One thing I dislike about a lot of preaching is that they tell us what to do but seldom how to do it. Last Sunday in church we were told to stop fretting (worry). Buy how do we stop rolling around in our beds at night thinking about what is troubling us? We may know God and all the promises but somehow that is not enough.

The key, I believe is what we focus on. If we are driving a car through a narrow space and we keep looking at the obstacles on the side, the chances that we will hit them are high. But if we focus on the space between them we will probably get through unscathed. There is an accepted concept in psychology that says, ‘what we focus on, we become’. The book of Proverbs in the Bible says we become trapped by our own naughtiness[1]. By implication, when we continually think negatively we become trapped by our thoughts.

Worry can be defined as ‘thoughts and images of a negative nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats’[2] Worry is thinking about a potential disaster in the future. Our problem is we can only live in the present and so if we are always thinking about what might happen tomorrow we will worry continually because tomorrow never comes.

We learn to worry when we have past experiences that have unpleasant consequences. We then project our fear of these experiences into the future. We need to come to terms with the fear of these experiences and realise that they are not valid today. Worry in essence is taking a past experience and projecting it into the future today.

Another problem with worry is that we focus so much on the issue that it has the potential to become out of perspective. This limits our way of thinking and prevents us finding practical solutions. For a moment let us imagine we are stating out on a long walk and we have a small stone in our shoe. By the time we have walked a mile the discomfort will be so great that it will occupy all our thoughts. If we do not stop and do something about it we will never reach our destination. There is a Swedish proverb that says, ‘Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.’

So, how do we stop worrying?

The first step to overcome worry is to ground ourselves in the present. We need to think about ‘now’. We need to think about the resources we have now. We need to reflect on our physical and mental abilities we have now. Jesus said that we should be focused on the present[3] because we cannot live tomorrow and when tomorrow comes the situation could be different.

The second step is to focus on something positive. This may be a Biblical promise, singing worship and praise songs or praying in ‘tongues’. The concept here is to repeat a positive focus until it overwhelms our thinking. This will require discipline, to keep drawing our mind back to the positive focus because our mind tends to wander back to the problem. We do this until the problem fades. This concept of positive focus needs to be re-enforced daily. We have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to help us achieve this and when we draw on Him through positive focus we not longer live though our own ability but we begin to live through His empowerment[4].

Finally, we need to take action. Avoiding an issue will not solve the problem. Because we are grounded in the present and we have a positive focus we will then be able to make clear-headed decisions. As Glenn Turner put it,

‘Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.’

[1] Proverbs 11:6

[2] Wikipedia

[3] Matthew 6:34

[4] Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:16