If you're anything like me, you worry.
And you worry often.
Not necessarily because you want to.
Not because there's a reason to either.
But because of the simple fact that worrying has become your operating system, your default. It's to the point where you're not fully satisfied unless you're worried about something. And, the more you hear things like, "worrying is irrational," and, for those of you who grew up in church, "worry should be turned into worship," the less you want to live a life that tolerates anxiety. You want to understand that worrying is stupid and useless, that it's the biggest waste of your time (because it is). But, when you have had so many moments where your worst nightmares became true, it's almost hard to believe that worrying is ineffective, as you may have always believed that worrying is the prerequisite of disaster. It gets harder to believe that obsessing over a potential issue is irrational when the very thing you've been worrying about actually turns into a big problem. We always talk about the "what if's" that don't happen, but what about the ones that do? Isn't it rational to worry about the problem we created in our imagination when it starts to become a giant in reality? And, isn't God supposed to stop that from happening? Yet, still He expects us to not worry when they do?
After all, He makes it clear in the Bible that He doesn't want us to.
Take a look:
"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? 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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” — (Matthew 6:25-27 NIV)
Another translation says: "Can any one of you by worrying add a single cubit to your height?" — (verse 27)
As someone who is 4'10", I was a tad bit offended.
It's a good question that Jesus asks, but I was at a point in my life where I wasn't sure how I should answer. Yes, I believed that worrying was a waste of time and my fingers were always crossed that there was no real reason why I should freak out, but sure enough! The thing that I had spent so much time worrying about actually happened.
I was shocked. Like, excuse me???
God, You gave all types of good reasons in the Bible why I shouldn't worry only for this to happen? You gave consent to the very thing I prayed You wouldn't allow?
So, when I heard things like, "worrying gets you no where," "trust God," and all of the things I knew to be true, I would think... really though? Because the last time I believed that, low and behold, my worst nightmare became true. The last time I prayed about it instead of worrying, the thing still happened. And I poured my heart out to God only to find out that the scenario I had played in my head over and over again became a reality.
Can anyone else relate?
Like, what if I really do get fired? I genuinely don't understand the course I'm taking. What if I really do fail the class? Whoa, hold on. I think I saw him talk to another girl today. What if he really does break up with me for her? Jesus, what if I do fall into temptation? What if they don't heal from the cancer?
What if this really is the last time I see them?
When God tells us not to worry in Matthew, did He consider these real concerns? Can't all of these things really come true? Because when I worry, I start by anxiously considering that it's not really going to happen. But, when it does occur, I never know what to believe. Did my worrying go to waste if it predicted the chaos? How could I be expected not to brood over something if it didn't work out the last time? Is God someone I can trust with my anxieties if He's only going to let them become alive? If I knew the worst was going to happen, and it did, don't I have the right to tell God, "I told You so"?
I know from experience that God will let me. He'll let me point my fingers at Him in blame, in hostility—all of my unanswered questions convincing me to stay anxious and worried, fearing of the next tragedy to erupt. He'll let me because He loves me and is attracted to my desperate need of figuring out the answer, needing to know why and how and when. He draws near when I don't understand why He'd let my biggest enemy give birth to my biggest fear. And the intimacy of His presence made me realize the result of every situation, whether I worry about it or not:
He's going to be with me regardless.
It's true that God tells us not to worry, even when we all can agree that there are many things to worry about. Yet, I realized that every time I'm in the thick of it, stuck—regardless of the move I make, God is right beside me—His shoulder offered to me to cry on and His strength far outshining my weakness.
And, that is exactly why God tells us not to worry.
Even if what we worry about comes true, He is going to be present through it all. He is the I AM, after all. He will be whatever we need Him to be. And, if He will be what we need Him to be while we experience even the worst situation, why worry about it to begin with? The truth is that that "worst situation" was going to happen whether or not you lost your mind over it, whether or not you worried about it. So, if it's going to happen regardless of how much worry you invest into it, why not save yourself some sleep? If what you're worried about is going to happen, and the Bible says not to worry about it, why not let it happen, trusting God in the process?
Think of it this way: Just because it came true doesn't mean everything isn't going to be okay.
Are you forgetting that God makes even dead things come back to life? You really think He can't handle your pain after a break-up? Your discouragement after a failed exam? Your insecurity after you lost your job? Your hurt after a loss in the family? The Bible doesn't say that some of the things you worry about aren't going to come true. The Bible just says not to worry, which means that even if what you're worried about comes true, you're going to be in good hands.
That's why when Jesus said worrying will not add a single moment to your life, He was saying whether or not what you worry about becomes true, He is going to protect you regardless. So, if you're going to keep moving, if you're going to keep going forward, you may as well not worry about it. It'll only stress you out and steal your sleep. Your worrying will neither encourage nor prevent what is going to happen. You may as well trust God instead. Because even if the guy does break your heart like you worried about him doing, the Bible says not to worry even then. Even if they don't heal from the disease, God encourages us to remain fearless. Whatever happens or doesn't happen, the Bible says, "Don't worry about it." And, if we are not to worry, that must mean we are going to be alright.
I've learned that I'm not going to get any happier, stronger, healthier or taller from panicking about it, so I may as well stop, even if it does come true. I've had my fair share of worrying over completely ridiculous scenarios, ones almost impossible to come true, and letting real concerns drive me straight into an anxiety attack, those concerns—sure enough—actually becoming a reality. Yet, the result was the same for both situations: God was there with me from beginning to end. And, if He's going to be with me in the end, I may as well not bother to worry from the beginning.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." — Jesus (John 16:33 NLT)