If you know me at all, you know that I’m a worrier. I obsess over every detail of my life, and I usually end every semester burned out and exhausted, because worrying takes a whole lot of effort. Take the recent field trip I led to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example. I worried about not reserving enough seats. I worried about reserving too many seats. I worried that the kids would forget their light rail money. I worried that sick kids would give up their spots to their friends and circumvent the waiting list. I worried that a few kids would be extremely late. I worried that we would miss our first, second, and/or third trains. I worried that one of the kids would get stuck on the trains or left behind somewhere. I worried that dinner would take too long. I worried that the kids wouldn’t like the play. I worried that the roads would be bad. I worried we’d get stuck. I worried that the vans wouldn’t start. I worried that one of the kids would have a medical emergency. I worried that we would all freeze.
Guess what? None of that happened. Not a single thing went wrong the whole evening. I reserved the perfect number of seats, everyone was (mostly) on time, we had a lovely, leisurely dinner, we made all our trains, the play was fantastic, and no one got sick, frozen, or left behind. Know what’s even more amazing? Most of the things I worry about are partially or totally beyond my control. And even the events that I think I control can easily fall to pieces.
I know all of the “pat” Christian answers to my worry problem, and I know that there’s truth in those answers. Yes, I need to cast all my cares on God. Yes, I know that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Yes, I know that I am to pray without ceasing. But recently I’ve come to the realization that I need to start praying in a radically different way, at least for the time being. Here’s the problem. When I ask God to do something or provide something, and He doesn’t do it, I get terribly, bitterly disappointed. I tell myself over and over “His way is best,” and “All things work together for good,” and “Prayer doesn’t change Him, it changes me,” but even as I’m feeding myself clichés, I know that deep down I’m piling layer upon layer of resentment. And if my request is granted, I think, “Well, maybe it would have turned out that way anyway.” So I end up worrying about things to no end and avoiding praying about them so that I can avoid the inevitable disappointment and distrust. What a crappy way to run a relationship! Can you imagine if I treated my husband like this? “I’m going to avoid talking to you, because your responses might disappointment me”? We would quickly need some marriage counseling.
So I’ve decided recently that what I need is an extreme prayer life makeover. I need to radically change the way I pray so that my focus is shifted off of myself and onto God. Right now, I need to stop asking for specific things to happen or things to be given to me. Instead I need to ask for total acceptance of His will. I need to ask for grace, patience, wisdom, and love in any situation in which I find myself. I need to pray that I will accept all things as coming from His hand and trust that He’ll provide the resources to deal with what He gives me. I need to pray that I won’t put my hope in my own plans for my life, but instead put my hope in what He plans for me. Praying for all of these things will help build trust. And trust in God is the ultimate antidote to worry.