When legitimate concern morphs into toxic panic, we cross a boundary line into the state of fret. No longer anticipating or preparing, we take up membership in the fraternity of Woe-Be-Me. Christ cautions against this. — Max Lucado, pastor
A few years ago, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook became a best seller and spun off an entire series of books that prepared readers with step-by-step, illustrated instructions on what to do if the unthinkable happened. Whether readers found themselves caught in quicksand, near an erupting volcano, or sitting in a plane when the pilot blacked out, these handy pocket guides prepared them for all the perilous possibilities.
But these books weren’t the first of their kind. They simply followed in the footsteps of other popular titles, including The Paranoid’s Pocket Guide and The Hypochondriac’s Handbook.
The demand for these kinds of humorous self-help guides suggests that we have a tendency to allow our minds to wander to what could go wrong. Most of us don’t really need to know how to leap from a motorcycle into a moving car or wrestle free from an alligator. We’d likely consider such scenarios far-fetched or absurd.
But if we take a good hard look at our everyday worst-case-scenario-type thoughts, many of us would find we spend countless hours and immeasurable energy worrying about situations that will probably never happen to us.
In the face of everyday uncertainties both small and large, we may be tempted to create and even dwell on the worst-case possibilities. But worrying never empowers us; instead, it paralyzes us.
When we worry, we allow our precious time and emotional energy to drain away. Spending a day worrying about the length of life doesn’t extend it. An afternoon agonizing about finances won’t improve them. An entire evening in distress over an unresolved conflict won’t bring about resolution.
And worse, worry can undermine our relationship with God.
Instead of turning to God through prayer, worry beckons us to take matters into our own hands.
Worry is a subtle way of telling God that He’s fallen asleep at the wheel and that things aren’t under His authority, but ours. Yet we can make an active choice to say no to worry. Instead of spinning on thoughts of everything that feels so out of control, we can choose to turn to God. We can ground ourselves in the truth that He is sovereign. He is the ultimate Superpower, who holds all things together. Nothing escapes His notice. We can rest assured that He is far more concerned with our well-being than we are. And He loves us more than we can possibly fathom.
Worst-case scenarios will always exist in this life, but we don’t have to give in to worrying about them. On occasion, sure, a few of them might happen to us, but even then, as children of God,
We can hold on to the truth that the best possible scenario is also true: God is with us. We are not alone. He is in control.
1. What is the most ridiculous worst-case scenario you’ve ever worried about?
Sometimes worst-case scenarios, but more often than not everyday concerns, consume our thoughts and energy.
2. Check each of the statements that tend to be true about you.
_____ I sometimes wake up in the night, unable to sleep because of worrying about an issue.
_____ I tend to think about responsibilities at home and work when I’m on vacation.
_____ I can’t help but worry whenever I think about my retirement account.
_____ When I make a mistake, I’m far more concerned about it than my friends would be.
_____ When someone is distant, I’m instantly concerned about what I might have done wrong.
_____ Regular doctor checkups always make me uneasy because of what the tests might reveal.
_____ Some situations or topics make my palms sweat or my heart race.
Which do you tend to worry about most?
3. Reflecting on your responses to the previous question, on the continuum below, how (would you) rate yourself as a worrier?
I don’t worry at all. ———————————————- I worry all the time.
Throughout Scripture, God reminds people of the importance of turning to Him and depending on Him for all things. Even when people become distracted and give in to worry and fear, God calls them to place their trust in Him.
4. Read Isaiah 51:12–16. What does this passage reveal about the connection between fear and worry and forgetting God? Why is it important to remember the God is in control?
5. How did God comfort His people in this passage? What prevents you from allowing God to comfort you in moments of fear and anxiety?
Even when we know we should depend on God alone, we often succumb to placing our trust in other people or relying on ourselves.
Jeremiah paints a stark picture of the difference between one who trusts in other people versus one who trusts in God. Through this passage, we’re reminded that a blessed person is one who trusts God alone.
6. Read Jeremiah 17:5–8. What is the central issue with worry and anxiety? Is it possible to worry and still believe that God is fully in control? Why or why not?
7. According to this passage, what is the difference between the person who relies on his or her own strength and the one who trusts in God’s strength?
8. Name three specific situations in your life right now that are tempting you to rely on your own strength rather than the truth that God is in control. Spend some time prayerfully handing control of these situations back to God.
Digging Deeper into Overcoming Worry
Read Psalm 66. What does this chapter reveal about God’s sovereignty or the truth that God is control of all things? What comfort do you find in this passage for your own life right now? Spend a few moments writing a personal psalm, poem, or song declaring that God is control in every area of your life.
This week memorize Isaiah 45:6–7:
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.
Excerpted with permission from Overcoming Worry: Finding Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty, a 12-week Bible study by Margaret Feinberg.
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Tell the truth — Do you own a copy of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook? Or maybe you just feel like you should? I am definitely a night worrier. All my worst fears seem perfectly rational at 2:00am, and obsessive worry feels like a legitimate response.
But, as Margaret says, it’s not what God has for me or for you. After reading Psalm 66, share with us some of your worries that you’re laying before God and some of your thanksgivings and praises! We would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, FaithGateway Women