Coping With Worry

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Coping With Worry

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“Edith,” Walter scowled, “you have got to stop worrying so much. You worry all the time! You worried about Tom failing high school. You worried that the girls would marry deadbeat husbands who wouldn’t provide for them. You worried about the car breaking down during our vacation. You even worried about dying of pneumonia when you had the flu last spring. You worried about all of these things, and none of them happened!” “See!” Edith exclaimed. “It worked!” How many of us are like Edith? Sometimes we lose sleep and jeopardize our health over events that may or may not ever occur, and often we find ourselves distraught over situations we cannot control. Worrying takes up a great deal of our time and energy. But, when we stop to consider the subject, why do we spend so much time and energy worrying? Do we gain anything by worrying? Winston Churchill once stated: “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.” Why do we allow ourselves to worry so much? I have discovered three main reasons we worry. Blaming ourselves For many of us who are wives and mothers, worrying takes on a life of its own. I call this the “could have, should have, and wish I would have” syndrome. We fear that the way we handled our lives in the past, particularly when it came to our children, was the cause of the problems and sorrows our families face today. In short, we lack confidence in ourselves and our roles as women. We tend to blame ourselves for problems our loved ones are facing, and we believe that, had we been better mothers, they would not be facing them. This is particularly true when our children are involved. The scenario is a familiar one. A son (or daughter) is not doing well in school. We discover he is not going to class or not completing his homework and is in jeopardy of failing a class. We talk to him, try to help him, sometimes pray about the situation-and we begin to nag him into oblivion. But he doesn’t listen. Then the sleepless nights begin. We become preoccupied with helping him do better in class. This becomes the only topic of discussion we have with him. As a result, he begins to avoid talking to us, and a gulf develops between him and us. His grades still do not improve. Is worrying doing something? Another reason many of us worry so much can be illustrated by a situation that occurred in my family. My daughter had car trouble and had to park her vehicle alongside a road. As my younger son and I rushed to find out what had happened, I noticed that he was fretting. As I told him not to worry, and that she was surely going to be fine, he made a revealing request. “Please don’t make me stop worrying,” he pleaded. “I have to do something!” That, to me, was interesting. When we are busy worrying about something, we sometimes feel we are actually doing something about it. What we are really doing is using up valuable time and energy best used in some other way. Doing worrisome penance A third possible reason many of us worry is that, deep down inside, we feel that if we make ourselves miserable with worry maybe God will see how miserable we are and intervene for us. We punish ourselves, hoping that God will feel we have suffered enough and fix things for us. This is something we don’t consciously consider, but when you think about it that is what we are really doing. How do we begin to control our sometimes overwhelming fears when our families are going through trials? When our children seem to be headed the wrong way, how do we stop ourselves from spending endless sleepless hours fretting over the events in the lives of those we love when we are powerless to do anything constructive to help them? We can take one of two approaches that might help ease the strain of worry, help us learn to cope and allow our family members to come to grips with their problems. First of all, when in a like situation ask yourself, “Is there really anything else I can do to help improve the situation?” This is an important question, particularly when a child is involved. After you have prayed, after you have sought help from professionals, such as a teacher or minister, and after you have discussed all there is to talk about with the person involved (which is, quite often, a great deal more than you actually need to discuss), if there is truly nothing else you can do, then you should ask the second question: “What is the worst thing that can happen if this scenario that I fear actually becomes a reality?” The answer to this question, when really analyzed, is that the worst case would usually be significantly less of a disaster than we thought. Why can’t Johnny succeed? Let’s take the example of the high-school student who is not doing well in school. When Johnny’s mother first realizes that he is not doing homework or not attending class, she becomes upset. She talks with Johnny, with his teacher, with his father and perhaps with others whose opinion she values. Still, Johnny doesn’t take the matter seriously. He continually rejects her admonitions to improve. Then the cycle begins. Johnny’s mother nags, he balks, Mom worries, Johnny falters. His mother is worried that Johnny will fail in school. But wait. What if Johnny fails? What if he has to be held back a year? Would this be the terrible crisis that Mom is punishing herself nightly to avoid? Frankly, sometimes it is better to allow children like Johnny to reap the consequences of their actions. How will he face his classmates if he fails in school? What kind of a job can he get without an education? Some children seem to need to graduate from the school of hard knocks. Experience isn’t always the best teacher, but it can be an affective one. An important question still remains to be answered. If Mom is powerless to fix the situation, why does she spend so much of her life worrying about it? Of course, there are many problems that are more serious than the one mentioned above that our families must face. But the bottom line is similar. When we have done all we can do, and when we learn to focus on the probable end result, we can do nothing more, except allow God to teach what He will teach from the situation. Learning patience and trust That is where faith comes in, except we must realize that faith in God is far different from the faith we often have in ourselves. We are fallible, and God is not. He can, and does, bring from every situation something of greater value than we can ever discern on our own. These are lessons of character, not the least of which is patience and trust in Him. We know the Bible admonishes us in Matthew 6:25 Matthew 6:25Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
American King James Version×
not to worry “about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.” Verse 27 tells us that such worrying doesn’t really accomplish anything. If we believe God, then we have to realize that He is aware of everything that happens in the universe and aware of everyone to which these events happen. He allows us all to make wrong choices, fail and stand back up and go at it again. At times He intervenes and helps us along the way, but most of the time He allows us to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others so we develop greater depth of character from our failings. Life’s hazards, therefore, are not really failures, but lessons, and He loves us enough to allow us to learn them. God promises us in Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×
that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Maybe it is time for us to stop worrying so much about what we could have, should have and wish we would have and spend more time worrying about how to love God and seek His purpose-and allow our family members to learn from our experiences. GN

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