Few are those who would consider worry beneficial to one’s emotional health. Studies repeatedly link long-term anxiety to high blood pressure, depression, and a host of other physical and psychological maladies. Worry does not help us.
The question is not whether it’s good for us or not but rather if it is actually avoidable. Sure, life on the beach with a guaranteed income for life and no kids could, in theory, preclude us from the need to worry. But what about life as we know it, with mortgages, illnesses, job insecurity, food insecurity, climate change, etc.? Doesn’t worry-free mean care-free and should we not care about issues that affect us? If your spouse has a drug addiction and you care about your spouse, shouldn’t you be worried? In fact, if you’re not worried, isn’t that of greater concern? What sort of spouse would you be if you weren’t?
Here’s where the logic breaks down: in fact, worry is not the same as concern. Worry is only one expression of concern. Concern says ‘this needs to be attended to.’ Worry says ‘fear is what I need to attend it with.’ Worry believes that fear is the only way to attend to it.
But if there is a possibility of something bad happening, fear should be a motivator, right?
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. What’s the alternative? Faith. Faith is the belief that Someone or Something is in control and taking care of the situation. Faith doesn’t guarantee my most favored outcome but rather the outcome that was meant to be. And one for which I have nothing to fear.
So if we care, we have a choice: we can be concerned out of fear or concerned out of faith. In both cases, we ask questions, we plan, we strategize, we grapple, we rack our brain for solutions. But in one case we act in desperation for a world that is out to get us (or our loved one) and in another we act trusting that our efforts just might be one part of a Greater Outcome.
Yes, I can be concerned and not worry. I can care deeply about my loved ones, my community, my world – and not worry a bit. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean this won’t take practice and may take months or even years to pull off. It doesn’t mean I may need others to help me let go of it. But being free from worry is worth it.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6: 25 – 27)