Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. [Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)]
“Don’t worry, be happy,” sang Bobby McFerrin but, for many of us, that’s easier sung than done. The word “worry” comes from the old English “wyrgn” meaning “to strangle” which led to the Middle English meaning of “to seize by the throat and tear.” By the 17th century, “worry” also meant “to bother, distress or persecute” and now it means “to cause to feel anxious or distressed.” All of these meanings ring true. Worry can strangle us and keep us from taking action. It can actually seize and tear us apart by destroying our confidence, health and relationships. It certainly attacks our plans, intimidates us, and can hound our every thought. Fretfulness, sleepless nights, stress, and angst—all come from worry.
“Worrywart,” used to describe someone who worries excessively, especially about unimportant things, also has an interesting etymology. Some dictionaries trace its origin to a book written in 1956 that outlined problems in state mental hospitals where it was used to describe an especially delusional group of inmates. Other dictionaries trace the word further back to 1936 and a comic strip character called The Worry Wart. Oddly, Worry Wart wasn’t a worrier— his actions just caused everyone else to worry. Reasonable thinking abandoned the hospital inmates and, when we worry, reasonable thinking deserts us as well. Worry can take a simple problem and turn it into a major disaster, filling our minds with all sorts of horrible and improbable scenarios. Worse, when we worry, our behavior (like that of the original Worry Wary) can cause those around us their own stress and anxiety. Worry doesn’t just drive us crazy; it drives everyone around us crazy, as well!
Every day we have a choice; trust God or worry. When we’re unwilling to trust him to handle things, worry is the inevitable result. Since worry does nothing but rob us of a good night’s sleep, trust seems the better choice. Trusting God with the future, however, means ceding control of tomorrow to Him and that surrender is difficult if we secretly harbor the belief that we are the ones running the universe. Fortunately, we’re not—that’s God’s job, and His alone. Today, let’s hand Him our worries and choose to trust Him with our concerns.
Father, keep us from worry and from causing others to worry. Lighten our heavy hearts and the hearts of those around us. Help us all to release our concerns, burdens and fears to you. Fill us with your peace.
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength [Corrie ten Boom]
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. [Larry Eisenberg]