Many of us are powering through every day with a mixture of fear and anxiety serving as our primary engine. And the fuel we pour into this engine to keep it running smoothly is worry.
Most of us are so accustomed to living on this fuel that we don’t even realize how prevalent worry is in our lives. When I asked several people to tell me about their experiences with worry, most indicated they don’t consider themselves “worriers.” Then they went on to tell me about their struggles with worry, some of them describing sleepless nights and disruptions to relationships caused by worry. A few described panic attacks and other symptoms of runaway anxiety. But almost no one wanted to be labeled a “worrier.”
I never thought I was a worrier either, until God lovingly started showing me the pervasive presence of worry in my life and giving me momentary glimpses of freedom from worry. I will now readily admit that I am a worrier who is desperately pursuing freedom through trust in God—based in a stronger, deeper theology of who God is and who I am called to be. It was out of my former and ongoing experiences with worry that I wrote a book called Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. And I’ll admit I worried my way through it. I worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say, that no one would want to read it, that I’m the only person who doesn’t have control over the problem of worry.
But I’m not.
One reason you and I worry so much is that we are surrounded by people who are as worried as we are, and who pressure us to keep worrying. As a society, we are frantic with worry. Worry is expected of responsible people. We seem to equate worry with good citizenship and awareness. We are expected to remain on emotional “high alert” as evidence that we care about the world around us. Other people want us to worry because it makes them feel better about themselves or because there is profit in fueling our fear. Whether we realize it or not, we are under pressure to conform to a self-feeding culture of worry.
Good Reasons to Worry
We are also surrounded by good reasons to worry. Our world is full of things to be afraid of, our lives are full of people and things we could lose tomorrow, and our built-in limitations keep us from seeing what we so desperately want to see: the answer to all those “what ifs”—the future.