Wiping Away Worry

July 2nd, 2012 by Sarah Jackson

If there is one thing I’m good at it’s worrying. For years my propensity to worry has gobbled up my peace and joy. I’ve tried to combat it with breathing techniques and lots of chocolate, but all that does is make the room spin and my stomach churn.

My propensity to worry is rooted in something much deeper than the knots in my shoulders and the butterflies in my stomach: it stems from my belief that God might not provide for my needs.

Here’s the thing: in my head I am absolutely convinced that the God of Israel will take care of me.

But, as the Jewish Proverbs remind us, we don’t live from our heads; we live from our hearts, and my heart holds a set of beliefs totally different from my head-beliefs.

Theologians call our head-beliefs and heart-beliefs ‘conscious’ and ‘subconscious’ beliefs, respectively.

I readily espouse my conscious, intellectual beliefs about God because I’m generally aware of them, but I must observe by the way I live to be aware of my heart (or subconscious)-beliefs.

My worry is a good example of this. I hold the intellectual belief that God is perfectly good and powerful, and will take care of me. But when finances are tight, or health problems persist I begin to worry, revealing my subconscious belief that God isn’t as trustworthy as my head thinks he is.

If the heart is the wellspring of life, then my false subconscious beliefs are poisoning the water. I must eradicate them if I want my heart to overflow with clear, peaceful rivers.

This has proven to be a very difficult task for a ‘doer’ like me, because no amount of ‘trying’ on my part can eliminate my false heart-beliefs; the Spirit is the only one who can eradicate them.

I can, however, engage in activities that position my heart in a posture of openness to the work of the Spirit.

Over the years I’ve learned to open my worrying self up to the work of the Spirit by inviting him into the following activities:

1. I read stories about the saints who have gone before me.

After the Israelites cross the Red Sea in Exodus chapter 15, they burst into celebratory song, declaring the good things God has done for them:

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea (v. 1).

They conclude the song by looking forward to the great things God will do for them:

You will bring [your people] in and plant them on your own mountain (v. 17).

God’s history of faithfulness to the Israelites gives them confidence that he will continue to do great things for them.

When I read the stories of biblical characters, missionaries, and martyrs I see a panoramic picture of God’s faithfulness to his people, assuring me that I can trust in his continued faithfulness.

2. I keep a journal of the way God provides, and then I go back and read it.

Sometimes I’m amazed at how short-term my memory is; I readily forget the good and powerful ways God provides for me.

The list I keep of God’s provisions helps reorient me as I learn to trust him. Like the Israelites’ song, my list assures me that the God who provided in the past will also provide in the future.

And it’s my record of God’s provision that prompts me to invite him daily into the overwhelmingly big problems and the seemingly insignificant minutia.

3. I exchange stories of God’s faithfulness with friends.

Awhile ago my colleague announced he and his wife had adopted a baby from the foster care system.

He described a weekend, months prior to the adoption, when he and his wife began to worry about whether or not they could afford their baby, since they weren’t sure they could afford a stroller, crib, and car seat.

In the midst of their worrying and wondering they received a call from a friend who hadn’t been told they were adopting.

“I had a feeling,” she told them, “that I should call you and offer you all of my baby furniture and equipment now that my kids are grown.”

When I exchange stories like this with friends, I’m reminded that God equips, not mere individuals, but his Body to build the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. And we can certainly trust that he will give us the things we need to do the work before us each day.

What practices have you adopted to change your subconscious, heart-beliefs?

__________

Image credit: jolles.com


4 Comments

  • Hoops

    Man, Sarah, spot on words for my present prayers. I’ve seen just how disjointed my heart-beliefs are in recent weeks. I often default to an ambivalent or unreasonable view, one that doesn’t let me lean in close and open myself up. I like the reminder that the Spirit has to be the load bearer in eradicating.

    A few things that have helped me:
    1. Understanding how my past has shaped my view of God. My often indifferent and distant parents, led me to form a similar view in my heart of God.
    2. I’ve been trying to jot down the ways God provides for my emotional well-being, not just physical and thank him for those moments.
    3. My continual prayer has been for God to convince my heart of his love so that I join Paul in proclaiming the words of Romans 8.

  • Sarah Jackson

    Hoops,

    I’m thankful our life curriculum overlapped this week! Gosh, I am so prone to this ‘unreasonable view’–thank God for the Spirit of Truth who reveals our blind spots and helps us to identify self-deceit.

    These are really helpful tips. I’d like to be more faithful about recording God’s provisions for my emotional well-being. It’s fun to see the ways he cares about our personhood–not just our bodies, not just our hearts.

    There is a book I recently started reading about breaking free from the ‘distorted maps of reality’ we create as a result of our family structures. It’s called “Reclaiming Your Story,” by Merle R. Jordan. I’m not sure if it’s good yet, but it was recommended by Dr. Betsy Barber, one of Talbot’s spiritual formation gurus. You may want to check it out.

    Have you found a way to include other people in this process of identifying false subconscious beliefs and opening them up to the work of the Spirit?

  • Mandy

    The lead singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons, repeated a quote his mother says: “Every day above the ground is a good day.” She survived life in a Holocaust concentration camp and learned to treasure every day, and I at first thought that seems a little wierd thinking just being alive is great (thinking, “but what about quality of life, things I need, etc.?”) until I started to think about joy, and Job, and people I know going through some really rough things in their lives.
    God gives us so much joy, and I have only begun to learn about it. I have found much of it in helping other people with their needs through prayer, encouragement, and using finances to relieve others. I have found I have much that confirms my faith, and many blessings I receive through doing these things. I remember the other day something very simple, when I received a coupon in the mail for 1 dozen organic eggs free at Target. I didn’t need to save the dollar, really, as much as a friend I know, so I gave it t o her. Apparently, she didn’t know Target offers organic eggs, and she had needed some and has a very thin grocery budget, so this was a “hello darling” from God to her. I almost threw it away because I don’t normally get groceries at Target, but the thought came to my mind to give it to her, and I’m so glad I did.
    I think our awareness of God’s faithfulness comes from actions we take in our own lives.

    • Sarah Jackson

      Thanks for sharing this story, Mandy! These are the kinds of stories I need to hear often.

      Your response reminded me of John 8:31-32,

      “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

      It is our obedience to the Word-became-flesh that frees us to rest in the Truth. Using our resources to bless others is one way we hold to the teachings of Jesus. It makes good sense, then, that we would be reminded of his faithfulness to his people when we invite him to use us to care for those around us. We are most aware of what God is doing when we are doing it with him.

      Good stuff,

      Sarah




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