Ah, the joy of the holidays. The shopping and scheduling and the making of lists and checking them twice. The last-minute realization that you forgot to buy a gift for someone who’s unlikely to be grateful for what you can find on sale at the local CVS. The overindulgence in foods you wouldn’t think of eating at any other time of year–and the attendant (well-founded) fear of putting on extra weight. The extra hours of work, trying to get ahead (or maybe just catch up) before taking a few days off. The gauntlet of school plays and concerts, office parties, travel delays. The pressures of hosting and visiting, the potential for weird family dynamics, the weight of unspoken expectations. And to top it off, the search for a sweater that’s the right kind of ugly so no one will think you’re wearing it without ironic intentions.
For most of us this really is a season of joy, but it can also be a season of unmatched stress. This stress can have many sources, and among the most common is worry. The details and pressures of the holidays have a way of turning up the heat on the kinds of things we usually worry about, and we find ourselves sweating our way through the end of the year. It’s a striking society-wide example of how worry robs us of joy and completely changes our focus, making us miss what matters most.
So how does worry play into your holiday “celebrations?” This week are you driven by worry or by a desire to soothe yourself and settle your anxiety? Or are you enjoying the gift of peace amid busy days and bright lights?
If you’re worried, I invite you to consider the source of your worry with three questions you might want to ask yourself. These questions come from my book Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. Maybe they’ll help you as they’ve helped me.
1. Am I trying to live in the future?
When we worry, we fight the constraints of the way we and our world were created. We try to enter a place we can’t go. We try to control what we have no power over. It’s pointless. And it usually proves unwarranted.
The future simply doesn’t belong to us. God calls us to live in the present and gives us what we need to live in his strength, for “today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). When we worry about the future, we try to be like God. And good luck with that.
Here’s another thing. When we worry about the future, we usually imagine a world where God is nearly or completely absent, where bad things are almost sure to happen. We discount God’s active presence in this world. We forget that the odds of something good happening are always at least as great as the odds of something dire.
2. Am I trying to take or keep possession of something or someone who doesn’t belong to you?
Here’s a life-altering truth: Everything and everyone belongs to God. He is the true owner of everything we think is ours, and the one ultimately responsible for the people in our lives. He has granted us responsibility as stewards of riches and relationships, but he has not given us ultimate responsibility for people or things. We can experience freedom in recognizing our true role as caretakers, not owners.
Our desire to cling to what we don’t own is foolish and based on a misconception. We do not have ownership–and this is a good thing. The people and things that mean so much to us are all better off in God’s hands than ours. If we can live as if this is true, we’ll have a lot less to worry about.
3. Am I living in a perspective that doesn’t account for the truth about who God is and who I am in relationship to him?
Changing our beliefs changes our habits–including our emotional habits. Changing our theology, or embracing a more impressive view of God, based on what God has revealed through Scripture, can transform us emotionally. It can build our faith and inspire greater trust. It can help us overcome or minimize a problem with worry.
Embracing worry rather than trust ultimately comes down to a lack of recognition of our true place in the world. Like Adam and Eve, we want to believe we’re capable of more than we are and in control of more than we can possibly handle. An inflated view of ourselves doesn’t leave enough room for the truth about God and our dependence on him. We need to reorient ourselves with a proper perspective of who we are, who God is, and why only God is worthy of our trust.
If we believe what God tells us, we have no excuse for worry. We can trust the same God who demonstrated his power and his care for his people in the Bible. When we turn to face him, humble ourselves, and allow him to transform our thinking, we find that worry is even more wasteful than we realized.
Maybe it’s time to make a change in what you believe. And as you believe, may your holidays be faith-filled and bright.
© 2014 Amy Simpson.