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.


  1. Deb says:

    Good morning Julie! Such a good column today and so timely too. I loved this statement in our latest commentary: It may take a resolute act of the will to turn your head from anxiety to think about God’s goodness, but it can be done.
    I think I’ll email Kyle and have him log on to today’s entry as just last night he voiced concern about job security. Actually, I will copy and paste this whole page to him in an email. 🙂
    Amen to your statement – practice something that brings peace rather than despair!!!
    Love you!

  2. Just Julie says:

    I loved that quote in our CBS lesson too Deb. Thank you for your comments and for reading. 🙂

  3. Tauni says:

    I am so glad you shared this Julie. I have always been a consumate worrier as well. As a matter of fact, it was a small action on the part of a former brother-in-law many years ago that brought to the forefront how much I truly worry. He gave me a little bag of tiny “worry people” as a gift. His gift was meant to help and was given with love and it did make me realize how much my worrying over major and minor things impacts others. So, I have done a couple of things to help me worry less and rely on God more. I too started to pray each time I began worrying. And to help me keep from taking it back I made my self a basket (with ribbons of course, cuz it had to be cute) and labled it my “For God Basket” and used it much like an “in-box” at work. This was for the things I kept taking back after giving them to God. I found if I wrote the “worry” on a piece of paper, folded it and placed it in the basket I was less likely to take it back. It worked, and in total honesty, I no longer worry about things. It has become so much of a habit to give it to God in prayer that I almost don’t think about it anymore, I just do it. I do sometimes feel overwhelmed but never worried. In fact, as I was packing up my house this past month I read all the little pieces of paper I had put in the basket (which I haven’t used in a couple of years) and realized that God has truly met every need; all my bills got paid, I did not go hungry, had a roof over my head, and Curt & I are still employed. He is faithful to keep us close if we allow Him to! Mama ~ I hope you are reading this! Tauni

  4. Just Julie says:

    Tauni, what you have shared here is awesome. I think I am going to take this a step further and do the basket thing you’ve described! I might make it a box, I don’t know, but I think this idea is brilliant and inspired. I would like to know what others think of this too. Maybe we should have an experiment – for the month of March, all of us who stop by this blog have a “For God Basket,” and faithfully approach our worries/concerns the way you’ve shared. And then report back at the end of the month to see if it has made a difference in our lives (as if it wouldn’t!). Any thoughts about this anyone?

  5. Deb says:

    What a most excellent idea! Coupling an intangible desire with a visible act would certainly strengthen my resolve!

  6. Jessica says:

    Julie- I am also a complete worrier with anxiety and worry being a way that Satan attacks me on a regular basis. I had this even as a kid but it got HUGE when I had my own kids. I have been working on using scripture verses to combat this and I will hop on board with the basket/box idea!!! And hey, making a container for this will be a great excuse to get in my craft room for a few hours!! Thanks for your inspiring post!!

  7. Just Julie says:

    I’m so glad we have a couple of takers already and that you’re one of them, Jessica! I will be thinking on this and will let you know what month we go with. I’m excited to do this with blog friends. You are a blessing…

  8. Sue Raimo says:

    I like the Box idea. In the past couple of years I have come to greatly value worshiping with signs and symbols. Tangibly writing down my concerns as they come and putting them in the God Box will for me be an act of faith. I’m in!

  9. Just Julie says:

    Yay – we’re going to be a good group. I’ll keep you posted, Sue! Thank you…

  10. Abigail says:

    What a timely reminder for me. I, too, am a worrier. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  11. Anne Marie says:

    Yes, my beautiful Daughter, Tauni! I’m reading it . . and thanks to the two of you for reminding me how valuable my long ignored God Box is to me. When you pulled a note to God from your For God Basket a few days ago, Tauni, I thought of my God Box. Yepa! I will locate this box . . hmmm . . begin this habit once again, and become more pro-active in my own recovery!!! I love you, Ladies! Blessings…

  12. Tauni says:

    I am excited that a few have been inspired! Keep me posted on the progress ladies. You have all taken one giant step towards incapacitating the enemy!

  13. Just Julie says:

    Tauni, I think I’m going to invite people to officially do this for the month of March. I’ll talk more about it soon, to give people a chance to prepare. I’m full of ideas and look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you!

  14. Tauni says:


  15. Dorothy Sooter says:

    I have been fighting this worrying thing for years. I have prayed in desperation and God has helped me get through the night but didn’t realize how ‘putting my notes in a box’ could really help my sleeping. Thank you all for your comments and will join you in fighting off the devil.

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