Confessions from a Recovering Worrier

Don’t let my steely-eyed, non-anxious presence fool you. I worry. Sometimes, quite a lot.
Corrie Ten Boom defines worry as a “cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.” I define worry as fixating on what might or might not be.
Recently, I found myself pondering my inclination to worry during a time of devotion. The Bible passage I was studying was familiar, but one of Jesus’s questions rang in my ears: “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
In the moment, I wanted to take Jesus on. I wanted to tell Jesus that if I didn’t worry, nothing would get accomplished. I wanted to tell Jesus that worry was productive and necessary to cross things off my list. I wanted to say to him, “C’mon! Easy for you to say! You’re the Son of God!”
And then I sought to prove it to Jesus. So I got to thinking about the times in my life when worrying about something helped me out. I thought and I thought, eager to throw my defiance around like a farmer throws out slop. I wanted to show Jesus that he was wrong. I wanted to justify my worries.
As I looked back on my life, I was struck with the realization that worry—by itself—had done me no favors. Nope. Not one.
I think I’ve told you before that I was an anxious child. There was nothing too small in the world for me not to worry about. Everything was fair game. At the heart of my worry was fear. And the root of my fear was distrust.
I worried because I didn’t trust that I would be okay.
And to be particularly candid, let me point out that in life we’re often not okay. As a child, I had a hunch that this was the case just as I am confident of it now. I worry because I am fearful that I won’t be okay. I worry about not being okay because I don’t like pain. I suppose that my worry is a revelation that I don’t really believe what I say; that I trust God.
Here’s the bottom line. We cannot trust God and also worry. We cannot do it. Trust and worry are mutually exclusive.
I have wasted obscene amounts of my time in life worrying. How much of my life have I wasted worrying about something or another? Is it 10%? Is it 25% Oh, I shake my head in disgust to consider the truth of the matter. What a waste.
Worrying bears no fruit. As Corrie Ten Boom calls it, worry is centered on fear and it is an inefficient use of our time. Like the only saying goes: worry is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.
Actually, that’s not quite true. Most of the time in my life, worrying has made things worse. Sometimes, much worse. My actions, made in reactivity and anxiety, have been the cause of my biggest blunders and mistakes in life.
Jesus knew that worrying could be this dangerous. Jesus warned us about this in his Sermon on the Mount. He included this passage on worry alongside the same revolutionary teachings as loving your enemy and even knowing how to pray because Jesus knew that worry was a symptom of distrust and fear. He knew that when we worry, we are not trusting God.
In truth, Jesus is quite plain spoken about it (go back and reflect on the passage in its entirety—Matthew 6:25-34). Jesus talks about worrying about things great and small, justified and petty, necessary and silly. But in the end he concludes with a proverb that is as down to earth as it is true: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Here’s a spiritual exercise for you. In the same way that ancient mystics encouraged the faithful to meditate on the image of their own dead and rotting bodies in an attempt to help them value the sanctity of life, let me invite you to meditate on your past. When you find yourself worrying about something—anything—think back in your life to a time when you were worrying. Then ask yourself this question: Did it help?
If it did, if worrying bore fruit, then by all means, keep it up! But if, perchance, worrying did not help you then, why in the world would you think it will help you now?  
Stop the cycle of worrisome madness. Try a different tact: Trust God and save your energy for more consequential matters.