Immediately after World War II the Allied armies gathered up many hungry, homeless children and placed them in large camps. There the children were abundantly fed and cared for. However, at night they did not sleep well. They seemed restless and afraid.
Finally, a psychologist hit on a solution. After the children were put to bed, they each received a slice of bread to hold. If they wanted more to eat, more was provided, but this particular slice was not to be eaten—it was just to hold.
The slice of bread produced marvelous results. The child would go to sleep, subconsciously feeling it would have something to eat tomorrow. That assurance gave the child a calm and peaceful rest.
Like the orphans most of our worries are concerns with tomorrow. Worry is the great “What if.” It focuses on things that might happen, then spins out of control: What if I lose my job? What if I fail the test? What if I lose the sale? We rob our present moments of joy by worrying about tomorrow and things that may not happen.
We weren’t born worrying. We have to learn to worry. The good news is that if worry is learned it can also be unlearned. Here are four ways to overcome worry.
Understand that God is your shepherd.
Now in our society we don’t see many shepherds roaming the hillside. But in Biblical times shepherds were quite common. A shepherd provided food, shelter, the basic necessities for the sheep. A shepherd defended against enemies, keeping the sheep from danger. A shepherd led the sheep when they were confused and did not know which way to go. A shepherd corrected problems that came along.
God has promised the same care. “God tends his flock like a shepherd” (Isa. 40:11 NIV). “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep” (Ezek. 34:12 NIV).
Cast all your cares on God.
Peter wrote, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). Cast means to unload, let it go. When situations beyond our control come upon us, we can cast our cares on God or we can be consumed by them. When we are stressed we can panic or we can pray. If we prayed about all the things we worry about we would have a lot less to worry about.
Live one day at a time.
A lumberman, issued only a hand axe, was told to cut down fourteen hundred trees. One lumberman, one axe, fourteen hundred trees. Standing in the center of the forest of towering lodge pole pines, he had several options. He could conclude the job was too tough, turn in his axe and head into town. Or he could dash from one tree to another, whacking at each but felling none, trying to deal with the panic of overtaking him in the face of his impossible task. Or he could pause to figure out how many trees he would have to cut down each day in order to finish the task. Once he knew what each day’s work required, he could tackle one tree at a time.
In effect, it is pointless to worry about what we can’t control. If today is a five-tree day, we focus on those five trees. We know that tomorrow we will have more trees to cut, but we don’t let that keep us from concentrating on today’s five trees.
Decide not to worry.
There is no pill that will make us stop worrying. There is no seminar, tape, or book that will make us stop worrying. There is no one spiritual experience we can have for us never to worry again. The antidote to worrying is a daily choice, sometimes minute by minute, sometimes hour by hour, when we acknowledge that God is our shepherd, we put him in charge of our lives, we cast our burdens on him, and we live one moment at a time.