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What Kind of Worrier Are You?
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life.
— Matthew 6:25
Why did I let my mind go there AGAIN?
There I stood, in my kitchen, swiping at the tears rolling down my face. Was I crying about something that had just happened? No. I was sobbing over a horrible mental movie generated in my mind about one of my girls getting into a fatal car accident as she drove to her friend's house.
That movie was so graphic, so real, that I could have won Academy Awards for best actress, best screenplay, and best special effects. I could see the accident scene and myself running and screaming toward a mangled car with hazy smoke rising from the wreck. I could see the EMTs pulling me away from cradling my child as they said, "Ma'am, she's gone. Let her go, ma'am." I could hear my screams in my mind. My heart pounded and tears streamed down my face. Why does this feel so real, even though it's only in my mind?
Then I'd snap back to reality. I was worn out. I felt guilty and foolish. Guilty because I'd imagined something that really has happened to others but not to me. Foolish because I should know better. C'mon, Barb! You've made yourself upset over something that wasn't even real.
By definition, the word worry means "to torment one's self with or suffer from disturbing thoughts." Have you ever found yourself watching a mental movie about an imaginary tragic event in your life, yet you couldn't stop watching even though it made you cry real tears? Almost every single one of us has spent time worrying about the bad things that could happen — whether they involve our families, our jobs, our finances, our health, or our futures.
Lately, it feels as though our world has gone a little cuckoo. A few minutes on social media brings on heart flutters for some and an outright freak-out for others. Have you ever spent a sleepless night worrying about the state of our nation or world? You aren't alone. If I had a dime for every time I've worried about something in my life, I might be tempted to start worrying about where to store all those dimes!
Take a moment to engage in a quick "temperature check" on your current level of worry. On a scale of 1 to 5, how much worry are you experiencing in your life right now?
1. No worries
2. Just a few
3. More than a few
4. Mind is racing
5. Overwhelmed with a lot of worries
For much of my teen years, through my thirties, I hovered between a 4 and a 5. I felt like a bad Christian because I struggled so hard with worry. Why did "just pray about it" not work for me? I did pray about it, but I still worried! While there were some women who said that they were "too blessed to be stressed," I was a five-foot-ten ball of stress all the time! Why couldn't I just give my worries to God and let them go? Was there something wrong with my faith?
Perhaps that kind of uncomfortable honesty is difficult for you to hear. But I want to believe that a few of you have let out a relieved sigh instead. You aren't alone in the battle against worry. You've tried to push back against it, and yet it keeps pulling you in anyway. That push-pull, back-and-forth battle is exhausting, as you first try to resist worry and then realize how it feels after worry has whipped you around a bit.
I get it. I've lived it. Yet God has shown me how to wake up each day and claim victory over any worry that comes my way. I'd love to tell you more about how you can claim God's victory too.
Do you know how much time you spend worrying? One study quantified that even people not diagnosed with a specific anxiety disorder spent 55 minutes every day worrying about something. Since there are 1,440 minutes per day, that might not seem like much. However, the time you spend fretting, freaking, or flipping out really adds up. Let's look at how many minutes you might have already spent worrying in your life if you're "normal."
If you are 20 years old, you've spent up to 401,500 minutes worrying.
If you are 30 years old, you've spent up to 602,250 minutes worrying.
If you are 40 years old, you've spent up to 803,000 minutes worrying.
If you are 50 years old, you've spent up to 1,003,750 minutes worrying.
If you are 60 years old, you've spent up to 1,204,500 minutes worrying.
If you are 70 years old, you've spent up to 1,405,250 minutes worrying.
Here's where I'm going to geek out on you a little more: Did you know that forty million adults in the United States are affected by an anxiety disorder? If you're struggling with anxiety or worry, whether it's been diagnosed or not, you are not alone!
This means that one in five adults deals with an anxiety disorder that interferes with their daily lives. Imagine that one of those adults lives in your house. Maybe you grew up in a home with one parent who struggled with worry and anxiety or had a grandparent, aunt, or uncle struggling with worry. Here are some examples that might sound familiar:
You miss curfew by fifteen minutes, and when you come home, your mom screams and yells at you for an hour because she just knew that you were dead in a ditch because you didn't call.
Your dad flips out if you leave the lights on or ruin a piece of clothing because he worries all of the time about money.
Your grandmother leaves messages on your cell phone each day to make sure you didn't get kidnapped on your way home from your part-time job at the mall.
Perhaps you are the one in five. How many times have you said, "I'm so sorry for flipping out on you guys" because you freaked out about something? If you want to be a better influence around your friends, spouse, or kids, then fighting your worry battle may be the best gift you can give the people around you. Ask yourself: Do I want my kids to grow up and handle worry like I'm handling it now? Or What can I learn so that I can teach the people around me how to handle worry in a healthy, God-honoring way?
Mental health professionals tell us that worrying is normal. And since research seems to indicate that everyone worries, we need to be aware and seek treatment if our normal worry becomes excessive. Unlike taking your temperature to find out if you have a fever, there isn't an objective test for worry, but there are inventories, like the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, to help you determine how much worry is interfering with your life. Maybe you've been to the doctor or another mental health professional and he or she used words such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder to diagnose your worry or anxiety based on its intensity and influence on your life. If not, it would be wise for you to talk with your doctor or mental health professional if worry interferes with your home or work life.
You may have to battle worry each day, but worry doesn't have to wreck your life. In this book, we'll focus on battling worry, no matter how severely it impacts your life. God's power and promises to give you victory over your worry battle aren't limited by how severe your battle may be. You may have to fight a little harder, but God's victory will be that much bigger for you!
What Kind of Worrier Are You?
I like to picture life as being like a seven-layer Mexican salad. I'm smiling as I write these words because I really love that dish. If you don't, picture your life as any other kind of multilayered dish. (If you're part of my generation, you may even remember the classic episode of Friends in which Rachel accidentally combined two recipes and made an unforgettable trifle with layers of ladyfingers, jam, custard, raspberries, and beef with peas and onions in a large glass bowl. Ross's response to her creation: "It tastes like feet.")
Each layer of a seven-layer dish represents the foundation and progress of my life, and consequently, those layers are deeply woven into my worry battle. The bottom layers represent the influence of my parents and other relatives, my education, my self-image, my life experiences, and my spiritual journey. The top layers are more recent experiences and my current environment. Research tells us that our environment can influence what we worry about.
If you've seen a seven-layer dish at the end of a party or family gathering, you know that the layers are often mixed together — and sometimes quite messy. The same happens with our lives. Over time, I've become the sum of everything that I've seen, heard, and experienced. One of my favorite anonymous quotes is, "What forms you, follows you."
Based on what I've experienced and observed both in my life and over a dozen years of working in ministry leadership and as a professional life coach, I've recognized the following identities, eachcategorized according to how they react to worry. Even if you don't like being pigeonholed into one category or another, it might be helpful to understand the different ways that women can manifest worry. Perhaps you will even discover that the difficult-to-deal-with behaviors of your mother, sister, grandmother, or friend may not be because she wants to hassle you, but because she's dealing with her own worry battle.
The silent sufferer struggles in silence, and her friends have no idea how bad she's really struggling. Sadly, she can't stop rehearsing tragedy. In severe cases, our silent sufferer is actually in physical pain because of her anxiety.
The busy body — not to be confused with the annoying busybody, whom nobody wants around — is the friend that we love to have around because she organizes, calls, picks up, drops off, and cleans out. Incomplete tasks are worry triggers for her, so this is why she also tends to overplan and is often overwhelmed.
Mother hens cluck, cluck, cluck, which is a creative way of saying that they nag, nag, nag all the time. A mother hen will call you ten times a day to check on you. Mother hens believe that their reminders and long lectures are helpful and keep people safe. They can be blind to the fact that friends or family have stopped listening to them. Even though the mother hen means well, her love and concern feel suffocating.
Control freaks use words such as helpful, diligent, detailoriented, or type A. They convince themselves that their perspective is what's best for the highest good. That's why control freaks justify attempts to steer friends and loved ones' choices or manipulate the consequences.
Did you find yourself in any of those descriptions? Maybe you fit into more than one of the responses to worry. I did feel a little conflicted about introducing these different categories because I don't want you to get stuck on a label. A negative label has the potential to reinforce negative mind-sets and behaviors. But if we can tell ourselves the truth and treat ourselves with compassion (instead of beating ourselves up), then we're ready to take a positive next step to the future.
Taking a First Step in the Right Direction
Change is scary, but let's be honest: living worn out by worry isn't exactly a party either. The first step in the right direction is willingness, which is based on your own power to choose. Ask yourself these three questions to decide if you are willing to win the battle against worry:
1. Are you tired of living a worn-out, freaked-out, flipped-out-by-worry life?
2. Are you ready to give up your old habits to fight worry God's way, even if you have to learn new tools and behaviors?
3. Will you allow God to change your heart, mind, or even your life in order to give you victory?
As part of learning how to battle worry in a new way, you're going to learn some important life lessons from the Old Testament Book of Joshua — and you don't have to be a Bible scholar to absorb them. You'll find inspiration and encouragement as God teaches Joshua how to fight his worry battle. Even if you think you're familiar with Joshua's story, trust me: there is always more that we can learn about trusting God's promises, being courageous in uncertain times, and developing the strength to hold on and hang on no matter what life throws our way.
What's more, the life lessons you learn will also include many powerful, practical tools that you can use every day in your worry battle. You can begin to use these tools no matter where you are spiritually. You're going to battle worry every day of your life, but with these tools, you can position yourself to win over worry every single day! I've been a Christian for a long time, and I believe that these tools become more effective the more I continue to use them!
If you need a getting-started tool to help you with worry today, grab a little stone and call it your "worry stone." A worry stone is carried in your pocket, and rubbing the stone between your thumb and index finger can have a calming effect. In addition to calming the physical stress, we want to calm our minds with God's truth. So, as you rub the stone, repeat the following: "I don't have to worry; God will help me." (If you don't like the idea of a stone in your pocket, you can also use a four-byfour-inch square of soft fabric.)
Dream of Victory!
Complete victory is when we know that God is with us and for us in every situation, whether real or imagined. We're on the path to victory when we lean into God's presence during real crisis or tragedy. We're also on the path to victory when our thoughts focus on God's power and presence as we ponder the future, instead of imagining problems that haven't happened yet.
Can you dream of victory over worry in your life? Here are some things that I want you to begin dreaming about. Circle or make note of three that you want to experience most:
Finally finding peace. Learning to stay Modeling peace/calm for calm. others.
When I began my worry battle over fifteen years ago, God had to teach me to stay calm, and I wanted to teach my children how to stay calm. I didn't want them to grow up thinking, Oh, there goes Mom, flipping out again. As God taught me how to use the tools that you'll learn in this book, I learned how to shut down those horrible mental movies whenever worry began to creep into my life. I've learned how to build courage through training spiritually for tough times, and I've become strong in my faith by saying yes to God in obedience. Now, I no longer spend my days fighting fear because God has taught me how to fight in faith. You can do this too!
If victory could be summed up in a feeling, it would be peace. It's that ahhhh feeling you get when everything around you is crazy, but you feel calm and can make calm decisions. In John 14:27, Jesus tells us of a precious gift. He says, "I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."
The world tells us that we can buy peace of mind, but we can't. Peace is truly a gift! And Philippians 4:7 tells us that the peace that God gives is beyond the world's understanding. No matter how hard we try, we can't manufacture lasting peace on our own. Peace is God's secret sauce for victorious living.
My dream is that you will chase God's path toward victory so that you'll be blessed every day by God's peace. I want you to wake up each day and reach toward God's abundance for your life instead of waking up in fear and worry.
It is impossible to remove cliffhangers from your life, but God's hope is your strong ledge to stand on.
— Barb Roose
I felt as if I had a raging case of PMS.
In spring 1999, I won my company's top sales award and an all-expense-paid trip to Zimbabwe with my husband. Our trip was scheduled for the following June. Even as I smiled in response to others' congratulations and excitement about our upcoming trip, behind my smile was a struggle that I could barely contain. What should have been one of the best seasons of my life was wrapped in tears, stress, and anxiety.
Prior to this opportunity, I'd only traveled around the United States, and not abroad. In my mind, Africa was a paper map that I'd memorized for my junior high geography class, filled with dozens of strange names and amoeba-like boundaries.
When I realized that we'd won an opportunity to travel to the massive continent, my mind tripped over what could best be described as uncertainty, or the situations in our lives where the ending has a question mark.
Uncertainty can have one of the following endings: a good ending, a bad ending, a mixed ending, or a surprise ending. But there's also one more kind of ending, my most hated form of uncertainty: the ending that never seems to come.
When I think about uncertainty, the word cliffhanger comes to mind. Before streaming media, American television audiences watched regular episodes of our favorite shows from September through May. Back then, we would rearrange our schedules to make sure we were in front of our televisions for the final regular episode of the season. Once those shows ended, we had to wait until the new season began the next fall to watch the outcome to the precarious or hilarious situation we had been left with. Who shot JR? Would Ross marry Rachel? Is the hatch light on? Who survived the Greys' plane crash? Even though we hated heading back to school in August, we couldn't wait to see what was happening with our favorite shows in September. The night of the Friends season premiere, with Ross and Emily at the altar, I locked the door of my room and took my phone off the hook. (You see, in ancient times, our telephones were mounted on walls. If you took the handset off the main part of the phone, then no one could reach you. It's the modern equivalent of blocking everyone all at once.)
Excerpted from "Winning the Worry Battle"
Copyright © 2018 Abingdon Press.
Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 What Kind of Worrier Are You? 1
2 Cliffhangers 10
3 Eight-Legged Worry 21
4 How Do You Stop a Worry? 32
5 Your Three Fighting Friends 42
6 The Cure for "Fast Forgetting" 53
7 When You Can't See Around Your Situation 64
8 Circumcision of the Heart 74
9 God, If 85
0 God, Knock Down My Worry Walls 94
1 In Case of a Meltdown 105
12 What If God Doesn't Give Me What I Want? 117
13 Are You a Worrier or a Warrior? 128
14 Secondhand Worry 138
15 Does Your Hurry Cause Worry? 149
16 How to Slay All Day 159
17 Secret Weapon 169
18 Four Ways to Ruin a Good Fight 181
19 Asking for God's Best 190
20 Carefrontations 200
21 Even If 210
Covenant Agreement 219