Nothing to worry about

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According to a recent Epoch Times article, Pennsylvanians have a lot on their minds. When asked what hopes and fears they have for the future of the country, the answers included government overspending, the future of U. S. food production, election integrity, executive overreach, and what children and grandchildren are being taught in school.

There is much that could be added to this list. Rising crime rates, layoffs, high grocery prices, a porous border, and political persecutions trouble many. Meanwhile, the din and roar in the national conversation only seem to increase. With the upcoming election factored in, it feels like our collective behinds are sitting atop a powder keg, and we can see the match from here. Kaboom.

As I have pondered all of this in recent days, a nugget from years ago has come to mind. “There is plenty to be concerned about,” the speaker said, “but there’s nothing to worry about.”

On its face, the statement seemed outrageous in its simplicity, impossible to believe. How could anyone live like that? Where in this world was such abiding peace? For long, long years, that truth seemed elusive, slipping through my fingers like sand.

“Worry,” says the dictionary, “is to afflict with mental distress or agitation; make anxious. To seize something with the teeth and bite or tear repeatedly.” If this is you, raise your hand. I see you there in the back.

For most of my life, I was an inveterate worrier. Give me a scrap of fear, and I could have the worst possible outcome gamed out, polished, edited, and ready for print. I am not proud of this, but it’s true. Then we had the chicklets, and the, well, “opportunities” to worry grew exponentially.

A teacher at a Bible Study I attended as a young mother threw me a rope one day. She was teaching on the importance of meditation (devotional contemplation and prayer) when she said this, “If you are a worrier, you will be good at meditation, for worry is simply meditating on the wrong things.”

Here is what I have learned. The difference between concern and worry lies in what I choose to do with my concerns. If I seize a concern with both hands (or my teeth) and fret over it endlessly, refuse to let it go, and slide into mental distress and agitation, then I have crossed from legitimate concern into worry. And that hurts me.

If worry is one ditch, then denial is the other, and both ditches hold perils of their own. The goal is to aim for the middle. If I slide into the ditch of denial, then I will not attend to what truly needs attention, and it will come back on me later. If I slide into the ditch of worry, then I am paralyzed, down for the count, unable to clearly see what needs tending.

All of this takes practice, and that happens in the mind. Just as I can steer a car, I am able to steer my mind. In other words, I can choose what I think about, what I meditate on, and that quiet, internal choice makes the difference.

So how do we experience freedom from worry? For this prairie-raised, grain-fed girl, the only way I have been able to move from worry to peace, joy, and a deeply-felt happiness, is because of one specific choice. I have chosen to put my faith in someone outside myself–someone much higher and wiser and stronger than I. The object of such faith and delightful meditation? It is God.

It bothers me not a whit that I do not fully understand him. Rather, it comforts me. Just as a child looks up to its father who is much bigger and stronger, resting safely in his care, so it is with God.

In this, as with so many things, my own four sons have been my teachers. When they were small, they trusted their father and I implicitly. They’d come running on tiny legs to share their childish concerns and cares, arms lifted to be picked up, to be held. A kiss and a hug and a comforting word, and off they’d run, content and secure once more.

Nearly all adults now, they still consult us for wisdom, direction, and, when needed, consolation. They are not without cares and concerns, yet because of this warm, loving connection, they can go out into the world on their own to thrive and give and be and do. They know that we will always have their backs, that the doors of our hearts and home are always open. This is their birthright.

This is our birthright, too, you and me. We were meant to live as happy children in the Father’s house, sitting around his table. We are not without true cares and concerns; nay, such perfection awaits another world. What we are never without is the love of God in whose hands every concern may be safely placed and at whose feet our worries may be left.

God bless you, friend, and may he bless your loved ones, too.

You can hear America’s small, caffeinated mom on 77 WABC with Bo Snerdley for the Saturday Morning Radio Extravaganza. Every week at 9:45 a.m., she and Bo enjoy a lively conversation about the topic of the week.

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