Worry steals our joy and peace.
It leads to anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. We miss precious moments with loved ones when we're stuck in our heads. Worrying has been linked to tension headaches, stomach issues, as well as other serious diseases.
According to Harvard Men's Health Watch, "a study presented in 2016 by researchers in England looked at more than 7,000 men over a 15-year period and found that those who were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were twice as likely to die from cancer as men without the condition."
Will these people like me? Why does my boss want to talk to me at the end of the day? Why hasn't my friend responded to my last two text messages? All these questions are ultimately sourced from the same question: am I safe? This is the real question our brains are searching to answer when we're worrying or feeling anxious.
Am I safe to let my guard down and be myself around these people? Am I safe to believe that I can pay my mortgage because I'll still have a job tomorrow? Am I safe in knowing that I haven't said something to jeopardize this relationship?
If you're anything like me, you have a tendency to play out ten different worst-case scenarios in your head. I do it when I'm driving and when I'm spending time with my husband. I even manage to do it when I'm having a conversation.
If I added up the time I've spent imagining all the things that could go wrong at an event, in a relationship, or some other situation, I think I would be devastated to know just how much of my life I've missed out on. Not to mention all of the ways my lack of being present harmfully affects my relationships. I've tried the old snapping my wrist with a rubber band and telling myself to just stop it trick, and it works... for about five minutes until I start again. Pretty soon, I'm left with all the same anxious thoughts and a really sore wrist.
We shouldn't have to miss out on the peace and abundant life that Jesus promised us. However, we can't just tell our brains to stop looking for the answer to this very important question because they're determined to figure out whether we're safe or not. When we develop a pattern of thinking in survival mode like this, the only way to retrain our brains is to develop a different thought pattern. We can do this by redirecting our imagination to consider all of the good things that can happen, by celebrating our maybe!
My husband and I were invited to dinner with about twenty people. I'm a full-on introvert so I avoid big groups when I can, but it was important to me to get to know more people in our church so I agreed to go. That week, as the dinner was approaching, I would mentally check out from whatever I was doing and follow my imagination into the realm of endless ways in which I could be rejected.
I realized that I could replace those thoughts by thinking of all of the good things that could come of this dinner. Then, the next time I started to think about all of the ways it could go badly, I reminded myself that I am safe and that these are all of the good things I can look forward to possibly happening:
Maybe I'll meet interesting people. Maybe I'll make new friends. Maybe people will think I'm interesting. Maybe pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and doing something that scares me will make me braver. Maybe I'll find a way to help somebody. Maybe I'll learn something. Maybe this will open up a new opportunity. Maybe I'll taste something new. Maybe I'll have fun.
I found I was able to come up with as many potential positive outcomes as potential perils. Celebrating my maybes turned my nervousness into excitement. It's using the same energy, but redirecting it from expecting the worst to hoping for the best.
Proverbs 15:15 (AMPC) All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].
When we worry excessively, we're holding ourselves back from the best God has for us.
Worrying causes us to focus inward which makes it difficult to love. It causes us to miss opportunities that God has for us because we're afraid to step out in faith. It causes us to try to convince people we love to not step out in faith either because we're concerned for their safety. It's risky to live fully in faith so we don't do it when we're consumed with worry.
In Philippians 4:6-9, Paul says that we should not be anxious about anything. We should tell God our concerns and ask for His help, then focus on thinking about truth and goodness.
Before he said any of this, he began with “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil. 4:4 NIV)
Another way to say that- celebrate your maybe!
Celebrate the good that God will bring out of uncertain situations. When we celebrate our maybe, we're able to live in the present and be present with those we love. We're able to live in the abundance for which Jesus already paid a heavy price. We're able to do the risky things that God calls us into and experience the fullness of life through living in our purpose.
1. Write down something that you've been worrying about.
2. Now write down all of the good things that could come of it.
The next time you start to worry about it, continue to think of more good possibilities that could come from the situation that occupies your thoughts. If you need to devote your attention to something or someone else instead, just make a mental appointment with yourself later to revisit the list you made. This will put your mind at ease that there will be time to address that gnawing question later.
Instead of living in dread and feeling unsafe, you can start to look for good things to come. We usually find what we're looking for!
Celebrate your maybe!
Find and follow my 100 Day Challenge to Find God in My Every Day at #IFoundGodIn