Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Worry vs Denial

There are plenty of things I may struggle with over the course of my life but due to my personality and natural temperament I am definitely not an anxious person.  I'll struggle with being lazy far before becoming a workaholic, I'm not even sure if wokahol even exists much less where to get a hold of it.  I'm not a worrier so there have probably been times in the past where I may have even judged others for worrying, but that is my right as a Christian in America.  We like to pick something we are never going to struggle with and then choose that to judge the faith of others like homosexuality, gossip, or depression - it's easy for us to avoid temptation so must be for others.  That is why I am thankful to God that he gave me almost a solid year of worrying on a daily basis so that I could never judge again, so I could better empathize with those who do, and so that I could learn the real antidote to worrying - trusting in God's provision.

A little while back I found myself in a position where I was working at a counseling center that just didn't have that many clients, and so my schedule was pretty wide open.  Up until that point in my career I always had plenty without really having to work that hard and if I did do a little networking or advertising myself it resulted in immediate results.  But then I hit a point where even with advertising and practically calling people begging them to let me counsel them I was still unable to see enough clients to even pay my basic bills, month after month after month.  My wife, friends, and family would all reassure me that it had nothing to do with how good of a counselor I was and it was just the bad economy, but I didn't believe it.  I'm pretty thick skinned and don't take much personally, especially counseling and the approval of others, but even if I didn't care whether people liked me I cared whether I could provide for my family.  It was at this point that I learned point number one about worry, as long as you live in denial you never have to worry.  It finally clicked with me that the reason other people worried and I didn't was because I lived life with my eyes closed, fingers in my ears, and humming a tune to myself while they were actually looking at reality.  As month after month stretched by my denial was crushed and I was forced to what I really believed about worry, that maybe I was in this spot because I was irresponsible and reaping what I had sown.  Maybe I had taken the gift God had given me for granted and not applied myself fully to being a success and the result was my son crying for more milk and I didn't get paid for another week so he had to go without.  Like a punch to the stomach I was awakened from my blissful ignorance and forced to stop denying, so naturally I turned to worry as the next valid option.

So I buckled down and did more to drum up new clients, applied for jobs outside of private practice counseling, networked, begged, pleaded, and did everything I could to to become successful.  The whole time I had a running number in my head of how many clients I needed each week to pay my bills and each time a client cancelled my heart sank as I tried to make it up.  Right on the verge of when I was beginning to see the prospect of new clients in terms of dollar signs rather than human beings in need of God's liberating truth in their lives I even began applying for jobs outside of counseling.  That is when I read the book, Sun Stand Still, by Stephen Furtick and I learned the next big lesson about worry that really made a difference, it isn't about me.  I began in a spot where I felt like I was invulnerable and worries were unimportant and small because I chose not to look at them.  I graduated into a spot where I saw the worries and concerns as huge but that maybe I could be big enough to tackle them.  Where God brought me was to a place where I saw how big the worries and concerns were and how small I was to conquer them but how large He is and how capable God is to make the sun to stand still in my life for my provision.

It was at this point that I stopped worrying and began trusting in God for my provision, not in the pseudospiritual way I started out in where I did nothing and expected God to do the work, but in a way where I had active faith.  I began doing what the book refers to as digging ditches, I prepared for where God was taking me rather than worrying about where I was.  I did advanced training, I read more book, I became a better counselor, I took the time to remind myself why God called me to become a counselor in the first place and it wasn't to collect a paycheck.  I nagged, harassed, and begged the partners at my current practice to please feel sorry for me and offer me a storage closet to work out of and when after five years of trying they finally gave me a shot I jumped on it.  My prayer was answered and I was blessed with a position at a practice where I am seeing twice as many clients as i was last year, I am completely booked weeks in advance, and I can focus on what I love doing - counseling not accounting.  I was given this blessing at the exact moment that I was able to see that denial was making the problem worse, and worry was denying God's power and sovereignty, and so I had to be blessed when I was humble and completely dependent on God because doing it myself just was never going to work.And so the key to worry was revealed to me in that moment and it wasn't the trite, "Just trust God and everything will work out fine" nonsense I was spewing out of my ignorance.  It was getting to the point where I realized me trying to take care of my own provision was like the birds worrying about what they would eat and the flowers about what they would wear.  It finally clicked that as hard a bird tries it is too stupid and incapable of planting and growing a tree to live in but I thought that since I was an advanced human I was capable of so much more when the truth is we are just as reliant on God despite our many talents, capabilities, and responsibilities.  The only way to see things clearly is to see our struggles and issues clearly for what they are - not minimizing and denying them and not making them an idol - and then realizing how truly small and ineffective we are for all of our worrying, but seeing God as big and powerful enough to take our little acts of obedience and turning them into a blessing we don't deserve and could never have earned.  Ignoring our responsibilities does not honor God, worrying without taking steps of active faith will always be fruitless, but trusting in God's provision while you do your small part results in miraculous provision of all you could ever need or want.

Next post I'll give some more practical help on what to do when your mind is assaulted by overwhelming worry and anxiety...