“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27 (NIV)
I spent the majority of the week in the bathroom. Not because of some horrible virus or something I ate. Instead, a situation at work was causing me extreme anxiety. I had control over what was in my files, but I had no control over how the files would be critiqued or my performance would be judged. I worried myself sick until the entire experience was over.
And guess what? Everything turned out fine. I left work with a sense of relief it was over and as I was driving home, a phrase popped into my mind: “I will not try and exercise control over things that are out of my control.”
I thought to myself, “Wow, that was wise!”
I felt like it must have been the Holy Spirit talking because such wisdom is unusual for me. I might need to have this phrase tattooed to my forehead so I can remember it. But then people would actually hold me to it and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready for that!
Maybe that’s you, too.
Perhaps you worry about work like I do, or maybe a family member with an illness, a friend making negative decisions, or that person you really want to accept Christ who seems to have their ears glued shut. Maybe you spend hours worrying about hurtful words spouted out in a moment of anger. You wish you could take them back, but you can’t. Or maybe you made a bad decision you regret, but you can’t shake the consequences.
Regardless of what we spend time worrying about, I think we can all agree that worrying is rarely, if ever, an effective way to spend time.
Matthew 6:27 says, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
The answer, of course, is no. But we choose to worry anyways. Like much of God’s instruction from the Bible, we might memorize it and even quote it to others, but struggle to apply it ourselves. So why do we worry when we know all it does is cause us more grief?
Often when we worry, we are grasping for control. We cycle situations through our brains in hopes of having authority over the outcome or try to plan what will happen. But usually no matter how much we agonize, nothing changes.
Worry and its partner, desired control, can consume our lives unless we make it stop. But how?
What if we created a daily worry time and space? I have done this myself, and as a professional counselor I have suggested it to many of my clients. And guess what? It works! But only if we use it.
Let’s set boundaries on our anxiety rather than let it stomp all over us. It sounds counter-intuitive, but by actually being cognizant and purposeful with worry we can reduce it.
So what could a worry time and space look like?
- Select 15-20 minutes each day to worry. That’s it!
- Keep a worry journal throughout the rest of the day. When you begin to worry, jot it down (or make a note on your phone) and save it for your worry time
- During your worry time go through your list of worry items. Decide which items you do and don’t have control over. You can make a plan of action for the items you have some control over. However, the items you do not have control over are to be prayed about and turned over to the Lord.
- Write action plans and prayer items in your worry journal as well. That way you can track of what God has taken care of for you and the action steps you plan to take. Eventually you’ll be shocked how your worry journal begins to look more like a prayer journal.
And guess what else Matthew 6 contains? The Lord’s Prayer! In the same space Jesus tells us not to worry, He teaches us to pray. That’s no accident. If we are truly releasing our cares to the Lord, worry and control are obsolete. His plans are far greater than our own. He controls the wind, the waves, and keeps the earth turning on its axis. Certainly we can trust Him with our cares, concerns and worries, both big and small.
When we choose to set limits on worry and stop trying to exercise control, we free ourselves to enjoy trusting God and watching His mighty hand at work.
Dear Lord, help us set limits on worry and stop trying to manage life events beyond our control. Release our hearts and minds to see and understand your purpose and plans that we may feel your perfect peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.