by Virginia Forste
Our family recently celebrated spring break with a long drive to Florida followed by a four-night cruise. Travelers know that there can be a lot of preparation before you are able to kick back and relax. Imagining the beautiful weather, exciting adventures, and extravagant meals can be invigorating. Weeks in advance you will find me sitting on the floor with my belongings, detailed spreadsheets, and luggage around me. My family watches first-person-point-of-view videos as if we were the ones flying down the waterslide or riding that roller coaster. As the departure date nears, I add more and more items into my bag. I think, If I am prepared for every possible scenario, then none of those potential catastrophes will materialize. I call this behavior, “panic packing.”
Did you know your chance of being killed by a meteorite ranges from 1 in 3,000 to 1 in 250,000? We panic packers are the type of people who read that statistic and get really concerned. Could we be the “1?”
This isn’t the result of our fast-paced modern age. Trusting in our belongings or wealth to shield us from discomfort is an age-old problem. In ancient civilizations, the more land a ruler could claim, the more powerful he was perceived. Still today, we tend to think more is better. America’s vices tend to lean toward the excess: eating, spending, working. We consume in order to be safe and thrive.
Jesus was familiar with our desire to trust in anything except the Father.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!’” (Matthew 19:23, 24, NLT).
Jesus was saying that the wealth around people so often blinds them to the fact that they are spiritually poor and spiritually in need. Sometimes it’s hard for me to pray in good times, even though I know I should, because in those seasons I really don’t feel the pain of need and lack.
The Scriptures also show us an encounter that Jesus had with a rich man in Judea. The man wanted to know the key to eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The man thought he was doing well since he had indeed kept them. Then, the man asked what else he needed to do.
“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:21, 22, NIV).
I bet that man was a panic packer, too. He was putting his trust in wealth and not relying on God to provide and ease his anxiety.
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t scold us for worrying. He knows this is normal for us to do—which is why he spends several chapters explaining why we needn’t worry. He doesn’t shame us, but he does command us to change our thinking. In the middle of his longest recorded sermon in the Gospels he pleads with us:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:31-34, NLT).
An article on the Psychology Today website addresses several myths about worry. Today I want to briefly discuss just two of them.
The first myth is that we can prevent bad situations by worrying.
“Anxiety often involves emotional reasoning rather than logical reasoning and is often loaded with bias and subjectivity. Even though your thoughts and feelings are very strong, this does not mean they reflect reality,” explains Dr. Terri Bacow.
The second myth is that worry and anxiety are out of our control.
In his latest book, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking, author Jon Acuff suggests three steps for changing our self-talk:
- RETIRE your broken soundtracks.
- REPLACE them with new ones.
- REPEAT them until they’re as automatic as the old ones.
First, we must identify our broken soundtracks. Broken soundtracks are the things we tell ourselves that need to change because they are self-defeating. These soundtracks usually travel in absolutes and carry a negative slant (“I never win at anything!”).
Next, we use a strategy to change that soundtrack, expose its lie, and create a new soundtrack that helps us.
One strategy Acuff recommends is to flip it. What’s the opposite of the broken soundtrack? What do you want to believe? Instead of, “I had the worst day. I can never go back to work tomorrow after losing that big account,” think, I can learn from my mistakes and move forward with that wisdom. Instead of, “My child is purposely trying to drive me crazy,” think, My child is struggling with her emotions.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Ideally, following and becoming like Christ is a lifelong process. Don’t start worrying that you haven’t mastered this “no worrying” thing. I certainly haven’t either! But I like to think I’m making progress. God designed us to work these things out in community.
That’s why our senior minister Brad Wilson talked about the habit of worry in our worship experience last weekend. If you missed this past Sunday’s teaching from Brad, I encourage you to check it out here.
Did you know that Christ’s Church has a ton of ways to get involved and find just the community you’ve been searching for? We offer women’s and men’s Bible studies (in person and through Zoom), adult Sunday morning community groups, kids and student ministries on Sundays, kids’ and students’ events, mission trips, and much more! Check out our church’s event page for up-to-date information.
And before you take off on that upcoming vacation, remember Jesus’ wise advice:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs” (Matthew 6:31, 32, NLT).
Virginia Forste is a former elementary school teacher. She enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and leading Moms’ Group.