Emotions - Blog

4 Practical Things to Do Instead of Worrying

Becky Thomton

My husband enjoys running. John often goes on 45-minute runs, and I rarely look at the clock while he’s out. Yet, one evening, I suddenly noticed he’d been gone more than an hour.

The sun had set, and I knew John didn’t have a flashlight. More time passed. As I fought the temptation to worry, my mind drifted back to the time in high school youth group when we learned what the Bible says about worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything … ,” we memorized from Philippians 4:6 (New International Version). I don’t remember much more from that night at youth group, except my friend Denise’s question: “So what’s the difference between worrying and just thinking about something a lot?”

It was a great question.

We were both seniors in high school with stressful topics like grades, graduation and college filling our thoughts. Were we worrying, as we’d just been instructed not to do, or simply thinking?

How to Know if You’ve Crossed a Line

It took me several more years to grasp what the verse in Philippians was saying and how to tell if I crossed that line into worry.

Sometimes, my thoughts are empowering: thinking through my to-do list helps me plan my day; analyzing my budget motivates me to save for future expenses.

But I cross that fine line when my thoughts fill with things I can’t control, like my husband being out for a night run with no flashlight, identification or cellphone.

“How many of our hours, our days, are spent worrying about things over which we have no control and things that will never happen?” writes Linda Dillow in “Calm My Anxious Heart.” “There’s no disputing the fact that, nine times out of 10, worrying about a thing does more damage to our body, soul and spirit than the actual thing itself.”

So how do I stop? And how do I prevent it?

4 Ways to Hand Worry Over to God

In their book “Soul Prescription,” Bill Bright and Henry Brandt emphasize that the way to peace of mind is “not by trying through an act of the will to make our worries go away. Rather, [we] hand them over to God.” They suggest these steps:

  1. Adopt a correct view of God.

    Do your ideas and beliefs about God match what He says about Himself? If not, try reading the Book of John and make note of the many ways Jesus cares for people and keeps His promises.

  2. Change your false beliefs.

    How do your ideas about people or life influence your habit of worrying? Spend time processing how you think when you’re in a stressful situation. At what point does the worry go away? When are you able to move out of anxiety and fear? Start to become aware of the beliefs that are shaping you every day.

  3. Pray about specific worry.

    What do you worry about? God doesn’t want you to live in that place of fear and anxiety. Talk to God about your specific worry-related habit — fear, discouragement, impatience. Ask for His help.

  4. Flee temptation to worry.

    Take active steps to prevent returning to your bad habits. Focus on your relationship with God and take steps to cut off common sources of temptation. For example:

    • Remind yourself of past experiences of worry that you aren’t experiencing anymore. God took care of you then, and you can trust Him to continue providing for your every need.

    • Look up verses in the Bible about not worrying. Begin to see how these truths can shape how you interact with God and people.

    • Ask a trusted friend to check in with you about how you’re doing with not worrying.

Have Confidence in God’s Character

“God desires for [those who worry] to have their mind wholly fixed on Him, for then they could know peace,” say Bright and Brandt. 

As I sat in my house trying not to worry about John running along busy streets in the dark, I realized that even if something bad happened to him, God was still in control.

By faith, I know God will meet me in any situation, painful or joyful. By faith, I trust He will uphold me just as He has upheld others. He will prove He is still God, and that is always enough.

“Do not be anxious about anything,” is a loving statement meant for good. When you choose to trust God instead of worrying, He blesses you.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength,” emphasizes Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom in her book “Clippings From My Notebook.”

John came home after an hour and a half. If I’d allowed myself to worry, I might have been emotional and reacted with anger, scolding him for being gone too long.

Instead of being upset with John, I was able to connect with him, recognizing and sharing his excitement for the long run he’d just had. Worry would have stolen that from me.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Next Steps:

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Worrying less starts with knowing who God is. Learn how to know and trust God more.

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