The Worry Commandment: Worry Paralysis
The Worry Commandment: Worry Paralysis
Week of March 17, 2019 by Tom Deighan
(Note: Many school leaders are off for spring break this week, but I suspect many of you are wrestling with worry when you should be enjoying time off. I do not know your struggles, but I want you to know you are not alone.)
When I was much younger, I once awoke from a nightmare to find myself completely unable to move. I wanted to jump up and scream in terror, but I lay there helpless, barely able to breathe. Gradually, I regained my senses and my body eventually relaxed. My heart still pounded as I regained movement, but I did not jump out of bed in a panic due to the slow “waking.” I had experienced sleep paralysis, and I was embarrassed to tell anyone about it.
People who suffer from sleep paralysis wake up but are temporarily unable to move despite being very awake. It often happens after a very active dream, and psychologists think it is the body’s way of protecting itself during dreams. Without sleep paralysis, people would be running around uncontrollably during nightmares, so it protects us. Worry and anxiety can have the same effect on our lives, robbing us of the ability to act. Unlike sleep paralysis, however, anxiety never lessens its grip or protects us. We find ourselves living our lives in varying stages of terror, like a bad dream we can never wake from, and it is too embarrassing to admit that anxiety has us in its grip.
Maybe this is why Jesus gave us The Worry Commandment, and maybe it is why He also tells us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV) Worry simply makes things harder, eventually paralyzing our ability to effectively manage our lives, and we can no longer act. When we are worrying, we are not acting, simply adding unnecessary trouble to our day. No wonder Psalm 37:8 tells us Do not fret—it only causes harm!
Worry is the opposite of action: the useless mental exercise that is a counterfeit for productive activity. I have spent years worrying about things, and the worry never impacts the issue at all. It does, however, harm me mentally and physically. It harms my relationships. And psychologists have discovered what the Bible has taught us for thousands of years, that it can even lead to depression: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression.” (Proverbs 12:25)
Inaction is not always a bad thing. In fact, the best solution is often to do nothing, for a variety of reasons. When we worry, however, we are actually harming ourselves in more ways than we can imagine. What begins as a nagging concern can easily grow into a worry, leading to full-blown anxiety. Once our minds are captivated by worry our thoughts and emotions become impacted. We are no longer present with our friends or families because we invest so much of our brainpower in useless mental obsessions, imagining terrible outcomes to mundane issues. The more we worry, the less we engage in helpful activity. We rob ourselves and those depending upon us, and we know it, so we feel guilty. The guilt just produces more worry.
In time, the stress of worry begins to impact our bodies. Unfortunately, we cannot even recognize it ourselves. We turn to various solutions – anything to escape or manage it – but nothing works and many of the solutions simply compound the guilt and amplify the anxiety. We find ourselves in worry paralysis, and it is no way to live. I try to convince myself that it is part of my job or my calling or my personality, but it is not. In my case, I have simply chosen to put myself on the throne instead of God, convincing myself that my futile mental management of unmanageable problems is a suitable replacement for faith in Him. Nothing good comes from this, and everyone around us can see it except for us. Life is hard enough already without compounding it with worry and anxiety. As Jesus tells us, the day has enough trouble of its own! (Matthew 6:34)
I have always been very hesitant to share these things because of my very public position, but I started School Leader Bible Study and Leadership Bible Study to minister to people. Part of that responsibility is being open about my personal struggles. On a personal level, this series on The Worry Commandment is truly a message to myself, for I have been steadily losing the worry war for years. It is embarrassing to confess, and it is humiliating to see the impact it has had on my life – especially on those I love and on those whom depend upon me.
My hope, however, is that God may use this somehow to help others who have struggled as much as I have with worry and anxiety. We often feel unable to confess it, much less to address it, due to our leadership positions. Unfortunately, I cannot honestly say that I have conquered these things. It is often a daily battle, and I often neglect to rely on His Word. Maybe it’s time for some humility – time to admit that we cannot handle it on our own anymore.
I see someone else in scripture who dealt with such pressure, Jesus’ own brother, James. I can imagine that the pressure is on when the Son of God is your brother, and I cannot imagine the miracle it took for James to unpack all the layers that accompanied such a situation. In the book attributed to him, James offers us the simplest of advice: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (4:10) Perhaps if we humble ourselves by admitting we need God’s grace in our lives, despite our public leadership positions, God can even more easily lift us up out of anxiety.
None of these scriptures help us, however, if do not humble ourselves before Him. I am a prime example, for I wrote most of The Worry Commandment over four years ago. During that time, I have neglected to not only apply these scriptures but to also humble myself before Him. Putting on a brave face is necessary at times, but it should never jeopardize our health or relationships. At some point, we need to simply be honest that anxiety and stress have gotten the best of us.
And if you’re worried about what everyone will think . . . stop. They already see it on you. The impact of your stress paralysis is evident to everyone but you. Maybe this is also why James is the one who wrote “confess your faults to one another” (5:16), because sometimes we need to be humble before God, and sometimes we need to be humble before the people around us.
We have been living our lives in worry paralysis much too long. Let’s just humble ourselves before God, casting all of cares on Him (I Pet 5:7). Maybe it can start with a simple prayer: I need You, Lord, for I can no longer do it on my own. And then, let’s consider another step – confessing to those we love that stress and anxiety have gotten the best of us. We know it; God knows it; and the people we love know it. Let’s just admit it and start to free ourselves of worry paralysis, for it’s nothing to be ashamed of – for God did not create you to worry!
If this blessed you, please share with someone.
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