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Emily: Well, let’s jump into today’s show about worry and the things we process through in motherhood. There’s something about growing older and gaining responsibilities—having a child or more—that doesn’t feel as simple and carefree as life used to be. When we go into adulthood—what’s that called? Adulting?
Laura: Adulting, that’s right!
Emily: You realize you’re not as in control of things as you thought. I can look around me and see that life doesn’t always go as planned. I think that can give way to worry.
Laura: The common thing that happens in motherhood is we focus in on a problem and turn it over and over in our minds. Sometimes we lose sleep or have a bad attitude, because of this one thing we’re worried about. It tends to affect all these other things; it might even damage a relationship. We feel a lot of stress from these things that we’re concerned about. Often the feelings of worry start the day we become pregnant.
Emily: So to tee up a little bit of what we’re going to share, we have a quote from Kathy Keller. God doesn’t give hypothetical grace for your hypothetical situation. Many times when we’re turning these things over in our head, it’s all hypothetical. It might be a realistic hypothetical or not, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Whenever we talk about something like this, it’s good to have a definition and parameters of what we’re really talking about. Webster defines worry as allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. That’s what we’ll be discussing today: turning something in your mind over and over again—that dwelling—imagining all the facets that could happen or playing out a scenario and thinking about what you might do in it.
Laura: When we talk about worry, it pertains to our minds. So we want to make a distinction between anxiety and how that tends to affect the body, causing more emotional stress. Sometimes we need a counselor, medication, or extra care to heal from anxiety. But going back to Webster, the key word we want to focus on is the word “dwell.”
Emily: So let’s jump in to what the gospel would say about worry. It’s interesting to think about Adam and Eve in the garden. They would’ve had responsibilities and purposeful work. They were cultivating the ground, ruling and reigning in God’s earth. In a sense, they didn’t have a care. By that, we mean God was with them and he was providing all the things they needed. He was their strength and source of wisdom and help. There wasn’t a need to be concerned in the way we are today, wondering, “What’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day or the next month?” God was there, fulfilling that at all times. They were fully dependent on him, and they were in constant relationship with him. That sense of worry, the fear of the future, wasn’t there.
Laura: We’re going to bet Adam and Eve felt some type of worry after they ate the fruit. Think about them hiding in the bushes, uncertain of how God would react. They wondered how to solve the problem—because they didn’t know how God would react—and the best solution they could come up with was—
Emily: We’re going to wear leaves. [Laughter]
Laura: We’re going to wear foliage. [Laughter]
But you know, that’s how we are. We just pick stuff and shoot from the hip, trying to figure out the solution to a problem. We see the fall set in motion a new set of things for people to worry about. There’s transition, broken relationships, unpredictability in human behavior, jobs, weather, stock market, expenses, and car accidents. We even worry about what happens if our kids fall off the playground swing or what can I do to prevent them from falling in the first place? Life is full of all sorts of unpredictable things we can’t prepare for. There’s an old adage, “The only thing you can plan on is that life doesn’t go to plan.” That rings true. All of us can say we didn’t plan for our lives to turn out like this.
Emily: Pre-fall, there was a security and peace. Post-fall, there’s fragility. Adam and Eve had to come up with their own solution, and that’s terrifying because they didn’t have anything but hack-jobs. They didn’t have a good anchor to hold onto. What we see in redemptive history is God sent his Son, Jesus, to be that anchor and peace amidst any tumultuous thing that happens. He’s the one who brings comfort and peace.
In the gospels we read Jesus says not to be anxious about your life: what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to put on. He talks about how God cares for the lilies and sparrows. These are delicate things in nature; he makes sure they’re beautiful and have what they need. We don’t need to fear.
Another thing he says is, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It’s interesting to see Jesus come to give that proclamation that things can, in a sense, be restored to what they were like in Eden. There can be a connection of relationship where there is peace, stability, and someone providing for you. But it’s only going to come through our trust in Jesus on the cross as we come weak and in need. We come knowing that all we can do is cover ourselves with some foliage, and that’s not really a solution. It’s his shed blood that can be our solution. He can be a comfort for us in whatever it is we’re facing.
Laura: I think that’s huge. Jesus is a comfort. The “do not be anxious” or “do not worry” feels like a big, heavy command. But really, this is offered as a comfort for us to run to Jesus. I love thinking of Jesus’ life and all the people he comforted while he walked the earth who were worried. There was the woman caught in adultery. The disciples when they found out someone would betray Jesus. There was the woman with the bleeding issue. All of them must’ve been, to some extent, worried about their unknown futures. But over and over again, Jesus speaks words of comfort to them.
Emily: Yeah, even think about Martha! He redirects her worry. She’s worried about getting stuff done, and he takes that and directs her to where her focus should be, which is him. It’s neat to see that picture of what he does for a worried heart.
Laura: Yes! And even in his death, he comforted those who were worried. Think about his mother, Mary. In John 19, Jesus looked at John and told him to care for his mother. What words of comfort. Even in his death, he thought about other people who might be worried. Mary was probably wondering, “Who’s going to take care of me? What am I going to do without my son?” Jesus comforts her. I get chills thinking about that.
Emily: It’s interesting to think between death and resurrection too. They were thinking about Jesus and what was to come. He comes and shows himself to them; again, he redirects their worry, concern, and instability to him and his body. He’s showing his wounds, explaining how this was prophesied, and giving them something to look ahead to that’s sure to happen. No matter what happens in this life, we know we can look ahead to Jesus returning. We might now know all the details and it may be different than what we think, but we can be 100% sure that for those who trust in Christ, there is an amazing eternal future coming—even if we have to deal with some hard, scary things in this life.
Laura: Until then, Jesus still offers comfort because he sent his helper, the Holy Spirit. I think, when we’re worried, we’re often thinking, “Help!” We think, “I need to get this done. Who’s going to help me? What’s the right answer?” We’re grasping for help in those things. Jesus didn’t leave us alone until his return. He gave us the Holy Spirit, and we receive power through him. Worry in our unpredictable lives on our broken earth is very normal. It’s a pretty universal response. Even my husband—who is very laid-back and low-key—experiences those emotions. We have to remember God doesn’t call us as believers to dwell on problems we’re worried about. He calls us to dwell on him and the story he’s swept us up in.
Emily: Right. He gives us an answer to that normal response that we all have to the fallen world we live in by saying, “Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5) That doesn’t mean we’re not going to experience the cares and the worry, but it does give us something to turn to. It gives us an answer. It’s not, “Oh, I just need to stop it. Stop worrying.” We need to take these questions and concerns to a person who is reigning, sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for us! Jesus is bringing all those things to the Father. There’s hope because there’s an answer to our worry.
Laura: I think the key here is as we turn to Jesus, we turn our worry to worship. We want to talk through a few things we see in the Bible when people are worried.
Over and over again, we see God calls his people to remember what he’s done. He tells the Israelites to write songs about it, put it on their door frames, write them on their walls, tell their children. In the early church, the apostles consistently recount all the magnificent things God has done. So, remind yourself when you’re worried about the past goodness of God. You can probably think through your life and remember the ways he’s blessed and provided for you and your family. But you can also think about the grand plan of God—everything from creation all the way until he returns. He’s planned for it with a good plan. He’s sovereignly writing history. He’s not forgotten you. He’s not surprised. He knows and he cares. Remember God has been faithful in the past and will continue to be faithful in the future.
Emily: Faithfulness in the future, yes. Just as we look back at what he’s done, we can know that no matter what happens, he provides ways out from temptation through his word, and he promises to care for us, protect us, and give us peace. This isn’t protection so a bad thing never happens to us, but he’s protecting our hearts and keeping us sealed by the Holy Spirit. Because we’re in Christ, we don’t have to fear or be dismayed or give up, because God can give us strength and give us spiritual help, and he provides for us in really unique ways. That’s another reason we can worship him.
I know something I try to do, as a practical note, is let myself play out that worst-case scenario in my mind. I let myself imagine it and then I imagine God with me, helping me, caring for me, being my steadfast hope, taking me all the way to eternity with him. It sounds weird, but there’s some comfort in that. It releases that hold on me, because I know God is with me. I know that no matter what, God will be there.
Laura: Amen. That’s good. So lastly, seeking God in the worry. One practical thing you can do is take your worry and turn it into prayer or song. This is where we turn it into worship. Think of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts. They turned to prayer and singing psalms to God. It not only comforted their souls, but it’s cool to see that it comforted other prisoners. In situations when people ask if you’re worried, you can show them how you take that situation—even though you’re worried—to the throne. Take time to pray and sing.
Emily: I think that’s such a good point about worry. There are two levels. The first is if I think about it, yes, I’m concerned. But the second is I really trust the Lord that he’ll provide for me.
Another thing is to ask others to pray and speak truth to us. This can be to our husbands. My husband is really good at this! I’ll be worried because our son has 20 mosquito bites, and when I say it to him, he’ll be really gracious about it and remind me of truth.
I think it’s important to know this takes practice and training our brains. I heard a while back there’s a neurological pattern in your mind, and your brain takes the fastest route it’s most familiar with, especially if you’re in stress. We have to reorient our minds to take a worry to the Lord and turn it to worship.
Laura: And lastly, changing your what to who is necessary. You should think about the questions, “What’s going to happen? What should I do?” But ask that underling question: Who will sustain me? Who has loved me already? Who has rescued me from the grave? Asking those questions and being able to answer them, because you know biblical truth, is such a comfort. God loves answering the deeper question. Sometimes he doesn’t answer our “What am I going to do” very clearly, but he has answered the who questions.
Emily: As we wrap up, to add a level of nuance to the conversation—
Laura: You know we love nuance.
Emily: There’s an element of worry triggering us to be better stewards of our own lives and the lives of our children. It can trigger us to go to the word, live with more biblical wisdom, or cry out to God. Much like fear, if none of us had fear, we’d do some crazy stuff. I’d be hanging out in the highway! But being concerned about what kind of video my child might see at a grandparent’s house. That will trigger me to go to the Lord and think about how I want to raise him, ask for wisdom, and put some boundaries up to say there are some things we don’t do when we’re away from mom and day because we care about you. We wanted to add that practical layer that just because you’re taking your worry to worship doesn’t mean your actions don’t change. We may need to set up boundaries and wise actions to help practically prevent whatever it is we’re concerned about.
Laura: That’s good stuff! In closing, our job isn’t to eradicate worry from our lives. It’s the reality of living on a broken earth. But the key is what you do with those feelings of worry. Do you take them to the cross? Are you giving them to God? Are you trusting he is sovereign over all? It’s totally okay to say, “I’m afraid God. And I don’t know what to do.” It’s totally okay to say, “ I need your help, Lord. Please show me the way.” This was the cry of the psalmists over and over again. It’s okay to bring your cares to God. He wants you to do that. But after you bring them, do you trust him? Do you believe him? Do you rest on Jesus and his power to sustain you or are you resting on your own efforts?
As we close, those are some questions you think about and consider the next time you’re worried or a friend expresses worry.
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