I wasn’t aware of how tired I was until the tears started to flow. The pastor was talking about rest—the rest that is promised to those who follow Jesus—when he quoted a line from Psalm 23: “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” That picture… that promise…was exactly what I needed—right then. My mind disengaged from the sermon as I imagined myself lying down in perfect grass while the sun warmed my face, and I wept. Oh, dear. I certainly didn’t expect that. Unlike physical tiredness, which eventually knocks you off your feet (and into your bed), mental fatigue—worry—sneaks up on you (and sneak up it did.) In retrospect, I was aware that I had been bouncing a fair number of burdens, concerns, and to-do’s in my head throughout the day…well, to be honest, every day. “Don’t forget this is the week James graduates!” “Kate gets her PET scan this week…pray, pray, pray.” “Agh…you didn’t get the social media post done…again!” “Don’t forget to get that anniversary card.” “You are speaking in one week at that conference! You have GOT to finish the talk already.” And all that was before 6 am! Sure, I had a “system”—a fancy word for a to-do list—to help me remember the things I didn’t want to forget; however, it wasn’t until I was digging in my handbag for a non-existent tissue (which prompted me to add “get tissues” to my to-do’s), did I realize that the worry attached to the to-dos had me exhausted. When I get busy, worry seems to temporarily disappear, only to reappear again like the persistent and annoying grey hair on my chin. (Before you get distracted thinking about that chin hair, be assured that it is not visible to the human eye; it can only be felt, over and over—kind of like a worry stone—until it finally drives me to find tweezers.) Anyway, the point is, worry can (and will) creep up and ambush you if you don’t take steps to dosomething about it. You may have deeply troubling worries (like job loss, catastrophic illness, or relationship breakdown) and/or ongoing chronic worries like your life-long battle to lose weight or sticking to your budget when you just blew it up at Sephora 🙋🏻♀️. The question is, what can be done about worry?
While I am not clearly not an expert, given the little breakdown I had in church last week, but I am now even more determined to grow in this area. My unexpected tears took me by surprise because I already have some good practices to help me manage worry: I exercise daily (thank God for endorphins); I journal; I talk to God. What more can be done? As I considered whether it might be helpful to use the annoying chin hair as a worry stone, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Give it to me.”
Hallelujah! Yes, Lord! I give you my chin hair, once and for all!
I imagined Him clearing His throat and rolling His eyes. “Give me the worry. And… I will give you rest.” I don’t know about you, but I think that’s an offer too good to pass up.
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
Before we figure out how to give our worry to God, let me point out we first have to be aware that we’re worried, to begin with. Remember, I wasn’t aware I was holding onto worry until I suddenly had the urge to lay down in a green pasture. I knew I had a lot of things I was concerned about, but I guess I never consciously handed over the worry about them to Jesus. It’s not the problems that will get you; it’s the worrying about them that robs us of rest. This is why we are exhorted in Philippians 4:6 to “not be anxious about anything.” (In case you were wondering when it says to not be anxious about anything, it means any thing.) How amazing would it be if you never worried about your problems? Well, dear reader, you don’t have to—buutt— getting rid of the worry habit will take some persistent effort. Let me explain.
If you are an experienced worrier, you already have a well-ingrained habit of mulling over all the potential repercussions of your issue. If you want to practice peace for a change, it will require that you choose a different response than your usual hysterical musings. In other words, you must stop looking at your problems and start looking at Jesus. I mean it. The scripture says, “Come to me” for a reason. There is no problem he can’t fix (including the stubborn 20 lbs that you’ve lost and gained more times than you care to remember.) And besides, even if you don’t believe He can fix the problem, He can and will take care of the worry, but you must hand it over. The way I like to do this is to imagine that I have my arms full of shopping bags that are way too heavy to carry. I just turn and give them to Jesus, saying something like, “Ok, I’m done. I refuse to carry this anymore. I’m turning my worry over to you.” And that’s it. Remember, worrying doesn’t change your circumstance. (Let me say it a bit louder for the people in the back: WORRY DOESN’T CHANGE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE.) It will just wear you down until you find yourself looking for a green pasture at best or a stiff drink at worst. Why not learn how to give your worry to Jesus and receive the peace that passes all understanding?
So, here’s a brief guide to help you get started with the practice of peace:
- Figure out if you are holding onto worry. Sit quietly and ask God: “Is there anything I’m worried about?”
- If you hear that you are, first ask Him if there is anything He wants you to do about the situation. (Try not to be alarmed if He suggests returning a few items to Sephora 🙄.)
- After you’ve made a note of what (if anything) you are meant to do about your problem, turn and give the worry about it to Him. Remember, worry, and the problem are two different things. You can have a problem and not worry about it. Hand over the heavy bags and refuse to pick them up.
- If a worrying thought tries to tempt you back into picking up the bags, repeat step 3.
- Keep going. A green pasture is waiting for you.