish worrying but over time I could focus on the truth which brought peace. I really began to believe James 1:2-4:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Interestingly, a few verses later, James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
I truly believe that every challenge, trial, and difficulty is a “good” gift. We just have to learn to define “good” the same way God does–as for our best because we are drawing closer to God’s loving heart when He provides, strengthens, and assures us of heaven.
Worry helps me feel powerful
MOTIVE: I don’t like feeling out of control.
I grew up hearing, “Why, of course worry works. What I worry about doesn’t happen.” It’s a humorous saying but it shows how we’re trying to impotently control circumstances rather than trusting the most powerful potentate there is. The next time you are tempted to worry, ask God, “Am I demanding my own way to feel powerful?” Many of us grew up feeling voiceless. Feeling powerful seems to make sure we’ll be heard.
But worrying doesn’t really bring us the ability to speak the truth in love. It only paralyzes our feelings and thoughts. We can let go of worry by knowing God hears our deepest longings and promises to do what is best for us.
Worry helps me feel included
MOTIVE: I don’t like feeling left out.
When something threatening occurs to those I love and I’m not being included, Satan whispers, “I guess they don’t think you’re very important.” Without examining my heart’s motives, I text or email and say, “I was worried about you,” with the hope they’ll respond.
Now I’m realizing I’m looking to another person to provide the affirmation of my importance rather than God. I’m depending upon another for what God wants to provide. He’s the only One who can provide it perfectly. Other people will always fail me at some point.
Worry helps me feel helpful
MOTIVE: “I don’t like feeling left out” with a twist.
I can say I was a part of God’s provision or protection. After all, didn’t I pray for this very thing? Of course I was actually worried but it’s better to say, “I prayed for you.”
I may tell others I’ve been praying but if it’s motivated by worry, I might be expecting someone to point out the powerful prayer partner I’ve been. Then I should really admit I expect them to say, “Thank you for worrying.”
My grandmother often said to me, “Kathy, I was worried about you.” I never felt very supported by her words. I wanted to hear her say, “Kathy, I prayed for you.” I’ll never forget the day when that is what she said. I’ve never forgotten it even though it’s been over five decades ago.
In each of these situations, the Holy Spirit is eager to reveal our motives and empower us to resist worry.
Pay attention to what’s motivating you and consciously rehearse God’s faithfulness, power, and sovereignty. He is big enough to fight for you. No need to worry. He knows exactly how He intends to bring good for you and glory for Himself.
(This is an adapted excerpt from my book Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory.)