They say don’t worry about things you have no control over—whoever they are. Don’t worry. Don’t stress. It’s all good. But is it? I’m not convinced brushing off our anxious thoughts is the best approach. There must be a better way. Better than working hard not to worry. Better than pretending things are okay when they’re not. Better than trying not to feel when it hurts, or putting on a brave face when clearly, what you’re facing is tough. Better than being constantly overwhelmed by fearful thoughts.
God knows we struggle with worry. That’s why he tells us, “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?” (Matthew 6:25)
We could spend an entire lifetime dreading events or outcomes that never occur, stressing over all the parts we can’t control. But these moment-by-moment choices in our thinking end up comprising our lifetime. Why would we knowingly waste our life on worry? We may try to dismiss the stresses and struggles—or drown them out—but unfaced worry has a way of bubbling to the surface.
So how do we deal with stress and anxiety?
What if instead of burying, dismissing, or being mastered by our stress, fear, and anxiety, we face them? Acknowledge they exist? Look them in the eye and give them a name, instead of ignoring the ever-growing elephant in the room or giving it too much power over us? What if instead of feeding ourselves platitudes to get through, we—in an act of fierce courage and self-care—stop and take an honest look at what’s troubling us and then do something about it?
We weren’t meant to excuse our cares and concerns, neither were we meant to drag them around. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” We can acknowledge our stresses, tell God about them, and release them to him. Instead of ignoring our problems or repeatedly telling ourselves not to worry, we haul that pile of worry—in its various forms—to God. And in the handing over, the confessing it’s too heavy for us alone, we allow God to help us carry our burden.
As we offload our cares, we feel lighter, more peaceful. The problems may not disappear, but we have help and an adjusted perspective to work through them. In this way, we proactively face them, and like most things we pay attention to and give a concerted effort toward, they begin to positively shift.
Often, we have little control over the source of our stress, but we do have control over our attitude toward it. We can tackle stress and anxiety by training our brains to take responsibility for our thought patterns. Though we may not be able to fix the problem, we can fix our thinking. Instead of dwelling on negative thought patterns, we refuse to allow these toxic, fearful thoughts to dominate our thinking. When we bring our problems to God and ask for his help to manage our habitual ways of thinking, we have hope and power to overcome stress and anxiety.
In Matthew 6 we read, “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 6:33-34). We come to understand that the best way to deal with stress and anxiety is to purposely hand our cares over to God, discipline our thought life, and most importantly, seek God above all else.
With God’s help and presence, we find a place for our worries and rest for our souls. We can live light, unhindered, free of the weight of worries, and make no allowance for frivolous, fearful thinking. Life-giving thoughts and actions begin to prevail and create spacious places for joy and love to pour into moments and into the lives of others. A life lived undistracted by worrisome thoughts and paralyzing fear. One of freedom and purpose. A life lived leaning into God.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3