Sinful worry and anxiety are fires that are fed primarily by paying attention to them. When you give them attention, when you voice them, express them, write them for others to see, talk about them to others (even in the name of “concern”), the more you incarnate them, you enable them to live. What may initially be merely a fleeting thought, awful, horrible, awkward, shameful, (whatever), begets a monster of fears. And as you allow your mind to wander, turning the fear over and over in your mind, every second, every minute, every hour, you are feeding the fear. You are feeding the monster. He grows stronger and bolder by the minute. But why are you talking to the monster? Why have you let that cunning beast into the garden of your heart? Drive him away.
First, ignore the little bugger. Worrying about your intentions, your might-haves and could-haves and might-have-beens and what-ifs and your could-of-should-ofs are worthless. You cannot evaluate your life by measuring smoke. Try to hold it and it slips through your fingers. Do not give credence to mist, to vapor, to thoughts and intents that you can’t hold or measure.
A closely related strategy to ignoring worry is to mock it. Mock your anxieties by boasting in the Lord’s goodness. Mock your fears by parading the piles of blessings in front of the little beastie’s face. Afraid of financial ruin? Afraid you’re not really “in love” enough and bound to ruin your marriage? Afraid of sinning? Afraid you might do something really, truly awful? Look the little demon squarely in the eye and laugh and point up because there’s roof over your head, because there’s food in your fridge, because there’s a toddler in the other room that laughs to melt your heart. Then summons your wife or your husband or your fiancé into the room. March them right around in circles for a few minutes, admiring them, comment on their physique, their good looks, give thanks for them and to them, enjoy them and then give your fears a raspberry because they are not real, but the lips on your spouse certainly are and they are sweet. Then just for kicks, parade your story of God’s grace through your mind. Yes, there are failures, there are sins, there are shadows, but look at all that grace, all that forgiveness, all that undeserved blessing piled up high and dripping down the sides faster than you can lick it off your fingers. About then you should hear a little shriek and you might wonder what it was you were just thinking about. And then you might just wander into the kitchen for a little something. Because God is that good.
Finally, remember that sinful worry and depression is often emotional masturbation. You’re just fondling your fears. Your insecurity is a little idolatrous shrine to you, a mirror-icon you bow down to and kiss. You’re lusting for you, your power, your authority. But why do you worry? Why do you fear? Are you running this universe? Do the atoms check in with you before they let their electrons take another lap around their nuclei? What about the mountain goats? Have they asked you about next season’s lichen crop and which hills are most promising for finding mates? And how many nations are you running at this very moment? How many planets spin on your fingers? Open your eyes; look around. There’s a fabulous menagerie of flying, spinning, buzzing, and there you are worried about putting on too much weight, worried that one of your children is going to grow up and hate you, worried that you aren’t really forgiven, that you haven’t prayed hard enough or really truly meant it. Ok fine, but look down at your belly button. Go ahead. Lift up your shirt just a crack and peer down at the goofy looking thing. Nobody’s looking, I promise. Now get this: you have that thing because you were born from a woman. You got that thing because a sperm and an egg met one day inside your mother and danced a little jig. You got that thing (innie or outie) by doing nothing, by worrying about nothing, by running nothing, by being in charge of nothing. You got born, you got fed, you got changed, you got clothed by other people. And that was all orchestrated by a good and faithful Father in Heaven. Why are you worshipping you? You’re a lousy god. You weren’t even paying attention for the first five years of your life, and even after that it was pretty touch and go, you have to admit. Kill the me-god. Trash the shrine. It might feel good to stroke those anxieties, but seriously it makes you a whiner and a loser and no fun to be around. Look up. You’re alive. God is good. Go for a hike. Sing a song. Write a poem (not about your dark night of the soul, stupid). Kiss your wife or if you aren’t married, hug your dog or just hug the next dog you see. Pray. Give thanks.
Don’t feed the beast. Don’t give him airtime. Do not invite it over for dinner. Ignore the damn thing. Mock him. Laugh at your worries. Tell them stories about God’s grace. Worship Jesus in whom all things live and move and have their being. Thank Him for being big enough for everything, big enough for your sin, big enough for your failures, big enough to make everything right in the end.
Laugh because it feels good.
Love because you’re loved.