Concerned About Worrying

scared monkey

Have you ever had one of those conversations where you can tell what is coming out of your mouth doesn’t make any sense, yet you press forward and try to express the idea anyway? It happened to me last week. Here’s the run-up:

That specific morning, I read all the latest news accounts of war, beheadings, Scottish independence, ebola, terrorists, bent iPhones, etc.  You know – normal news. I spent the day thinking and worrying about some of those current issues. Later that night, I was sitting with my EC, and I tried to bring up something I had been thinking about all day. This is where I made a mess of the point I was trying to make. I said:

“You know, it seems kinda dumb to worry about all the stuff that goes on in the news – it’s not like any of it is going to affect my life today or tomorrow.”

She looked at me quizzically, her disagreement apparent. (Remember, my wife is not practiced in hearing me say anything that is not witty or profound.) We talked about what I was thinking, but I had not constructed my thoughts well enough to be convincing – or even make a lot of sense. So I left it alone.

I spent the next week doing some study, both religious and secular, to help me better communicate the point that I was trying to get across.  Originally I said this:

“You know, it seems kinda dumb to worry about all the stuff that goes on in the news – it’s not like any of it is going to affect my life today or tomorrow.”

After reflection, I think it is much better to restate my thought this way:

“You know, it seems really dumb to worry about all the stuff that goes on in the news – it’s not like any of it is going to affect my life today or tomorrow.”

See how much better that is? Adding the word “really” makes it all come together. You see, the more I looked into it, the more it became apparent that I was not the first, nor will I be the last person who wonders about the worth of worrying.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not willing to ignore what is going on in the world, nor am I naive enough to believe that what is happening in the world will not impact me and my family. I am a realist – I am absolutely concerned about what is going on around me in the world, my country, and my neighborhood. To not be would be irresponsible.

But in this process, my concern was about the act of worrying itself. So I dug in to see if any smart people had ever addressed the difference between worry and concern.  Here are a few quotes:

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” (Harold Stephens.)

More simply put, “Worry is problem oriented, concern is solution oriented.” (Unknown)

“If there is no solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it.” (Dalai Lama XIV)

All to my point that worrying is dumb. The problem lies in spending our time, energies and emotions in fretting over things that we cannot control. Things in the past that are out of reach, things in our present that don’t actually affect us, or things that have not even happened yet, no matter how likely or unlikely. In my conversation with my EC, The point I was attempting to make, is that all of the terrible things in the world are not showing up on my doorstep today – so if I spend time and emotion worrying about them today, I am wasting time and emotion that could be put to much better use for something here, and now.

Most of us are familiar with the “Serenity Prayer,” by Reinhold Niebuhr, but that doesn’t mean we are very good at it.

“O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.”

I am not too worried about an ebola epidemic at my house. If that were a real concern, then I should prepare by doing something proactive – not just worrying about it. Sure, I am worried about a potential ebola pandemic – but not enough to actually DO anything about it. So am I honestly concerned? Or just worried?

Donkey Wheelie

Worrying is exhausting.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” (Corrie ten Boom)

I read all these quotes and thought, yes, there is plenty of wisdom out there – but what can I find on the subject from Church sources. First I came across this old quote from The Spoken Word, by J Spencer Kinard:

“Someone has mathematically calculated that 40% of our worries will never materialize; 30% percent deal with old decisions that cannot be changed; 12% percent focus on criticism that is mostly untrue; 10% percent deal with our health, which only worsens when we worry; and only 8% percent are legitimate. The point we would make is that life does have real problems that may be met head-on when we eliminate useless and senseless worry.” (link)

Eight percent?  How much sleep have we lost over the 92% illegitimate worries that we wrestle with? How much better could we tackle the real concerns if our strength wasn’t being wasted at a 92% rate?

I’m not much of a poetry guy, but I did come across two poems that really make the point well. The first is attributed to Elder LeGrande Richards. (link)

“For every worry under the sun,

There is a remedy, or there is none;

If there be one, hurry and find it,

If there be none, never mind it.”

 

And this, from the funeral program of Marjorie Hinckley: (link)

It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is.

It all works out. Don’t worry.

I say that to myself every morning.

It will all work out.

Put your trust in God,

and move forward with faith

and confidence in the future.

The Lord will not forsake us.

He will not forsake us.

If we will put our trust in Him,

if we will pray to Him,

if we will live worthy of His blessings,

He will hear our prayers.

 

Ah, there it is! When you bring God into the discussion it changes. He does not want us to worry or be frightened.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” (D&C 68:6)

The hard truth about being a worrier is that worry is the antithesis of faith. It shows that we don’t trust God, or that things are in his control. It is hard to let go. Remove any of your fear with faith. Trust the power of God to guide you.” Elder M. Russell Ballard. (link)

The teachings of the living prophets are replete with the same counsel: Quit being afraid. Things will work out.

“I have seen enough ups and downs throughout my life to know that winter will surely give way to the warmth and hope of a new spring. I am optimistic about the future. Brethren, for our part, we must remain steadfast in hope, work with all our strength, and trust in God.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Two Principles for Any Economy.”

President Monson said it beautifully a few years ago in General Conference. “I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” (link)

General Conference is here again. Listen closely. Will the brethren counsel us to stay awake at night worrying about terrorists, ebola, ISIS, war, bent iPhones, GMOs, etc?

Or will they ask us to increase our faith, and find peace in the Savior Jesus Christ?

This next week, I am going to try and:

1) Put my worries away

2) Act on my concerns

3) Prepare myself to receive counsel from the Lord’s chosen servants.

I invite you to join me.

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Comments

  1. I meant to read this a while ago, but never got the chance. No worries, right? 😉 I got to it now. And I am glad I did!

    I can worry quite a bit at times. And you are right, worry IS exhausting. It messes me up! I don’t worry so much about the happenings in the world. I guess I trust our God with that one. But I do worry about my family…my kids…and the things they have to go through. Maybe it’s because I don’t trust ME quite as much. But I am working on it. I heard once something like “If it is important enough to worry about, then it is important enough to pray about. If you prayed about it, then stop worrying about it.” I do pray ALL the time about/for them. I have to constantly remember to do my part and TRUST Him to do his.

    Worry is fear. And fear kills faith. And without faith we can do nothing.

    One of my favorite quotes (right here on my desk) is “Be cheerful in all that you do. Live joyfully. Live happily. Live enthusiastically, knowing that God does not dwell in gloom and melancholy but in light and love.” (Ezra Taft Benson) …SNAP!!

    Thanks for sharing your fantastic thoughts and all those great quotes. The Corrie ten Boom one has been a favorite of mine for some time and has helped me put things into perspective.

  2. Thank you. I needed that. I hope I can hang onto it for awhile- thanks for pulling all of those quotes together. Now I just need to hang onto these thoughts.

  3. I”m a worrier. Or at least, I was. I guess I still do a bit, but I’m learning. My EC’s occupation is such that he works himself out of a job regularly. For the first 10 years of our marriage, I would freak out, worry, cry, etc about what we were going to do. It was silly, really, the Lord always looked out for us, and it all worked out OK, though sometimes at the very last minute.

    One year, we had gone pretty long without work, the savings were about gone and my “don’t worry” resolve was fading fast. I was asked to play the piano for a Stake leadership meeting. It was tough getting there on time after other obligations, and I ended up without enough time to run home to get prelude music. So, I rushed in, grabbing a hymnbook. I opened the book, flipped around and found a hymn to play.

    As I was playing it, I started reading the words:

    Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side.
    In patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
    Leave to thy God to order and provide,
    In every change he faithful will remain.
    Be still, my soul: Thy best, they heav’nly Friend
    Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

    I suddenly felt this amazing feeling of peace and comfort, that the Lord was watching out for us, and not to waste time worrying. Tears started…(no surprise, I have terrible emotional incontinence)..someone asked if I was OK. And, for the first time in weeks, I was! I will never forget that….

    1. Yes, that hymn has comforted me more than once as well…truly an inspired translation of the original words… and the music is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing! The Lord does provide, in every change…and life is so full of those!

    2. Thank you for this comment. I remember a time, this past year, that that verse stood out to me and brought me to tears. For some reason right now, I have forgotten something that I have learned so much about over the years- to trust the Lord. This comment, after this article, was a reminder to Trust the Lord.

  4. “Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair thinking you are going somewhere.” Worrying also robs us of the present moment, which is the only state in which true joy exists. It took Dialectical Behavior Therapy (for chronic anxiety) to teach me that. They call it mindfulness. I call it “sufficient each day [hour, minute, second] is the evil thereof.” It also helped me to learn how our limbic system runs away with all the past, present and future stuff, overwhelming us with emotion/anxiety. It’s when we stop and reconnect with our body and our spirit that we can put things back into perspective.

  5. Love this!!!!! As I read your article I realized I am a worrier, and I’m wasting a lot of energy. I too look forward to conference and I will definitely work on my worries, I’m getting better at it.

  6. I’m a natural worrier, but I’ve improved over the last few years. Ha! I don’t mean I’ve got better at worrying, I mean I don’t worry as much. I’m too dang old and tired these days. Plus, I was praying one day and the Lord clearly told me to quit worrying about the major thing I worry about. That helped quite a bit.

    I do worry about the fact that I’m still putting on weight despite eating lots of chocolate. That’s a bit annoying.

  7. Great article. It made me reflect on some of my favorite quotes only to find you would use that quote in the next paragraph. Life really is so much better when we have a bit more faith and trust that if we do our best, God will step in and help us when we need it. Knowing this enables me to make better decisions without the crippling aspects of worry.

  8. This was amazing! I also just had a spiritual confirmation of what you said. I decided to make a phone call tomorrow that has been worrying me for weeks (actually months!). I picked up the telephone book to look up the number and it not only fell open to the right page but my left thumb was over the name. As my tears were falling, I knew that was my confirmation to take care of the business and stop worrying about it.

  9. Am I the only reader who had to Google “bent iPhone” to find out what you were referring to?

  10. I enjoyed the contrast between worry and concern. Making a list of possible catastrophes that might require being prepared in particular ways makes it easier to focus efforts. For instance, flooding, hurricanes, mud slides and forest fires are very unlikely where I live but drought, earthquake, toxic chemical spills and economic failure are possible. Each calls for specific actions that I can institute. The peace that comes with completion of a plan is an antidote to worry. ‘Follow the prophets, don’t go astray.’

  11. Mignon McLaughlin: “If I knew what I was so anxious about, I wouldn’t be so anxious.”

  12. I think this is want William Clayton had in mind when he wrote:” ‘Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive; Do this, and joy your hearts will swell – All is well! All is well!” Seems we are slow to learn the lessons that have been taught in the past, but again maybe this is the reason we have general conference twice a year, to be reminded of what is important.

  13. Excellent post. Regarding your first paragraph, I’ll offer #4 in my family’s 6 strategic rules to live by: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. And my favorite quote on worry, “What do you mean worrying doesn’t help? Half the things I worry about never happen!”

  14. It is possible to worry subconsciously and convince yourself that you are not worried. When in fact your lack of a good night’s sleep tells you differently. This is so timely – thank you!!

  15. This may seem somewhat random, but I too have sometimes worried myself greatly with what is going on in the world today and expressed my concern and frustration to both my husband and my Heavenly Father. Like you, I have decided to take these worries and cast them at the feet of my Savior and take HIS yoke upon me instead of the burdens of the world (as much as I am able). I have realized though that there IS something we can do to change the world for the better:

    Alma 31:5 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them…

    In light of this scripture and the rapid decay of our world, it is interesting that there has been lately a great push to “Hasten the Work”. We may not be able to see the difference our efforts make but “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass”. I have a lot of work to do to better at Hastening the work, but I feel like it is one way I can take the yoke of the Savior upon myself since HIS primary concern has always been and always will be to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men.

  16. I needed this a year ago when I tried to teach a relief society lesson that addressed this very topic! I, too, had trouble making my thoughts congeal to understanding at the time. Our leaders are truly wise and inspired. Good action plan you have there too!

  17. Beautiful, as usual – thank you. I tend to be brave and faith-filled during the day, especially when I have started that day with the Scriptures. My wrestles with fear/worry come in the middle of the night when I wake up and can’t seem to control my imagination. Anyone else have this problem? I run hymns and prayers through my mind in an effort to counteract it, but the fear-pumped adrenaline is usually very slow to release me. (Anxiety runs in my family…) Helpful hints are welcome!

    1. In addition to pray and reading a General Conference talk just before lights out, try putting a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow or under it if the smell is too strong. It is also important to use the bedroom only for sleeping and intimacy–no TV, fiction reading, eyc. Hope these are helpful–I am a convert with much familial anxiety

    2. If reciting memorized scriptures and/or hymns does not work, I get up and start my scripture study. That usually does it, but if not, I am blessed by it, anyway.

    3. I have the same problem–anxiety also runs in my family. I just started counseling with LDS Family Services. It was very humbling to admit that I needed help for anxiety. We hear that faith will remove our fear and I actually believe this is true. I also believe that sometimes our anxiety is not a spiritual problem, but a very real physical issue. I feel and recognize the Spirit in my life every day–but my anxiety still overwhelmes more often than I like to admit even to myself. I love that Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave a talk one year ago in General Conference about mental health issues. He focused on depression, but his comments apply to anxiety also. Here is a link to his talk. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng&query=depression

      I believe Heavenly Father has provided us with resources to help us overcome the challenges in life–and anxiety is one of many we may be blessed to deal with.

      I love MMM’s blog post though! I’m going to print and save it in my journal I’m keeping during this trial in my life. Excellent points and I too and so excited for Conference next week.

      1. Thank you to everyone who responded, you are all so KIND – It helps to know others struggle with this too. I am doing better in my “old age” but still have an occasional wakeful night (you’re right about a physical issue; I think I have an overactive nervous system)…I will remember these comments/suggestions, and YES, I will definitely focus on Conference! We are so lucky to be able to watch it LIVE no matter where we are. (p.s. I’ve learned that Yoga helps too…) Blessings to all, 🙂

        1. I recently began Dialectical Behavior Therapy for chronic anxiety, the most practical skill I have found for this may seem silly and menial, but it has worked for me. The key is to come back to your senses: see, taste, touch, hear, smell. It’s as simple as naming objects, colors, etc in the room. The reason this works is because your limbic system, responsible for emotions and memories, is running rampant with thoughts and feelings and you have to reconnect your prefrontal cortex, responsible for words and information, by observing and describing things that are FACT, meaning everyone else can see them too. Then you are free to go about scripture reading and hymn singing in a much more connected, whole mind/body/spirit way.

          1. Thank you so much for additional practical advice. I will remember this next time I need it! I think that DBT therapy is what my EC had after a car accident, to help him overcome re-living it constantly. The brain is so amazing…and tools for working in harmony with it are more useful than drugs, which I’ve avoided using…although I must say, the drugs are helpful in certain situations where other measures aren’t working.

  18. Excellent advice, and I accept your invitation. 🙂 I am hoping to make this week more spiritual than the last and so on… 🙂

  19. Thank you for this post. Lately, I have begun thinking of myself as a “recovering worrier” and have been training myself to stop worrying and trust in the Lord. So this post is very timely!

  20. Will the brethren counsel us to stay awake at night worrying about terrorists, ebola, ISIS, war, bent iPhones, GMOs, etc? NO!!

    Or will they ask us to increase our faith, and find peace in the Savior Jesus Christ? Yes <3

    Thanks

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