Worried? This morning while reading Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, I had an “A-ha!” moment as I saw the easy process that he lays out.
Here’s the three-step process to conquer worry:
1. Imagine the worst-case scenario. Really. Go there in your mind and pinpoint what you are most afraid of in the scenario that you’re worrying about.
2. Now that you have admitted your worst fear, imagine if that really were to happen. Reject unreasonable fears or accept them as realistic.
3.Accepting that some concerns are realistic, how will you respond in the face of these fears? What will you do? How will you minimize the damage and move forward?
My good friend walked me through this process a while back, and it was powerful! I’m not sure if she knew she was following these steps, but it worked. Here’s what happened:
We were planning an overseas mission trip to a city that was experiencing bombings, unrest, and religious fighting with villages being slaughtered. You can imagine that I had every reason to be afraid, traveling with my husband and our two kids, aged 19 and 13 at the time. On top of that, I had been dealing with excruciating back pain from herniated disks. The idea of a 24-hour overseas flight was causing me such anxiety that the pain and muscle spasms had intensified and I could only experience relief by laying sideways on the ground.
My friend pointedly asked me, “What are you most afraid of?” It’s funny that sometimes when we say our worst fears out loud, we realize that they are ridiculous. I voiced several scenarios that I worried about:
1. What if my back blows out on the plane or over there? It’s a third-world country and I might have to be hospitalized there or flown back in unbearable pain. (Reality: This is very unlikely. However, if it happens, I would take pain medicine and fly home.)
2. What if we were caught up in a riot or religious fighting, or bombing?(Reality: Again, unlikely, since we would be staying outside of the city in a remote village area. However, if this were to happen, I’d be with my husband and kids. This dissolved my intense fear, thinking about the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere without them.)
3. My absolute worst fear: That someone would harm one of my family members. What if someone kidnapped or hurt my children or husband? (Reality: My family probably wouldn’t be targeted for violence. We were not even passing through the crisis area of town so this was a pretty unrealistic fear.)
As I talked through these, I realized that only one of them was a real possibility. If the other things happened, they happened. After going through those scenarios I saw that the mission we were going for was worth the risk. Jesus is worth it even if I was scared to death!
This technique to conquer worry can be used for all kinds of situations that we face: finances, family issues, parenting, health, did I say parenting??? I don’t know about other parents, but the number one thing I struggle not to worry about is my children. That said, worrying is not exclusive to parents.
Jesus commands us not to worry in Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? (emphasis mine)
This is a helpful tool to think through how unfruitful worry is. Try it out and let me know what you think~