THE DESIGNATED WORRIER

Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them. They’ll keep your soul alive and well, they’ll keep you fit and attractive. You’ll travel safely, you’ll neither tire nor trip. You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry, you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep. No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner, Because God will be right there with you; he’ll keep you safe and sound. [Proverbs 3:21-26 (MSG)]

upland gorillaI have a friend who worries. Her husband says that even when she has nothing about which to worry, she worries about whatever next could go wrong long before it possibly can. He added that having a “designated worrier” has made his life much easier—while she worries, he can relax and enjoy himself! His comment made me remember a trip we took to the Cayman Islands nearly forty years ago. We were accompanied by a worrying friend.

The morning of our departure, we awoke to several feet of unexpected snow. Although we’d allowed more than enough time to arrive at the airport in normal conditions, traffic was at a snail’s pace that morning. Our friend Josh would look from his watch to the speedometer and then announce by how many minutes we’d miss our plane’s departure. “At seven miles per hour, we’re precisely twenty-two-and-a-half minutes late!” he’d declare, only to modify his prediction when the traffic sped up or slowed down. Once at O’Hare, we discovered the weather had delayed our plane’s take-off and we had just a few minutes to get to the gate. As we checked luggage and ran through the airport, Josh continued to analyze by how many minutes we’d miss our flight. Fortunately, our plane was still at the gate and we managed to board. Josh then calculated how late we’d be for our next connection. When we arrived in Miami, however, our plane, also having been delayed by weather, was still at the gate and we again boarded in the nick of time. That’s when Josh started fretting about our luggage. He was sure it was never loaded in Chicago and, even if it was, it couldn’t have been transferred to the second plane before our speedy departure. Along with clothing, we’d packed a cooler of frozen steaks and Josh was certain that the meat, if it ever arrived, would be thawed and spoiled. This was back in the days long before TSA, airport security and luggage screening and planes occasionally were being hijacked to Cuba. Not satisfied with worrying about connections and luggage, Josh, apprehensive that we’d end up hijacked and in Cuba (without our luggage), began to nervously scrutinize every man as he boarded the plane.

We arrived at our destination, a little later than planned, with our luggage and without international incident. Unfortunately, Josh was a wreck and needed at least a day to chill out and “decompress” before he start enjoying his vacation. On the other hand, since he’d been our designated worrier, we’d slept on the flights and were ready to roll. He’d done the worrying while we enjoyed the ride!

While we can joke about having a designated worrier, what that anxiety does to the worrier is no laughing matter. Studies show that even slight distress and worry are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke and can cut several years off one’s life expectancy. Simply put, the more disheartened and anxious we are, the sooner we’ll die. Moreover, even if we don’t die early, when we’re fretful, discouraged or worried, it’s highly unlikely we’ll truly enjoy the time with which we are blessed!

There was absolutely nothing that worrying could accomplish throughout our travel scenario—it couldn’t stop the snow, plow the roads, speed up traffic, hold the plane, load or transfer the baggage or even stop a hijacker. It was all in God’s hands—as is everything. While it’s nice to have a designated worrier to do our worrying, worry (whether ours or some else’s) is an insult to God. It means we don’t trust Him, we doubt His reliability and effectiveness, and we mistakenly believe that we, rather than He, are the ones in control.

It’s inevitable that our days will meet with mistakes, failures, oversights, barriers, disappointments, inconveniences, and complications. Jesus pretty much promised that. Nevertheless, He also promised that we’d never be alone as we faced each day. Rather than being the designated worrier, perhaps we could try being the designated prayer warrior!

Worry and faith are mutually exclusive. [Karol Ladd, from “The Power of a Positive Mom”]

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)]

P.S. Fortunately, Josh has changed through the years. He doesn’t worry about anything and prays about everything; he’s gone from designated worrier to pray warrior! Praise God!

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