Trying to stop worrying - and what finally worked for me

I am a worrier. I suspect I am not alone in worrying about things which don't need to be worried about. For the longest time, I used to grapple with this problem. From a spiritual standpoint, we should not worry about things that are not significant in the big picture. Worrying can indicate a lack of faith or too much preoccupation with the things of this world.

In theory, Christians should not worry, because the important thing is that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sins so we could have everlasting life with God and Jesus in heaven. Everything else should pale in comparison.

But what happens when the things of this world do not pale in comparison to Jesus's sacrifice? I know that this is a big problem for me.

For a long time I would try to use the verse in Matthew which exhorts us not to worry.  This is indeed an extremely helpful verse (see below), but I could not seem to let myself put it to use. After reading and re-reading this verse, I would berate myself for worrying, but I didn't seem able to have the discernment to recognize when I was worrying pointlessly.

“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?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

As much as I loved this verse - and still do - I simply could not seem to apply the forethought to use it as a preventive tool.

During my second re-reading of the Bible, I was reading the part about when Jesus and the disciples were in a boat. In this situation, Jesus was very tired from having taught people, and fell asleep. A big storm started happening, and the disciples started fearing for their lives. Because of this fear, they woke Jesus.

On the evening of that same day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they left the crowd; the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. Other boats were there too. Suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the waves began to spill over into the boat, so that it was about to fill with water. Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, don't you care that we are about to die?”

Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

But they were terribly afraid and began to say to one another, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Mark 4:35-41

In that situation, I started wondering. If I were in a boat with Jesus (and assuming I knew he was the our Savior), would I have felt scared? Well, maybe I would have, I admit! But, if I ask the question "Should I have felt scared?" the answer would have been "No way!" My rationale was that if Jesus felt secure enough to be asleep, then if I was in the boat, then by definition I should feel 100% safe too. 

I then asked myself the question, if the sea was my life and the boat was whatever problem I was experiencing in my life, and if Jesus was asleep would Jesus be "waking up" for this problem? I realized that in 99.9% of my "problems", I was sure that Jesus would not need to be waking up for this.

What this made me realize is that my so-called problems were not actually problems at all. They were extremely minor concerns that can come with a first-world lifestyle. I have "first-world problems" - which are not problems at all. They are things like "Will I have enough space in the refrigerator for all the extra food I need for our house guest's stay?" without even bothering to be first thankful for the fact that a) I have sufficient money to actually buy the extra food at the grocery store and b) that I have a car that I can use to get to the store and back without needing to walk for a long time and carry all my purchases with me.

So, imagining I am on a boat with Jesus and posing the question "Should I try to wake up Jesus for this?" has turned out to be a good way to help me discern whether I really have an actual problem or not. Also, it has saved me a lot of needless worry: once I realize that this is something Jesus wouldn't worry about, it makes it clear to me that I don't need to spend time or energy worrying about it either.

The difficult part for me is not to fall off the bandwagon. It can be so easy to fall back into bad habits. I'm hoping that by writing this, I will continue to be more mindful about whether any particular concern I have is a real problem or not. It was wonderfully freeing when I stopped the pointless worrying, so I'm hoping I can continue that.


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