This morning, while preparing to write an encouraging note for my friend Aimee, who is worried about undergoing a scheduled surgery today, I hit the synonym button to find a nicer word for “worry,” because it sounded so negative. My replacement options are: anxiety, perturbation, distress, unease, fretfulness, agitation, tension, and stress.
Folks, this is not a good word, any way you slice it. It’s weighed down with oppression and darkness, neither of which are burdens we’re designed to carry. In fact, there is a Bible verse that tells us we cannot add a single hour to our life with worry.
So why do we give worry so much of our time?
We are a nation of worriers. We worry about our weight, our families, the job, the boss, the kids, the bills, not getting the presentation, getting the presentation, getting sleep and staying healthy (both of which are hampered by worrying, FYI), overindulging, under estimating, and WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SPOT!
The list is quite possibly endless. Actually, it IS endless, because many of us, when something we’re worried about does not come to fruition, will find something else to worry about right away.
I’m not a worrier, for the most part. It still astounds my worrier friends that I haven’t used an alarm clock for about 15 years. I let the world wake me up.
“But you could oversleep,” they say. “You could be…” (cue ominous music) “late for work.”
Is that the best you’ve got? Over the many years I worked in an office, I did show up late for work on occasion, whether because of traffic, kids, dawdling, or just plain laziness, but I don’t believe I ever overslept. Even if I had, it wouldn’t have been catastrophic. In fact, I figured that if I ever did oversleep on a work day, I’d consider it a gift just to be able to do so. As corny and Pollyanna-like as it may sound, there’s a bright side to every situation.
I wonder how my worrier friend Aimee might respond when the doctor says, “Everything went beautifully” and hands over her after-care instructions? Will she fret over the possible side effects of the pain meds, or that being off her feet to heal will put a burden on others? Will she wonder how long the repaired ankle could possibly hold up?
Perhaps more importantly, would all that worry change anything? The good and the bad will come. My son is fond of telling me pessimists are never disappointed and sometimes proven right. However, I say, optimists can find something to be pleased about and probably have a more grateful heart.
I find it easier (and healthier) to remember that I’m in charge of nothing except my reaction to what’s happening at this moment. I don’t even get to decide what’s happening. When I’m driving, I can take reasonable steps to ensure my safety, like putting on a seatbelt and staying in the correct lane, but I cannot prevent an accident. Some texting fool could still come flying through a red light and turn my car into a mangled heap of metal. If it’s to happen, I can’t prevent it, even if I put all my energy into worrying about that specific possibility.
On the other hand, how many of us pull into the driveway or parking lot and pause to be grateful for arriving safely? Considering that this safe arrival happens to us multiple times nearly every single day, we have much to be grateful for, have we not? Like waking up in every morning or getting to sleep in, safe travel is a gift.
So, I would suggest to Aimee that if she were to examine and be grateful for all the aspects of this surgery that went right, instead of feeling the pressures of anxiety, her heart might nearly burst with the goodness of it all (which could be irony, considering the potential repercussions of a bursting heart). But think of it. We live in a country filled with highly educated, deftly skilled doctors, at a time of advanced scientific knowledge where medical procedures considered impossible 50 years ago have become out-patient routines. Our hospitals have technology and equipment out the wazoo that can see everything from our pulse (with a finger cap, for Pete’s sake) to that tiny, squarish-shaped dot of a thingy hiding behind a wall of skin, bones, organs, and whatever we ate for dinner last night, and, we have doctors who know what to do about it. Modern medicine is AMAZING!
Life is amazing.
Every day, every minute, and every breath is a gift, as is every kiss, hug, sneeze and scraped knee, for they all give us reason to be grateful, even if only for the invention of Band-Aids. Find the good in the moment and share it with others. We’ve been given only so many hours . . . shall we spend them loving or fretting?
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? — Luke 12:22-26
Author’s Note: I dedicate today’s blog to my sweet and gentle friend, George, who is now dancing in sure-step with the Lord, free from all worry and the bondage of his earthly mind, and to his lovely Sheryl, who stands at the edge of a new way forward. There is goodness ahead. May you find joy amid the pain, light in the darkness, and comfort in the love of those around you.