Getting Off the Worry Roller Coaster
I am a worrier.
I know the road to that stomach-churning, sweat-inducing roller coaster of second guesses and choking anxieties like the back of my hand. I also know that it’s not an endless ride: You can defeat worry and plant your feet on solid ground. Here are four truths about worry that have helped me get off the worry roller coaster.
1. Worry is all in your head.
I don’t mean to downplay the emotions in your head and your heart, but I do want to illuminate a critical fact about the worry roller coaster: It only begins as soon as you make the choice to get on it. Worry is a subtle but conscious decision to let a negative emotion camp out in your mind and grow until it seems too big to overcome.
Learning to distinguish a normal, healthy concern and burdensome, choking, unfounded worry is one step toward getting off the roller coaster. Catch yourself before you feel like you’re racing ahead full-speed on the roller coaster of worry. When you notice your thoughts drifting in that negative direction, don’t just go along with it. Take a step back and ask the Lord to help you, as television’s beloved small town deputy Barney Fife urges, “Nip it in the bud!”
We can’t do this in our own strength any more than we can control the things that worry us. We need God’s help to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
2. Worry is a rash. If you scratch it, it will grow.
Have you ever stumbled into a patch of poison ivy or gotten chicken pox? Don’t scratch is the best advice for beginning to heal that constant, aggravating itch! Worry is the same way. If you cater to thoughts you know are not from God and your heart picks up from anxiety, your worry is going to grow worse. Instead, prevent the worry rash from growing by covering it in the truth of God’s Word.
Paul says this in his letter to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6–7).
Pray for God to help you prevent worry when you first feel tempted to start. Ask God to guard your heart and your mind, and He will be faithful to answer your prayer.
3. Worry doesn’t change anything.
I used to think that if I worried about my problems, they would magically disappear—or, at least, they would be justified by all the time I wasted thinking about them. This might seem like a solid plan of attack, but it’s like prescribing Vitamin C for a head wound—ineffective.
In Matthew 6:25–29 Jesus cuts to the chase:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
God cares for His creation, right down to the birds and the flowers and certainly for you. God is in control. God is caring for you whether you are worrying about your problems or not, and since His plans for you are far more perfect than any you could make, worrying only serves to make you anxious and burdened. Give this burden to God. He will hear you and help you.
4. Worry is another word for pride.
Worry is the product of wanting to take God’s place.
This is perhaps the most important fact about worry that you need to know to begin combating it in your life. It was also the most painful for me as I began purposefully turning my life from the worry roller coaster to the firm ground of God’s promises.
At its core, worry is actually the prideful expression of playing God. I worry because I think that God’s plan isn’t good enough for me. I am worried that God won’t see things the way I see them and act the way I act. In Jeremiah 29:11, however, we are told that God’s plans are far better than anything we could dream up:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
What a promise! Instead of worrying that God won’t act in the way we hope, we should hope to act in the way God desires.
By Lindsey Moser