My parents used to call me the bag lady when I was around four years old because I loved to put things in a bunch of different bags and hide them in my room. If ever anything went missing in our house, like the scissors or tape, my parents would look in my room and find it in a bag.
The biggest bags that I’ve often lugged around in my life are anxiety and worry. Let me share with you a few of the ridiculous things that have happened to me because of my worrying: In college I finished an exam and later was worried that I forgot to put my name on it. I had already walked halfway back to my car, but I turned around and went back into my professor’s office to double check. She looked at me like I was crazy.
Or another time I was preparing to pick up my mom at the airport for a visit. I had a candle lit during the day and I blew it out before I walked out the door. I was in my car down the road and I wondered, “Did I really blow the candle out? If I didn’t, what if the apartment catches on fire?” So I turned around, jumped out of my car and ran back in to check. Instead of merely looking at the candle to see that it wasn’t lit, I picked it up and pulled it toward me. Hot wax spilled all over one of my favorite shirts.
Being a worrier is expensive, in terms of both time and money. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere. Carrying around the baggage of worry and anxiety is downright tiring.
Over the years, I’ve realized that my worry and anxiety stems from a couple of reasons:
- Because I want to be in control: But the older I get, the more I realize that I’m not in control. God is in control and will sustain me through whatever comes my way. I don’t have to worry because He’s already got it covered! My anxiety does nothing to change the outcome, so I can choose to worry or choose to trust God.
- Fear: I fear for the health and safety of my family and friends. I fear when I start to think about worst-case scenarios. I have anxiety about things that scare me. But God has shown me that most of my fears are just that , fears. They are not reality. Even if some of my worst fears come true, God assures me that He’ll be there.
- Obligation: Because I had lived with anxiety for so long, I believed that if something was important, I had to worry about it or it meant that I didn’t really care. Over time, I have learned the difference between being concerned about something and being anxious. There are things that deserve my concern and attention, but they don’t have to consume my thoughts and my peace. Now I pray when something concerns me and I leave the results in God’s hands.
My anxiety and worry really took a turn for the best when I decided that I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I wanted peace. I didn’t want to live in fear. So I started memorizing God’s Word and applying it when I was anxious. I still struggle from time to time, but I have learned to combat my worry with His Word. Philippians 4:5b-6 (NIV) has been my lifeline:
“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Doesn’t this bring you the most awesome comfort, to know that God is near, He is with us, He holds us with his right hand, He is never far from us?! Knowing this and reaching for Him day by day, moment by moment, will help us let go of the baggage of anxiety and worry. Knowing God and that He is God with us, changes things.
When I look back, I see that over the past ten years God has brought me a long way with my anxiety and worrying. I have more peace and glory to God, I now have more restful nights that I had in the past. I still struggle sometimes, but I haven’t spilled hot wax on myself in a really long time.
Andrea Fortenberry writes and speaks on marriage, motherhood and women’s ministry. Some of her recent work includes publication in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives. Connect with Andrea on her website, www.andreafortenberry.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/andreabfortenberry.