If there is one thing at which I excel, it is worrying. I have a mind that sees the detail in every situation and I have a vivid imagination, and, while there are some advantages to that, it is not always a helpful combination. Worry and anxiety have been constant issues throughout my life- issues that I’ve tried to deal with several times with little success. I have known the Bible verses and I have known the truth, but it hasn’t prevented me from worrying. There are times when I’ve been tempted to throw something at the next person who quotes Philippians 4:6 at me- I know the Bible says “Don’t worry”. Honestly, it’s not something I’ve been doing deliberately. I’ve wanted to stop it- I’ve just never known how.
But lately I think I’ve made some progress…
It began in the spring, when a task where I had agreed to take on leadership turned into a massive challenge. No-one was to blame, but a combination of difficult circumstances caused the whole thing to spiral out of control and, with very little support from anyone else, I was left to pick up the pieces.
It was a situation where I felt completely inadequate, and where there were several factors outwith my control. I felt totally unequipped to bring order to the chaos, yet there was no real alternative. If it was going to go ahead, somehow I had to make it work. As I prayed about it, I also felt that God was telling me very clearly that I had to do it, and I knew that this was the moment I had to deal with my worry, otherwise I was going to be overwhelmed. Amazingly, I found a method that worked.
It involved writing down each of my worries on slips of paper (there were at least 30 to begin with!), then I prayed about each of them- being honest with God about how I felt and handing them over to him. As I did this, I put them in a box. Somehow that helped because, rather than denying my worries or treating them as unimportant, I knew the worries were still there, but the box was a visual reminder that they had been given to God. If a new worry came up I would add it to the box, always praying about it before I put it in.
Every week or so, I opened the box and looked through the worries. Sometimes I discovered there was something I was no longer worried about- either because the situation had changed or my attitude towards it had changed- so I would thank God for that. I prayed about the other worries once again and put them back in the box.
As well as this, I wrote out a series of Bible verses that addressed some of the worries and reminded me of God’s faithfulness and power, and I tried to read these each day to fill my mind with truth.
It was far more effective than I had expected. For the first time in my life, I felt I was actually starting to deal with worry in a healthy way. Reviewing my worries also revealed to me the common themes behind many of them- mainly related to perfectionism and fear of failure- and helped me to identify the underlying issues.
There were many tests and challenges throughout the process. There were times when prayers were answered in amazing ways, but also several times when the answers were slow to come and it was a question of holding onto God’s promises in the face of evidence that totally contradicted them. There were times when there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the situation; I could only pray and wait for God to act. It was a crash course in giving up control, surrendering to God and actually trusting him, even when his timing was way, way slower than mine.
The moment I realised I had changed came when, having just reached a point where things were coming together, the task was hit by another major setback. As I heard about what had happened I felt completely calm, and it was the strangest feeling. I knew my normal response to this situation would be anxiety; in many ways that would have been a sensible response to the situation, but I felt calm. I wondered at first if I was in denial, but then I realised I was actually trusting God- this was the “peace that passes understanding” that I had heard so much about but never really experienced. It was a peace that came, despite the circumstances, from knowing that God was in control and that if he had called me to this task he would enable me.
And he did. Eventually things came together and the task was completed not perfectly, but successfully. The whole experience was a massive learning curve, and I praise God for how he used this difficult situation to work so much growth in my life. I will always have a tendency to worry, but now I feel much more equipped to deal with it, and God’s faithfulness in this situation has increased my confidence to trust him in the future.
linking with Testimony Tuesday