Worrying Our Lives Away

Worrying Our Lives Away

Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.
~Bob Marley
It was my senior year of college, final semester, and I (Tom) was a nervous wreck.  I had recently returned from a six week reprieve touring, studying, and exploring everything the city of London had to offer.  Now, in the present, I was back on my college campus in south-central PA attempting to finish out the last three months ‘living the college dream’ before starting to ‘live out my dreams’ in the ‘real world’.  College for me was a time of security.  Four years living in a giant safety blanket all around me—an amazing community of friends who loved and cared for me as well as many professors and mentors who supported me in every decision—but on that night I felt alone.  Three months from then I was about to embark on a whole new phase of my life—the largest phase—moving from adolescence into adulthood—whatever that meant—causing me a lot of anxiety.  
I decided to process my emotions by taking a walk.  I past a small coffee house on the south end of campus.  I heard singing.  It was a Friday night—open mic night—when many singers and small bands attempted to jumpstart a career for themselves—in front of the 50-60 students who needed a break from their studies—and a break from their emotions.  That night was no different.  A young, vibrant, 20 something, singer and songwriter named Jason Mraz sat on a stool in the corner of the room alone with his guitar in front of packed room.  Before beginning his next song called, The Remedy, Jason Mraz said he had written the song about a good friend named Charlie Mingroni, being struck with cancer and how it changed Jason’s outlook on life. He started singing:
And I won’t worry my life away
Hey hey hey, oh oh
I won’t worry my life away
Hey hey hey, oh oh
When I heard the lyrics of the song I wondered if the was written for me and my current situation.  I was worried.  I was worried that I would waste my life away.  Particularly as a man, there doesn’t seem to be anything worse than feeling like your life isn’t measuring up—that your life is meaningless—that your life is being wasted.  In just a few months I would be entering this next phase of my life and I had no sense of direction.  All of my friends were landing jobs, making plans for their futures, but I didn’t and I couldn’t.  There is this great scene in one of my all-time favorite movies A River Runs Through It where one of the sons returns home after being away at college for several years.  The father pulls the son into his study asking the son what he plans on doing now that he has graduated. The son responds by saying that he isn’t sure what he is going to do.  The father then responds, ‘But you have had four years to become sure.”  Like the elder son in A River Runs Through It I had spent four years on campus and still hadn’t the foggiest idea of where I could best utilize my gifts and abilities after graduation.  I was worried.  I was scared.  I felt alone.  Even with my best friends, friends who loved and supported me unconditionally, I didn’t share my overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety.  I tried to work through my struggles on my own—and to this day I regret that.
We all have times in our lives where the stress of everyday life could get the best of us—causing us to feel lonely, depressed, and worried.  Our tendency is to go internal with our problems, keeping our struggles inside.  We worry about whether or not the money will come and whether we will be able to make all of our payments next month.  We worry whether or not the next diagnosis from the doctor will be a clean bill of health or whether or not we will have to continue to battle the disease or illness we have been fighting for such a long time.  We worry about whether or not we will ever find joy in the journey of life or whether or not we will ever be truly satisfied with how our lives turn out.  And so life starts to pass us by.  We start missing out on the God-given moments before us in the here and now–moments of joy, moments of satisfaction, and moments of fulfillment.  The worry has taken control of us. 
The truth of the matter is that we don’t get over our habit of worrying by telling ourselves to stop worrying.  We don’t get over our habit of worrying by going internal with our struggles, trying to mask them as if they don’t exist or aren’t significant.  We get over our habit of worrying by letting others in on our worries–by telling our story, talking through our anxiety, talking through our pain, talking through our fear—with someone we trust.  There is nothing more freeing, nothing more life-giving, and nothing more healing than knowing that we are not alone in our fear, that we are not alone in our struggles, that we are not alone in our pain.  On the other hand, there is nothing worse in life than feeling all alone, than feeling as if no one cares about our problems, than feeling as if we are out on an island by ourselves.   
We aren’t saying that our problems aren’t real or that they don’t exist.  We aren’t saying that life isn’t difficult at times and that problems and unexpected circumstances don’t arise causing us to feel overwhelmed.  But what we are saying that we don’t have to face our problems in isolation; we don’t have to face our problems by ourselves; we don’t have to act as if we don’t have anything to worry about—EVER. 
Corrie Ten Boom, while living in a Nazi Concentration camp in Germany during WWII said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
Are you a worrier?Does your mind suddenly wander, uncontrolled and unbidden, to imaginations of terrible things happening? Do you lay in bed at night thinking about what “could” happen, what you don’t want to happen, what you hope and pray does not happen? 
Wehave to confess – We are worriers, too. In fact, I (Tom) use to worry all the time.  *I actually learned that ‘worry warts’ are real…I thought they were an old wives tale.  No joke, through the act of worrying we can actually get warts on our bodies…amongst the many other health related problems which worrying cause.  But worrying is something I have had to work on.  I use to think that if I just told myself to stop worrying I would stop worrying.  But over time, what has been the most helpful, healing, and restoring has been trusting Michael—and others—with my fears.  Learning to let others in on my struggles, knowing that I won’t be judged and that my problems are real, continues to bring peace to my life.
When I was driving home the other night and I heard this quote from Corrie Ten Boom on the radio, and it made me stop and think. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” It reminded me of the complete uselessness of worry. Beyond being useless, worry robs us of our time, our energy, our happiness, and actually sends us in the opposite direction of where we actually want to go.
Today: When worry creeps in, notice it. Contact a friend or a family member you trust with your struggles—someone who is free of judgment—someone who will simply listen.  Knowing that you are not alone—will help you regain the strength you need for today.

 

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