Sep 3, 2011

Weary Worry




I am very future-oriented.  This is an aspect of my personality, and it is often a strength.  I see patterns in life and predict possible outcomes.  I am always thinking, always analyzing, always refining mental models and trying to draw meaningful conclusions.  This is who I am, and God made me this way, and it is good.

The other side of this double-edged personality sword (bonus points for anyone who sends me a drawing of a double-edged personality sword) is a propensity for worry.  Not only do I always think; I often fear.  Not only do I always analyze; I often criticize.  Not only do I always refine mental models and draw meaningful conclusions; I often catastrophize and focus on flaws, inconsistencies, inadequacies, and doom. 

The focus of my worrying, interestingly, has rarely been my work.  It has rarely been my science or my grades, despite the amount of time and energy I've spent on them.  Rather, the object of my anxiety has usually been relationships.  This points to my ultimate fear, which drives my worry: loss of relationship.  I am so scared of being forgotten or replaced or unwanted.  I am so scared of being alone.  I have experienced these losses in my life to the extent that I now have an anxiety-shaped feedback loop inside of me, demanding that I hunt for warning signs/patterns of potential loss and prevent prevent prevent. Whenever an uncertainty in relationship arises, the danger alarms sound, and my mind begins to attack the “problem” from every possible angle, ad nauseum (sometimes literally).  In uncertain times, I wear myself out, and I am often unable to experience the present for focusing on a future of loss.


Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

The first paragraph says that prayer is a replacement for worry.  I am exhorted (1) to tell God exactly where I am and what I need (or what I think I need) and (2) to choose to thank him for what he has done.  The first requires a recognition of my own fears. The second requires an acknowledgment of God’s faithfulness (NOT a feeling of gratitude, which comes and goes)... and a choosing to thank, independent of anxiety-ridden feelings.  And these two actions, being honest with God and choosing to thank him, produce an incomprehensible, circumstance-independent peace.  This peace, according to Paul, has the power to guard my heart and mind.  And how I long for something outside of myself to keep watch, to relieve my own feeble and weary lookout! 

The second paragraph is an exhortation to focus not on what may go wrong, but on what is and will be right.  What does this look like in the context of relationship, the focus of my worries?  God has filled my life with people who love and know me, and the depth of this knowing continues to expand.  I see him moving in my loved ones' lives, and I see him moving in my own.  And even beyond the present circumstances, the future, where I usually reside, is ultimately filled with deep, satisfying, life-giving relationships with God and others forever.  There will be no more loss.

So my prayer for myself and anyone else struggling with worry is that we would authentically tell God how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, and what we need…  that we would ask him for help… that we would take time to acknowledge to him and ourselves the wonderful things he has already done… and that, in whatever life area brings anxiety, we would choose to think about the beautiful, the true, and the good.  Father, help me to think about patterns of your loveliness and faithfulness in my life.  Help me to analyze the steadfastness of your provision.  Help me to refine my model of your unfailing love, which fills my past, present, and future, and to draw peaceful and confident conclusions.  Amen.


(Three-months-later edit: Check out John's poem.)

3 comments:

  1. "The second paragraph is an exhortation to focus not on what may go wrong, but on what is and will be right. What does this look like in the context of relationship, the focus of my worries? God has filled my life with people who love and know me, and the depth of this knowing continues to expand. I see him moving in my loved ones' lives, and I see him moving in my own. And even beyond the present circumstances, the future, where I usually reside, is ultimately filled with deep, satisfying, life-giving relationships with God and others forever. There will be no more loss."

    Of course there will be loss...the Lord gives and He takes away. A, is He asking you to use all your worrying power to minimize the loss in this life? Are you up to the task? Hmph.

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  2. Lovely post. It made me think of one of my favorite Hymns:

    Prayer is The Soul's Sincere Desire

    Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
    unuttered or expressed,
    the motion of a hidden fire
    that trembles in the breast.

    Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
    the falling of a tear,
    the upward glancing of an eye,
    when none but God is near.

    Prayer is the simplest form of speech
    that infant lips can try;
    prayer the sublimest strains that reach
    the Majesty on high.

    Prayer is the contrite sinners' voice,
    returning from their way,
    while angels in their songs rejoice
    and cry, "Behold, they pray!"

    Prayer is the Christians' vital breath,
    the Christians' native air;
    their watchword at the gates of death;
    they enter heaven with prayer.

    O Thou, by whom we come to God,
    the Life, the Truth, the Way:
    the path of prayer thyself hast trod;
    Lord, teach us how to pray!

    I too am an INFJ, and my worries are usually centered around relationships as well...Thank Heavens for His listening ear!

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  3. What a lovely hymn. My favorite verse is sinners' voice, songs rejoice. Thank you!

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