Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quit worrying

It ruins good days and bad days, and puts faith in the wrong place

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

I was trying to figure out what I was worrying about so I could worry about it properly. Know what I mean? I was sure there was something; I felt its vague presence. It sits across the room in a stuffed chair reading the newspaper while you're working at the computer. And once in a while you look up from your typing to make sure it's still there, and it looks up over the top of the paper and tips its hat.

I often drop whatever I'm doing to have a good worry. It can be at home, in my car, or even in a doctor's waiting room, provided I know there will be a sufficient amount of time to hunker down and get into some serious worry. It helps somehow. Keeps everything in my life under control. The worst thing is not having control.

Sounds a bit crazy that I need to keep a worry going in order to protect myself, but it's working so far. Right? I don't say my life is perfect, but I've held things together fairly well like this for decades. For example, in public I don't allow myself to stop thinking about my tummy for a minute; I keep sucking it in. And I can still hear every word of conversation because I've become a pro at dual concentration.

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It's the hypothetical you overlook that will kill you. Not everybody realizes this. It's why you have to anticipate every possible bad scenario, so it won't take you by surprise. My friend David says he's never known a person like me, who can find the negative side of any situation.

You also don't want to be too happy because you know what will happen then, right? Smash. It's odd: I think if I didn't keep current on my worries, I would sometimes think I had no problems.

I remember Aggie at the retreat on suffering. Everybody is sharing sob stories and she says, "This is the happiest time of my life: I have a husband who loves me, and three healthy kids-and I can't enjoy any of it because I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop." Funny how we not only have a problem with bad days, we have a problem with good days.

Eckhart Tolle (not a Christian) says it's "almost as if you were possessed without knowing it. ... Everyone hears a voice, or several voices, in their head all the time. ... I would say about 80 to 90 percent of most people's thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful" (The Power of Now).

I admit, worries are pretty lousy counselors, for all their chatter. They're hardly ever complete sentences: "What if"; "Things don't change"; "Your history of rejection"; "Be realistic." They pretend to be working themselves out of a job but always come up with new problems.

I was thinking about what it would be like not to worry, when I got a call from Ferg's mom about a very sick friend of mine. "Let's start praising God for what He is going to do! Because we just know He's going to do something, don't we, sister!" When I saw that her faith was as strong-willed as my fears, I decided that worrying is nothing but faith in the devil.

We were cruising along quietly in the car, my son and I. I was fingering my mental worry beads, and he was next to me worrying about whatever it is he worries about. Suddenly I said, "Hey Calvin, do you think there ever was a minute in your life that you weren't worrying about something?" He thought a second and said, "No." I said, "Me either."

Then I said, like a revelation: "Let's quit it; right now!" He seemed dubious, like it was unscriptural. I said, "It's a command, Calvin. The Bible says we can do this thing (1 John 2:1a). And if we mess up while trying, we don't need to feel we've blown it totally (1 John 2:1b)."

I put out my pinkie finger, and after a hesitation, he went along with me and put out his, and we made a promise along the lines of Philippians 4:6: Out with worry. In with petitions. Practice thanksgiving.

Email: aseu@worldmag.com

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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