When You’re Tired of Worry and What-Ifs

August 9, 2013 | 45 comments

It happened the day the ladder collapsed from underneath my favorite farmer, inside a grain bin.

I didn’t even want to ask how far he fell when he came limping into the house that afternoon. We thanked God he wasn’t hurt worse. I handed him an ice pack from the freezer. And then I went to the other side of the house and began to make a pathetic trade: I exchanged my heart of praise for a yoke of worry.

I stared out the bedroom window, with my heart up in my throat. I sunk into the pit of  “what if.”

What if he’d broken his legs? What if he gets hurt worse another day? What if my favorite farmer became one of the  scary statistics? I stood at that window, and before long, I was in tears …. imagining with horror his funeral, the long walk down the center aisle of the church, envisioning pallbearers for a funeral that wasn’t even happening …. and wondering how I’d raise children without their father.

Worry is the noose of what-ifs, wrapped around the neck of peace.

It is an executioner, and it is a peace-killer.

Why is it so easy for us to live in the what-ifs, rather than the what’s real? Why do we dwell in the impossible what-ifs? 

What if my child gets hurt?

What if this afternoon’s list of layoffs includes my name?

What if hoped-for love never comes?

What if the lump is cancerous?

What if I fail?

What if I can’t make it through tomorrow? And what if tomorrow never comes?

What if another ladder falls?

ladder

We race into tomorrow before tomorrow is here, and we stand at our windows, staring blankly through tears at the clouds, and we worry about falling ladders and falling skies. We neglect the gift of now. *I* neglect the gift of now.

Worry is believing in worst-case scenarios. Randy Alcorn calls it “momentary atheism crying out for correction by trust in a good, sovereign God.”

thorns

 

clouds

Iowa barn, Lyon county

So, then, what if we replaced our faithless what-ifs, with faith-filled what-is? 

What if we worshipped more and worried less? Worry is the weapon of the enemy. And the weapon against worry is worship.

What if we actively fought back the IF, with praise for what IS?

What if we anticipated the best? And what if we saw each fear as an open invitation to pray instead of fret?

What if we remembered that worry is the work of the deceiver, and victory is the work of the cross?

Maybe we could refuse to let tomorrow’s worry be the thief of today’s joy.  Maybe we could remember that so much of our worry is a fiction of events that will never, ever happen.

And yes, some of our worst worries do come to pass. You and I are not naive to the pain of tragedy. We’ve lived it. But what did Jesus say? “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

At the bedroom window,  I have to do the hard work of reversing my worry, turning it into worship. I recall what the Israelites did: They set up stones. They remembered what God had already done, … and those stones can always remind us where God already IS.

Maybe I could remember that whatever lies ahead, God is already there? And He doesn’t wait for on on the other side of today, but He’s walking all the way there with me.

That’s far more accurate than a “what if.” That’s the truth of what is. And what shall be.

I turn away from the window of what-if and hypothetical wondering, and it’s not always easy to turn… But I do. I thank God for the gift of this moment — and for the second ice pack in the freezer.

And the clouds, at last, lift.

* * *

John Ortberg once said that “one of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend… The simple act of reassurance from another human being [becomes] a tool of the Spirit to cast out fear — because peace and fear are both contagious.” – John Ortberg

 

“Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is.” ~ Ann Voskamp

 

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” ~ Harry A. Ironside

by | August 9, 2013 | 45 comments

45 Comments

  1. Anita Hunt (@KnowingJoy)

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you for your lovely hope-filled post, being real with one another in our struggles and looking to our Saviour as we help each other lift our heads. You helped lift my head today, I am really struggling today after God blessing me, showing me what He wants me to focus on, I have had a day of various people placing discouragement on my path and have been battling with myself as I seek a place of worship to overcome those feelings that drag us down. Thank you for blessing me today. xx

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Anita … Praying for you now, as I write this message to you, that God continues to lift your head, and lift your eyes to find His. I am right with you … trying to look past to the what-ifs, and really focus on what IS.

      And the truth is: We are His.

      Reply
      • Anita

        Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement 🙂

        Reply
  2. Julie

    Thank you, I love this and it is so very true!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Julie, for being here.

      Reply
  3. Jen Gunning

    “What is!”….the banner I’m so desperately in need of lately!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Waving that banner with you, Jen. What. IS!!!

      Reply
  4. Heather Eggert

    Sheesh. Good stuff. Thank you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      So glad to have you here, Heather.

      Reply
  5. Nancy Kourmoulis

    Jennifer – Thank you!!! “Worry is the noose of what-ifs, wrapped around the neck of peace…. I have to do the hard work of reversing my worry, turning it into worship.” Writing your words down next to these I recently read … “If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate. It means to think of something over and over. Meditation on God’s Word is one of the major ways you can find deliverance from worrying.” Joyce Meyer

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Nancy …. good sister. So glad to have your words here in the comment box. Love that Joyce Meyer quote!

      Reply
  6. kazzeo

    I worry. I worry about the things and the people that matter. Otherwise it would not be called loving one another. I’m a worry wart. O dear. Good post btw.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I think the human default is to worry. I need the power of the Holy Spirit to redirect. Thanks for your continued encouragement and friendship, kazzeo.

      Reply
  7. Michelle

    Living with a physical illness can set the scene for a boatload of worry. I have come to realize that God has not given me the grace to deal with things in the future. His grace is for today. Not tomorrow. Not a future diagnosis. Not a future accident. It is for today, this very second. It helps me “bounce” those thoughts out of my head, into the future where they belong. I will share this on my page.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Michelle … It sounds like you are living this one, big-time. Praying for God’s grace in every What Is, and in every What If.

      Reply
  8. Holly

    I think my worrying increased when the girls were born, but as they showed anxiousness about different things, I learned to pray them – and me – through those times. We still do that. As stubborn as my heart can be to let go of the worry, God’s faithfulness is strong and brings peace. Thank you for your wonderful words of the reality of caring for others and the truth that we all share in this world of worries. But also a great reminder that He is so worthy of our trust and praise!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Holly. Agreed. Parenting ratcheted up my own worry-o-meter. At the same time, it keeps me on my knees. I know that “worry” is not from God, but it surely keeps me close to Him.

      Reply
  9. Lorretta @Dancing On The Dash

    I can not tell you how timely this is for me. I’m not facing a specific scenario but boy can I ever get caught in the downward spiral of worry. It only takes a skinny minute for a seed of doubt to sprout into a choking vine of worry. We need one another. We do, like you said, need to voice and be reminded.. to build altars and raise our Ebeneezer remember “hitherto and thus far” the Lord has been faithful. Bless you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I really liked what Ortberg said about disclosing your worry to a friend. I can’t even begin to count how many times that very act of disclosure has relieved my anxiety. Some call it “talking a friend off a cliff.” So yeah. I’ve been a cliff-dweller now and then. 🙂

      Reply
  10. livingrealblog

    Very timely as I’m in the midst of something that is working, with all it’s ugly force, to plunge me into despair and worry! Although I temporarily slip into it, I refuse to stay there. When I read “fear not” in scripture, I normally read it this way “fear/worry not” because the two are evil twins.This line is so powerful Jennifer: Worry is the noose of what-ifs, wrapped around the neck of peace.

    I mentioned your last post on my blog today as one of my weekly Fri Faves.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      So honored for your mention on your blog, friend. Grateful… The line about the noose? Came to me last night, around 3 a.m. Woke up in a panic over something; felt like I couldn’t breathe. And that’s what it felt like — a noose.

      Reply
  11. Linda Chontos

    This is one of those life lessons I seem to have to learn over and over again Jennifer – but perhaps a little less frequently these days. So many of the “what ifs” have happened, but I have discovered that He never changes. He is there; He is faithful; He is so trustworthy.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Dearest Linda … I owe you an email. I have thought and prayed for you again and again these last two days. Love to you, friend.

      Reply
  12. Diane Bailey

    Jennifer, what Fabulous Quotes! I love them. And Yes, What if God is who He says He is…then worry becomes obsolete.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Diane — I stumbled upon the Ortberg one today, and it really struck a chord with me. I have been rescued from worry by friends to whom I disclosed my deepest anxieties. Grateful for people like that in my life. And I pray I am that kind of friend in return.

      Reply
  13. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    I’ve heard those stats, and they are scary indeed. I can see why you worried it out all the way to the end. And yet–as someone who excels at worst-case scenarios–my priest recently counseled me that doing so is giving into temptation. I can’t always get to prayer in those worry-filled moments, but I can at least redirect my thoughts.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      “worried it out all the way to the end.” … That’s it exactly. And the part about temptation? Agreed. Worry is a definite giving-in to the temptation.

      Lord, led us NOT into it, but deliver us…

      Reply
  14. Lynn Morrissey

    It looks as if worry is the subject of discussion at the Lee house this weekend. I read Lydia’s post and greatly appreciated her wisdom, as I do yours! I like how you both take fear by the scruff of the neck and pray it away. My husband was in a car accident two days ago, and I always worry that this will happen when he is away on a business trip. I praise God that he is ok. But my worrying about it didn’t cause the accident; nor did it spare him injury. It’s God who held him in His hand. All my worry did was waste time–time I could have been trusting God (so my worrying was also sinful). I’m so glad your husband is fine, Jennifer! (I’ve imagined that funeral scenario too–but let’s not compare notes). And next time you think of those ladders, I pray it will be to remember, with Jacob, the angels of God ascending and descending on them, and to remember what He said to Jacob: “I am the Lord . . . Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go . . . for I will not leave you.” Oh how I thank you for your honest sharing, and for your wisdom that is so comforting and freeing. Bless you, dear one!
    Love
    Lynn

    Reply
    • Jillie

      Oh Lynni…I am so sorry to hear that Michael was in an accident! I give Thanks that he is all right!
      I too, have done the “funeral scenario” in my head, sometimes when my husband is late arriving home after work. It’s a terrible place to be, and I have to remind myself that God has us in the palm of His hand. I sometimes panic, wondering what I would ever do if anything happened to my husband. I wouldn’t know the first thing about taking care of this old house all by myself. But God is good. Although we have no guarantee of tomorrow, we know The One who walks with us through whatever the future holds, amen? Give Michael my best?

      Reply
      • Lynn Morrissey

        Jillie, I know that you and I have discussed this before. I’m the same as you (I know beans about taking care of our home and other things). I always make Michael promise that I may die first. I always wonder why families just can’t go skipping off to heaven together! But you’re right. Jennifer is right. Worry will get us nowhere (and if fact, will only make us sick and doubting). We must trust the Lord, who loves us and who promises never to leave us, to care for us. Thank you for expressing your concern. I will tell Mike. It’s good to have him home!
        Love
        Lynni

        Reply
    • dukeslee

      First of all, Lynn, I’m so sorry about your husband’s accident. How frightening for you both. I appreciate what you say here about worrying not sparing him injury. As my own husband says, “God’s got it.”

      Yes. Lydia and I are singing from the same hymnal this week. She read my post this morning, and said, “Mom, I’ve got to blog.” While writing, she asked me from the other room, “Mom, are you the one who came up with the saying, ‘Let go and let God?’ or was that someone else?” … “No babe,” I said. “That was someone else.”

      🙂

      Reply
      • Lynn Morrissey

        Thank you for your kind words about Michael, Jennifer, and I am so very glad about your husband! God has them both, indeed!I can just picture you and Lydia duetting your words on the screen! How precious (and how darling that she thinks her mom is the inventor of famous quotations! 🙂 Sheridan and I sang a Mendelssohn duet in church last Sunday. Oh the joy of doing things together!

        Reply
  15. Jillie

    Dear Jennifer…I am so glad and thankful that your favourite farmer was not seriously injured, or worse! This post is such a good reminder re worry and worship! Because I “tend” to be a worrier, I am filing this in my archives to read whenever I am in need of this reminder. Thank you Jennifer. Excellent, as always!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, friend. We are grateful, too.

      Reply
  16. Lisa Buffaloe

    Wow! Awesome post, Jennifer. Amazing truth. Thank you!

    I’m sharing with friends, family, and on my social sites. Thank you, sweet Jennifer.

    Hugs and blessings to you,

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks for sharing, and for leading by example in choosing faith first, over worry. You inspire!

      Reply
  17. Elizabeth Stewart

    I needed this post. That quote by Randy Alcorn pierced my heart.

    Reply
  18. Lois D

    I found your site from a picture posted on FB via Women Living Well. “Worry is the weapon of the enemy. And the weapon against worry is WORSHIP.” That’s awesome. Thanks for being candid – we can all relate.

    Reply
  19. Sidda

    I struggle with worry on a daily basis, living with an addicted adult child, hearing of overdose deaths weekly and afraid that every time he leaves the house he may become a statistic. Even with my faith in God and prayer this worry will not leave until once again I know he is alive for another day.

    Reply
  20. Mindy

    Thank you for such an encouraging post. I have often sunk into the pit of the “what if’s” and have burried my poor husband more than once! Thankful God caputures my wandering mind and brings me back to Him. In the best of times or worst God is our constant, our hope, our peace.

    Reply
  21. Leanne

    I spotted the image on your Facebook feed, just when I needed it, recovering from a freakout moment (that lingers and lingers). Just focusing on God and praising and adoring him with a small touch of asking for help and forgiveness pretty much did the ticket.

    Reply
  22. Lea

    Awesome post Jennifer and “hit the nail on the head” for me too. Not so sure why we are usually so quick to worry instead of being quick to trust. Blessings to you!

    Reply
  23. Pam Enderby

    This is soooo true! As my husband faces surgery, I’m practicing “thanksgiving,” giving no space for worry and “what ifs.”

    Reply
  24. Barbie

    Having a husband on extended unemployment, losing our home, selling our cars, I worry often about the finances. “What if I can’t provide for our children?” “What if something happens to me and I can’t work?” “What if we never get out of debt?” I am learning to let go and trust God, even in this hard season of our lives. Worry is definately the noose around the neck of peace. The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. I have to hold on to joy!

    Reply
  25. Debby Ray

    Jennifer,

    I accidently came upon your blog today while I on someone else’s. I say “accident” but actually, I don’t think was at all. Before I read through the post about worry, I noticed the sign or poster on your blog that said. “Worry is the weapon of the enemy. And the weapon against worry is WORSHIP.” It hit me like a slap in the face! That is so very true! I also know that from my own personal experiences that it is true but to see it like that, written out in big, bold print…OH. MY. GOODNESS. Thanking God I found your blog today 🙂

    Reply

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