Shall I worry or pray?
February 2, 2010 | My Jottings
On my mother’s side of the family there was a long history of champion worriers. My mom could have displayed blue ribbons, trophies and gold medals for her noteworthy accomplishments in the Hand Wringing Olympics. Sometimes I think she worried about things just for the relief it would bring when what she had worried about didn’t come to pass. She would worry that a snowstorm would make the snow pile up in her driveway. Then she would cry with relief when volunteers would come and shovel the snow for her. She worried about getting her taxes done at least two months before tax season began. Then we would mail in the forms each year like we always did, and she was almost giddy from that burden being lifted.
I remember trying to comfort my mom and reminding her that worry didn’t help anything. I told her that it was only robbing her of today’s joy, and that God would take care of her and she could trust Him with her money and her snow. She knew in her head this was true, but somehow it never traveled down the highway to her heart. Worry seemed to be as much a part of my mom’s daily existence as dipping her buttered toast into her Taster’s Choice and Coffee-mate.
I also recall thinking to myself that I would never be a worrier like my mom, and while I don’t fret like she did, I have been a little disturbed to see some things pan out in my life just as they did in hers. At times I have thought that The Road To Becoming My Mother is a slippery slope indeed.
I have my mother’s forehead and the bunion on her right foot. I pluck at my coat with the same hand gesture she did, and I have a dormant artistic gene in me. I have her voice and her long femurs and ample hips, but I will not carry the worry torch that she unknowingly held so high.
I do think I’m predisposed to worry, partly due to seeing it modeled and mastered by my dear mom all my life. But for me, worrying isn’t a just an unproductive little side trip that leads to a detour through some back roads to nowhere. Worry can be a hellish hurtling into the darkest, foulest cave of doom. When I have given in to worry it has always been ruinous. So I have resisted worrying as much as is humanly possible, but have sometimes found that human strength just isn’t enough.
Last year I read in a book called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World that the author had struggled with worry for many years. She decided to break the worry habit by replacing each worry with a short prayer. Wow, I thought. Is it as simple as that?
In Community Bible Study last week I read and heard several times how effective it is to replace worry with prayer. It seems so obvious, so straightforward, especially for a believer, that prayer would be the better choice than fears and tears and sleepless nights.
So this is what I’m doing when little fears come knocking. I have decided to pray instead of worry. And it’s a good thing that one of God’s rules isn’t that prayers have to be perfect, or none of us would ever pray.
Here’s an example I’ve made up.
Your feet start hurting you a little bit every day and you wonder if arthritis is developing. Then you worry if you’ll have to give up that daily run and will start gaining weight because you’ll be getting less exercise, and then with less exercise you’ll get stiff and gain more weight and your feet will hurt more, and you won’t be able to sleep as well at night, and you’ll get crabby and alienate your friends and family, and your life won’t be worth living and you’ll sit in your house with the curtains closed and Days of Our Lives on, and you won’t answer the phone or trim your toenails anymore.
Or you could pray, “Lord my feet hurt! Will you touch me with your healing hand today? Help me keep going, and I give you thanks today that I can walk. I trust you with my life…Amen.”
I like the image of me bringing whatever it is that’s bothering me right to Jesus, and leaving it with Him. He has invited me to do that countless times, and I like the way things feel, the way things turn out, when I do that. As many of you know, sometimes we take things to the Lord only to find ourselves picking them up again. I may have to practice this relinquishment many times a day before trust completely replaces worry, but I’d rather practice something that brings peace than practice something that brings despair.
I am also aware that sometimes God chooses to answer our prayers in ways we don’t expect. Saying a prayer doesn’t automatically mean that everything we pray for will come to pass. But worry doesn’t get anything done either, and it doesn’t build faith or bring comfort or peace.
I like this saying: “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety, or with the handle of faith.”
Shall I worry or shall I pray?
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
I think I’ll pray.