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Janu – worry

Janu – worry

No matter where you live, how much you earn, or how healthy you are, at some point, you will worry.  This week, my husband preached about worry.  In preparation for his sermon, he took an unofficial Facebook poll.  He simply asked, “What are the top 3-4 things you worry about?”  Within minutes, people were sharing their worries.  The top 10 worries were:

  1. Change
  2. Trivial things such as having a clean house
  3. Having enough time
  4. Failure
  5. Work
  6. Relationships
  7. Purpose
  8. Health
  9. Finances
  10. Family

When I shared this list with a friend that lives in Nambia, she told me that there is so much worry in January that they have a word for it – “Janu” or “Janu-worry”.  She said that worry in Nambia is similar to worry in America.  They worry because students return to school, people often spent too much money during the holidays, and there are also the general worries of life.

What we worry about reveals a great deal about us.  Firstly, we tend to worry the most about the things that we value the most.  For many of us, our family is the most valuable part of our life, so we worry about the safety, health and well-being of our loved ones.  Others deeply desire security.  We believe that having enough money will help us feel secure, so we worry about finances.  Still others worry about our health.  We worry that if we are not healthy, we will lose the ability to live life to the fullest.

Secondly, we worry about things that we have little to no ability to control.  While there are always actions that we can take to better our lives, much of what happens in life is out of our control.  No matter how much we care for a family member, we cannot control them.  Even if we work hard and save our money, sometimes life circumstances impact our finances in ways that we cannot predict or control.  While we can eat healthy foods and exercise, we cannot control whether we get cancer.  Additionally, many of the predictions we make when we worry never happen.

I have not eliminated worry from my life, but I have developed some practices inspired from Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) that have helped reduce worry.

  • Recognize that worry focuses on fears of the unknown. Worry focuses on the mistakes of the past and tries to predict the worst-case scenario for the future.  Worry cripples us with the “what ifs.”  What if I die tomorrow?  What if my child never recovers?  What if I lose my job?  Paul commands us to “not be anxious about anything.”  Paul knew that feelings are beyond our control.  To be human is to feel emotions, so if we experience painful and traumatic events, we are going to feel pain, fear and anxiety.  Paul’s command is essentially a command not to remain in the grip of anxiety.  While we cannot control the feelings that cascade over us, we can control how we act and respond to those feelings.  In order to control our response, we first have to recognize that we are falling into the trap of worry by focusing on the “what ifs”.
  • Transform worry into prayer. In Philippians, Paul tells us to transform our anxiety and worry into prayer and petitions.  Prayer is effective because prayer helps us shift our focus.  Prayer allows us to replace the unanswerable “what if” with “even if.”  Instead of thinking “what if my child doesn’t recover,” prayer helps me realize that God is with me so that I can instead say, “even if my child doesn’t recover, God loves my child as much as I do, and God will be with my family.”
  • Be thankful. Paul instructs us to bring our requests to God with thanksgiving.  Gratitude and thankfulness are so powerful to combat worry because thankfulness brings us back to this moment in time.  Worry focuses on the unchangeable past and the unknown future, but thanksgiving and gratitude force us to be present in the moment.  Living in the now is a powerful weapon against worry because the now simply is.  When you are in the now, you are not trying to rewrite your past or predict your future.  You are simply where you are, feeling what you are feeling, and thanking God for even the smallest blessings.
  • Remember God’s promises. Paul promises us that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

You may not be able to escape worry this Janu-worry, but I hope that these practices can help you find some peace during your struggles.

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Beth Gianopulos

Beth Mabe Gianopulos is a pastor’s wife (“PW”), a lawyer, and a mom of three amazing kids. Beth is married to Michael Gianopulos and is passionate about serving others at their church and mission organization, Project:Re3 (www.projectre3.org). Beth lives in Kernersville, North Carolina. Read more from Beth at www.pwlawyermom.org.

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