Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Weight of Worry

I am a worrier from way back. My aunt Gail remembers greeting me as I stepped off the school bus in first grade. From my countenance, it looked like I carried the weight of the world in my book satchel. "What's wrong, Melissa?" she asked.

My eyes filled with tears as I confessed, "I don't know how I'll ever make it to college."

"College?" Gail repeated, incredulous. "Sweetheart, why are you worried about that right now?"

"Well, if first grade is so hard," I replied, "how will I ever make it through college?"

My aunt soothed my troubled spirit that day, encouraging me that I would learn a little more every day and assuring me that when the time came for graduation, I would be ready.

I wish I could say that I left worry behind at the bus stop that day, but for many years my tendency was to carry my anxieties with me wherever I went. As I traded in my book satchel for a backpack, a backpack for a briefcase, and a briefcase for a diaper bag, it seems I often carried the weight of the world on my shoulders. And even as I learned to unburden myself through prayer, my tendency was to unpack my troubles before the Lord, then place them one by one right back into my sack. What a heavy load to bear!

But God never intended for me to carry the burdens of stress and worry. Jesus commands in Matthew 6:25, "Do not worry." And He urges in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." What sweet relief those passages offer to an anxious heart!

As my relationship with God has grown, I have progressed from belief, an intellectual knowing about Him; to trust, a confidence in His presence I can rest in; to faith, which carries me forward. And on most days I travel lighter, leaving cares and worries at His feet.

But as we studied Matthew 6 in our Sunday school class this week, I was struck by verse 27: "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" And I realized that it is impossible to stand tall when we are consumed with worry. Instead our anxieties make us feel small, insecure and incapable. And paralyzed by fear, our worries plunge us into loneliness, making us forget that God is always with us.

This passage was especially meaningful to me Sunday since Joe was out of town. Because normally as Joe packs his suitcases to leave, I pack my bags too -- the old familiar bags of worry. I dread his absences long before he goes, fret over his safety while he is away, and wonder what will become of us if he does not return.

When I allow myself to give in to this worry, I make myself so insignificant. And rather than dealing with a little thing like a sibling squabble as a singular incident, I approach it with the mindset of, "You don't respect me as much as your father. If something happens to him, what will become of us? How will I support us financially? How will I keep you from rebelling in your teenage years, and in the end will you turn your back on God? And how will I get through the day when I don't know how to change a tire, do our taxes or kill a snake? And what if an intruder breaks into the house?!?"

And what I have finally realized is that the answer to all my "what ifs" is ...

"Then God."

If someday Joe does not come home, then the God who gave him to me will continue to care for me. If I face hardship, danger or struggle, then He will provide, protect and empower me. The journey may not always be easy, but I know He will never leave me.

So during Joe's five days away, I let go of worry and found that I had more room in my sack for blessings. This week instead of stress, I carried peace. I traded fear for joy, and anxiety for thankfulness. And in return God filled my week with happy days and restful nights.

When I am tempted to pick up my bags of worry in the future, I hope my mind will drift to Matthew 6:26: "Look at the birds of the air. They don't plant or gather crops. They don't put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren't you worth much more than they are?" And I will be reminded that as Christians we really have nothing to worry about. Because when we release the weight of worry and cling to God, we can soar.


Collage Images from Google

34 comments:

Felicia Eis said...

Thank you for such a sweet post!!! What an awesome reminder!!

Aunt Tea said...

it's the kind of thing we just need to pause and let it soak in.

pink green & southern said...

Thank you for your beautiful words. As mothers/wives, it is so easy (almost natural at times)to worry, but as you remind us God tells us to give it all over to Him--what a gift, blessing and a joy!

Graham Shenanigans said...

Melissa, I really needed to read this right now. Going thru a custody battle, a rebellious teenager, a career change, all that has me so worried and stressed. But I just need to hand it all over to Him and concentrate on the blessings!! Thanks for the inspiration this morning!!

Home School Dawn said...

Great post. I posted on Matt 6 today, too. The Lord must be dealing with us in a similar way. Thank you for sharing this encouragement.

Sandy Toes said...

Great post...I am with you in the "worrying department"!!! We need to trust God and He is in control!
-sandy toes

Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam said...

I love reading the nuggets of truth that we all receive from different passages. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle said...

So true! I needed to hear that today, thanks for posting.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I just love that grouping of pictures. Just looking at them made me feel more at peace.

I'm 54 now and it seems everytime I find I've overcome worry in one area of life, God allows something else to pop up to strengthen my worry-free faith muscles. :)

Kristie said...

This was the perfect post for me right now, as my life seems nothing BUT things to worry about!! And what you said about the what ifs of your husband not coming home, that is my life right now, as my older four kids' dad just passed away (cancer) and even though I am remarried, the loss of him in their lives is monumental. How will I get them through their growing up years without him to back me up, how to now deal with his wife, how to deal with my husband. Hard!! I think I will be back to read this post over and over!! =)

Tina Foster said...

Thank you so much, Melissa. If complete trust were so easy, it would not be such an important part of faith. I remind myself that "it is GOD who works in you" and "apart from ME, you can do nothing". I'm looking for a sweet sparrow to put on my nightstand to greet me each morning!
Have a wonderful day!
P.S. your cafe theme inspired us to invite the grands over for a special meal served by the twins in their own "restaurant". Granddaddy is a Korean War Vet and he brought pics from that time in his life. What an impression it made on William and Anna!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Melissa! You must have read my blog post from yesterday!(JK) I had been telling myself all that you spoke to in your post, but to read it from another just lets me know that my Father is truly watching over me and my family. He WILL get us through our trials...even carry us when we cannot walk on our own. I really needed the inspiration you shared today. Your blog is such a blessing to me. I will walk a little taller and rest a little easier in His peace today. Thank you for sharing His comfort today!
Laura McCann

Laura said...

Beautiful.

Becky Welch said...

Again, you speak to me. Thank you for your wonderful heart and words!

Jennifer P. said...

Melissa,
I use to carry worry the same way you did. It was such a burden! Then, despite all my best efforts and all my worry--my life "fell apart" anyway. So many of those things that I feared came to pass. And you know what? It was ok. I mean--horrible, but ok at the same time. God gave me strength. He helped me to do all that needed to be done, and continues to help me today. I still worry--but, like you, I've learned where to put that worry. At His feet. And it's awesome.

I hope you continue to progress in this journey of faith and surrender.

Lots of love,
~Jennifer P.

Live.Love.Eat said...

It's so easy to see why you are a writer. Wow. I do understand this concept as I have been getting closer to God for the past 5 years but it is so much easier said than done sometimes. That was really beautiful and inspiring Melissa.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I just heard an entire sermon about this on the radio, Melissa, and you have echoed those sentiments to perfection. As the song says, "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus." And it is very, very sweet for "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul." That is cause for rejoicing, even when we walk through dark and scary places. He's always there to lead us. Thanks be to God! :-)

XO,

Sheila

Kate said...

I can really relate to your entry today, Melissa. Just wait 'til your wee ones are driving and going to college! ;-)

Love,

Kate.

Miss Janice said...

Very well said. Yesterday I was listening to Memphis radio--the survey was "What do most people regret at the end of their lives?" There was a long list to choose from, but the answer was "All the wasted time they spent worrying"! I am definitely a worrier and ask God all the time to help me with that:)

smcvicker said...

Very encouraging, thanks!

Leah said...

Melissa,
I am a friend of Robin Holley and she introduced me to your blog. I have been reading it since March. I have found myself reading your blog everyday. You have a beautiful family and your blog is so uplifting! I lost my father in July and worry has plagued my everyday. It has consumed me for months. Your blog today was music to my ears. It is so comforting to know others deal with worry just like me. Thank you so much for your wonderful post.

Leah

Karin @ 6ByHisDesign said...

Melissa,

Thank you for your transparency through this post --- I think I fool myself thinking that I don't 'worry,' yet, I realize my worry manifests itself in other areas...along the lines of how I am impacting my children today for their future tomorrow. Your loveliness has truly inspired me to dwell on this and to make a more conscious effort to BE the mom I want to be...not wallow in the fear of the mom I am not.

So, to that end, our bloggy friendship feels divine. Thank you.

In Him,
Karin

Judy said...

Melissa, what a beautiful post. You have such a way of putting things into perspective for me. I, too, am a "worrier". Although my children are grown and out of the nest, I still worry about them when they are on the road or out of my sight. I'm always "mommying" Shannon (she lives closer than my son but I give him the "mommy" treatment too).

I need to remember this song when I worry: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." Amen

Judy

Stacey B said...

Very rarely in life do we come across sincere caring, gentle spirits such as yourself. You are such a bright ray of sunshine in this dark world my friend. I certainly can relate to worry, as you hear nearly every day from me. Thank you for your loving reminder of the greatest love of all in our lives, our Wonderful Father, who loves us more than we know or can possibly understand. You are a blessing to us all.

Debbie said...

Oh you have no idea how much I needed to read this post this morning. Your illustrations are so perfect and I think so many of us as mothers, carry around the weight of the world like that. It's hard not to. Alas, we aren't supposed to. Thanks again for the ever so gentle reminder.

Anonymous said...

Hey Melissa! It's Whitney Wise Long. I am from Elba and a good friend of Amelia Bedsole McCollough. I remember you from growing up and going to church with her. I think you maybe lived around the corner from my grandmother. Did you live in Brookdale? I found about your blog at the Elba alumni website and have been reading your posts this morning while my bunch is at school. I live on St. Simons Island, GA with my husband Victor and our four children- Bentley
(9), John Wise (5), Ellis (4) and Mary Whitney (almost three).

You are so talented! I admire you for finding the time to write and be creative. I have worked for the last 8 years as a freelance photo stylist and scout for some magazines including Coastal Living, Southern Accents and Better Homes and Gardens. I have just recently stopped doing this as the travel was too much with four kids and all that entails.
I do miss that creative outlet, though.

I am headed over to Amazon next to order your book and look forward to reading it. Maybe my Bible study can read it, too.

Just wanted to say hello. Take care and keep up the good life!
God bless...

Fondly,
Whitney

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