“Don’t worry!” How many times have we heard this? If your experience is anything like mine, I’d imagine a lot. The phrase “If I had a nickel for every time…” comes to mind.
One of my favorite experiences as a Christian counselor is when I see a psychological intervention confirmed and reflected in the Bible. I mean it makes sense, right? God created our brains; he knows our thoughts, so of course he is well-versed in human psychology.
God knows that fear and worry are a big part of the human condition, in fact according to Rick Warren pastor at Saddleback church, the theme of don’t worry/do not fear appears in the Bible 365 times. It is addressed using many names: fear, worry, anxiety, stress, fretting ect., but the message is still the same: God knows and recognizes our worries.
As anyone who struggles with worry or anxiety can tell you, being told not to worry does not necessarily stop someone from worrying. In addition to being told what not to do, we need an alternate behavior to replace the unwanted behavior. And God, because of his expert degree in psychology knows this.
Phillipians 4:6 reads “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.”
The alternate, replacement behavior is right there: pray about everything and thank Him for all that He has done. I heard a sermon where the pastor preached on this passage and challenged us to identify what we are thankful for despite the current situation.
I know this can be really tough when we are in the throws of anxiety or are going through a really difficult time. This ability to identify what we are thankful for is a skill that needs to be practiced. So if you find it difficult, you are in good company. Just as someone is unable to do a pull-up without putting in the time and practice, to expect yourself to be immediately grateful in the midst of some challenging circumstances is unrealistic.
So how do you start working out your thankfulness muscle? Start with smaller, more manageable circumstances and work your way up to bigger or more difficult ones. For example, I have an almost one year old son, and if you haven’t been around a baby in awhile, let me remind you they cry ALOT. My prayer during this less than desirable circumstance: thank you God that my son has a healthy set of lungs.
Another recommendation I have is to try to write down what you are thankful for. It can be in the form of a prayer or gratitude journal or it can be on a kitchen napkin. The idea is to have something to come back to when you are really struggling to identify what you are thankful for because the truth is some days you will find it easy to come up with what you are thankful for and other days it will be immensely difficult.
As you practice identifying what you are thankful for, you will find what is promised in Phillipians 4:7 “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything you can understand.” While I still struggle with worry and anxiety, I have also experienced periods of this peace, and can say this replacement behavior does work. For more entries like this please visit me on my blog.
Written by: Shylah Blatt, LMFT
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EastSide Christian Counseling.