“Let not your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)
Easy for Him to say, right? If you’re someone who has a tendency to worry, even the words of Jesus aren’t enough to allow you to remain calm in the midst of a crisis. Is it really possible for those of us who are habitual worriers to “let not our hearts be troubled”? After years of torturing myself, I’ve discovered that not only is it possible, but by following 5 simple steps, you can experience peace in your life TODAY!
Oh sure, I know what you’re thinking…I’m probably someone who never worried a day in my life. It’s easy for me to talk about being peaceful because I’m one of those people who breezes through life without a care in the world. WRONG! I can assure you that I have a plaque in the Worrier’s Hall of Fame. Throughout my life, I have a history of worrying about things that are happening, things that could happen and things that have the possibility of happening if the things that I’m worrying about happening do actually happen. In other words, I can worry with the best of them IF I let myself. However, I no longer let myself worry (well, maybe for a minute or two ) The first step to breaking the worrying habit involves some behavior modification. The minute you find yourself firing up the “worrying engine”, try the following steps and see what happens. Incidentally, to give my advice a little more credibility, I’ve included some supporting comments from a well-known figure, who knows a little more about this subject than I do!
1. Focus On Today – One of the big mistakes that “professional” worriers make is looking too far into the future. When my father was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I made a decision to enjoy each of our remaining days together and not focus on the future. Even though he died suddenly one month later, we had a peaceful and memorable experience during those thirty days. When my wife and I were told that our now 14 year old twins, Mary and Elizabeth, would probably not be born alive, we learned to thank God for each day that they survived. We didn’t dwell on the uncertainty of the future. As a result, we experienced peace in the midst of a traumatic situation.
Jesus’ Advice: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Matthew 6:34)
2. Don’t Worry About “What If’s” - What if my husband gets sick and we can’t afford our mortgage and then we’ll have to sell our house which will be impossible because of the real estate market, etc. Although this scenario can create much anxiety, it is a completely imaginary situation. None of these events have taken place, but yet we often worry about what will happen IF they occur. The reason that these problems seem so insurmountable is because God doesn’t give us the grace to deal with imaginary problems. You can be sure that if any of these problems did exist in your life, the Lord would provide you with all the grace needed to cope with the situation.
Jesus’ Advice: “And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27)
3. Pray – Despite our claims to the contrary, worrying involves making a conscious decision. We have to decide that we’re going to worry. Although this decision can be almost involuntary, we still have the ability to choose to NOT worry. One of the easiest ways to stop worrying is to choose something else in it’s place. Whenever you feel the desire to worry, why not choose to pray instead? Unlike worrying (which is useless), prayer is ALWAYS effective. Even though all of your problems may not disappear, you will always receive the grace needed to deal with them. As a result, you will be able to experience the Lord’s peace while you are carrying your cross. If you’re struggling, ask the Lord for help!
Jesus’ Advice: “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
4. Let Jesus Speak To You Through Scripture – One of the biggest mistakes that we can make is to treat the Bible as an ordinary book. Although it may look like a book, it is so much more. When we open up the pages of Sacred Scripture, we can actually hear Jesus speaking directly to us. All of us, no matter what we are going though, have the ability to open up the Bible. DO IT! Jesus will take care of the rest!
Jesus’ Advice: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
5. Keep Your Eye On the Prize - No matter how much you are suffering and how many difficulties you are facing in your life, they will one day pass. Although it may not seem like it, all of our problems will one day come to an end once we depart from this life. Saint Paul assures us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). The next life will not only be better, it’s “not even worth comparing”! When you don’t think you can make it through another day, let this be your focus.
Jesus’ Advice: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22)
I’ve never met a single person who enjoyed being anxious. We all strive for peace in our lives, but often fall victim to excessive worry. I guarantee that if you try these steps today, you will instantly feel some degree of peace in your life. If you keep repeating them each day, that peace will grow stronger. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for each of you every day at daily Mass. If you get a chance, send me an email (email@example.com) and let me know how you make out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Look for A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible (50 Verses To Ease Anxieties) by Gary Zimak (with Foreword by Teresa Tomeo) coming in 2012 from Liguori Publications!