“I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” ~ Mark Twain
Years ago I ran across some fascinating statistics. Someone once conducted a lot of research and surveys, did some complicated in-depth analysis, and determined that of all the things we fear – of all the things we spend hours and hours worrying about:
40% will never happen
30% have already happened – things in the past you can’t change or undo
12% are health-related – ironic, since worry aggravates most health issues
10% are petty, random, miscellaneous
Leaving only 8% that are “legitimate” issues – which we’d have a lot more focus and energy and strength to address, if we weren’t wasting so much on all of the other ones!
The word “worry” comes from the Old English word “wyrgan,” which means “to strangle.” Later it became “worien,” which means to use your teeth to grab another creature by the throat – and kill it by shaking it to death. (Picture a wild dog or a wolf that’s caught hold of a sheep or some other small animal – they “worry” it to death.) When we worry, that’s what we do.
We ignore God’s admonishment to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), NOT to be anxious but to trust Him and to think on things that are true and right and lovely and pure (Philippians 4:6-8). Instead, we latch on to a negative thought or a bunch of negative thoughts. We grab them by the teeth and refuse to let go of them. We churn. We toss and turn. We shake them this way and that. From a distance it looks like we’re strangling them. But the truth is, they’re strangling us.
There are so many better things to do with our fears, our anxieties, our worries. So many more effective strategies to combat stress and distress. One of my favorites was shared years ago by Jill Briscoe in an article in Virtue magazine.
“I heard a lovely story of a little boy bending over some tulips in the park, totally oblivious as he smelled them. As he straightened up, a grown-up walking past heard him say, ‘Well done, God!’ And that’s what I do. I go over the lovely flowers in my life that God has grown out of trust. I say, ‘Well done, God!’ That’s great therapy for worry.”
If you haven’t already, start cultivating the garden of your heart. Find ways to help you remember who God is and what He has done for you. Use a journal or a scrapbook, your blog or Facebook page or a smartphone app to count your blessings and recount specific memories, specific events, in which God touched your heart or life. Take pictures. Write down details. Or record them. Make videos or slideshows. Create a visual representation you can keep in front of you, like a jar of colorful stones, each one with a significant date written on it. Whatever you do, make sure you share them with others.
When worry threatens to overwhelm you, stop and smell the roses…. not only to encourage and inspire your own heart, but the hearts of those around you!
For more on what to do when worry or stress or fear is weighing on you , see What Women Should Know About Facing Fear.