I am proud to say that, for the most part, I’ve never been much of a worrier. Actually, I think I need to amend that statement. I have never been much of a worrier until I became a parent. The day I had the label of “Dad” slapped on my back, I began to understand what that word truly meant. To this day, I am typically very unconcerned about my life and the challenges I might encounter, but in the blink of an eye, my panic meter can go from zero to a thousand when it comes to my kids.
Allow me to give an example. This past summer, when my family got to enjoy an unexpected twelve day cruise, (it was supposed to be five days – click here if you haven’t heard the story) my boys asked to do something they thought extremely fun, but unbeknownst to them, caused me great anxiety and panic.
Most days while aboard the ship, they would ask to play for a couple of hours in the kid’s area which was up on the very top deck, level 14. Penny and I never complained because that meant a couple of hours peace and quiet for us. However, every time I would go to pick them up they would ask if they could take the stairs all the way back down to our room, which was on level 2. The thought of that many stairs would make by bad knee start aching, so I made them take the elevator.
One day, Peyton brazenly declared that he knew he and Parker could get down to level 2 faster by using the stairs than by riding the elevator. I told him he was wrong. He vehemently disagreed (he’s just like his momma) and so we put it to the test. We agreed that as soon as I hit the button to call the elevator, they could take off down the stairs, and we would see who arrived first. The bet was on and the race began.
With full confidence, I got into the elevator as I heard them joyfully pounding down the staircase, most likely scaring flocks of senior citizens along the way. (Actually, the seniors were in the elevator with me!) I arrived at the second level, and just as I had expected, no boys. So I stood at the bottom of the staircase in a triumphant pose and awaited their arrival. But no arrival came.
I waited and waited, sure that I would soon hear their footfalls but there was no sign of them. Worry starting setting in. Being “Dad” may mean that I am prone to worry, but it also means I’m supposed to be cool, so I didn’t call the National Guard (a.k.a. Mom) and send out the search party. I continued to wait, but as I did so, the “what-if’s” started to play in my mind.
All of a sudden, images started to flash before me of a hundred different disastrous scenarios – my boys lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs clutching broken legs, two lost kids wandering around a dark engine room after taking a wrong turn, a strange man on level nine leering over them asking, “Would you like some candy?” However, just before these crazy thoughts got the best of me, I finally heard my children laughing and talking just one level above, heading my way.
Whether it’s your children, your job, your finances, your health, or any other important thing in your life, worrying over the “what-if’s” is something we all struggle with. When we get even a hint that we might lose some thing or someone precious to us, panic can take over and we begin to imagine all the “what-if” scenarios. We do this even before that thing we fear is ever a reality, thereby causing us to hold tighter to what we really don’t have control over in the first place.
Telling you to stop behaving like this is like me trying to tell my kids to remember to flush the toilet; it might work for a day or so, but inevitably, they are going to forget again and I’m the one who will have to deal with the consequences. What we often don’t think about is that when we become overwhelmed by worry, it can affect those around us just as negatively as it does ourselves.
Knowing that this is an ongoing struggle for all of us, and with full admission that no matter how hard we try to not worry, there will be times when we fail. What are we to do? Thankfully, the war on worry and “what-if’s” is not lost. Take a moment to consider the following well-known and beloved passage from Scripture.
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. (Philippians 4:6–7, ESV)
These verses tell us that either before worry and anxiety ever set in or even after it has started to take root, we are called to place all those “what-if’s” before God. And what does the passage remind us that God does in response? He grants us His overwhelming and unfathomable peace, which will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” That is just so awesome!
However, please read this carefully, for I want you to understand that this Bible passage does NOT promise nor guarantee that bad things won’t ever happen in your life. You can’t use these words to claim that you won’t ever lose your job or that doctor won’t call with bad test results or even that your precious children won’t ever find themselves in harm’s way. But thanks be to God, even if we do face the reality of the thing we feared most, God’s love, presence, and peace will never be more real in our lives than it is at that very moment.