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Help! I Can’t Stop Overthinking!

Hands shaking, I clung to my iPhone as I searched the Internet.

WebMD. Got it.

A few seconds later, I found myself reading through symptoms of a brain tumor.

Headaches? Check.

Vision problems? Check.

See, you’ve got two of the main symptoms.

But there are others I don’t have.

But you’ve got these two. You’ve got to see a doctor. What if you have a brain tumor?

After weeks of vision problems, I booked myself a trip to the doctor, convinced that my death sentence awaited me in that examination chair. It would only be a matter of time. It was a constant downward spiral I couldn’t seem to crawl out of.

What if you find out you’ve got a brain tumour?  Stop.

It would explain all of your vision problems.  Stop right now. 

It might have been there all this time.  Stop this, Rachel.

And you’ll find out what you’ve always feared.  Stop.

One look at your optic nerve and . . . STOP!

With tears streaming down my face, I pleaded with my doctor to conduct whatever test he deemed appropriate in order to rule out my fear.

After an hour’s worth of tests and scans, I was embarrassed to find out that after all the time and energy I had spent worrying, my headaches and vision problems came down to stress and what he called “ocular migraines.”

“Stress?” I blew my nose into a tissue.

“Yes, you need more rest,” he confirmed as he proceeded to hand me more tissues. Then he offered me some advice I’d struggle to forget.

“If you go looking for something to be wrong, you will eventually find it.”

Now, he wasn’t for one second suggesting that it was a waste of time for me to come in. But he was inferring that our fears have the power to concoct something into being, and that if we let our imaginations run away with us, it might lead to trouble.

 

How We Know When It’s All Gone Wrong

Perhaps you have never had the joy of experiencing a panic attack at your optician’s office like I have, but there is likely something in your life that keeps you on a mental hamster wheel. Your relationship. Your work. Your health. Your finances. Your living situation.

And the more weight we place on this one thing, the more potential there is for the enemy to keep us sick with worry about it, similar to how my active imagination left me in fear-locked shambles for weeks leading up to my doctor’s appointment.

This issue of destructive thought patterns has been on my heart for some time, and I have learned that we can claim back our imaginations—we have to! The reality is, our feelings are extremely misleading and can’t always be trusted. Once I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice, I knew that something had to change, and I needed to learn to tune into the right voices.

 

Reclaiming Our Imaginations

Our imaginations are a fascinating part of who we are. They are a beautiful, magnificent, inspiring part of us. Our imagination is the birthing place for every incredible, ground-breaking, creative idea that we will have. It’s an extraordinary incubator of inspiration and catalyst for endless opportunities.

But, it can also imprison us if we allow it to go astray.

Friend, listen to me. There is a war going on right now. And it is a battle for our minds (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is after your imagination (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but thankfully, we don’t have to live shackled to fear. God has a purpose for each of us (Ephesians 2:10). A rich destiny. He has already spoken His promises to us (Jeremiah 29:11, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Peter 5:6-7). Now we just need to speak them to ourselves.

I don’t know anything more powerful in overcoming negative thought patterns than meditating on Scripture—which is why one of the most important steps to overcoming negative self-talk is learning how to take back control of the conversation.

Take it from the hypochondriac herself. We need to stop listening to our mind’s wandering thoughts, and start listening to what God says about us and His plans for us.

If there is anything I have learned from repeated episodes of panic, it is that our lives tend to follow the direction of our conversations. Courage and fear both come from those conversations with ourselves.

Instead of anxiety being my go-to response, I want prayer and recalling scriptural promises to become my knee-jerk reaction whenever life turns pear-shaped.

I’m not by any means suggesting that we ignore our problems. If anything, I think we need to be realistic and face them head on with practical solutions and supernatural wisdom from the Bible. However, we also need to remind our concerns of where they stand in relation to God—His voice, not my negative self-talk, is the authority of my life.

Right now, I am wrestling with this truth. I want so badly to get to a place where I can see my problems and not get hung up on them but to hang on tightly to the promises of God instead. Throughout the Bible, God has promised many times to watch over His children, and I know He will watch over me and carry me through any difficulty I might face. So I will keep on striving to remember that truth.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. (from Hebrews 13:5, Jeremiah 31:3, Jeremiah 29:11)

Will you join me in tuning into God’s voice?

ODJ: New Address?

July 16, 2016 

READ: Philippians 4:5-8 

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (v.7).

Move to a new home, or stay at the old address? This question filled my mind for several days as my husband and I discussed the possibilities. A handful of problems were obvious when we toured a prospective home. For instance, a pipe in the basement jutted up from the floor into the middle of a room. And there was an odd odour in the cellar. Still, there were new cupboards and beautiful windows that would let sunlight pour in.

I found myself more and more concerned with the details involved in the deal. What if we couldn’t sell our home? How much would it cost to fix up the new place? Paul’s words to the Philippians diffused my apprehension. He wrote, “Don’t worry about anything . ...Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace” (Philippians 4:6-7). For me, peace was the absence of the constant mental tinkering with our situation. It meant trusting that God would determine the outcome of our plans.

Paul went on to give his ‘top 8’ list of good things to think about. Not surprisingly, none of them included buying and selling a home. Rather, the categories were: what is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise (v.8). Purposely filling our minds with good things and mentally chewing on them leaves little room for fear and worry.

It’s normal to spend time considering the weighty things in our lives. A well thought out approach to our basic needs—shelter, food and employment—is wise. But the Bible tells us we don’t have to worry about those necessities. Prayerfully trusting God and filling our minds with good things helps us to gain the right perspective as we make decisions.

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day plan: Mark 6:14-29

MORE
Read the following verses for some encouraging examples of God’s faithful provision and direction: Exodus 14:29-30; 2 Kings 20:5-6; Luke 2:11-14; and 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. 
NEXT
Where’s the line between worrying and simply pondering a decision? How might the absence of worry in a person’s life be considered an act of surrender to God? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: Worry & Anger

April 16, 2016 

READ: Ephesians 4:17-31 

For anger gives a foothold to the devil (v.27).

There’s a children’s song that goes, “Don’t you worry and don’t you fret, you know God has never failed you yet.” The same God who delivered the Israelites out of slavery can be trusted to go ahead of us—never failing or abandoning His children (Deuteronomy 31:6).

But what happens when the stuff of life begins to sap our joy and fear comes calling? We can begin to worry and fret; and sometimes as we weary of trials or suffering, we can even become angry. Sadly, anger only adds to our pain and turmoil. Speaking from personal experience, it has never led to freedom, healing, or peace. In fact, worry—fueled anger results in lost tempers, which then “only [lead] to harm” (Psalm 37:8).

Pastor Adrian Rogers once stated, “When you are quick to get angry, you can lose so much—your job, friends, children, wife, health, testimony—there is nothing more debilitating to your Christian testimony than for you to fly off the handle.”

Rogers offered the following advice for responding to anger when it begins building inside of you:

Confess: Bring your anger and its root cause (including worry and lack of faith) to God and experience His forgiveness and healing.

Consider: Determine why you’re filled with anger and seek God’s provision to be free of it (Ephesians 4:31).

Control: “ ‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (vv.26—27). Instead, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within you will provide what’s needed to “renew your thoughts and attitudes” (v.23).

As we rest and trust in God, worries melt away, anger subsides, and our lives can reflect His “righteous and holy” ways (v.24).

—Roxanne Robbins

365-day-plan: 1 Kings 10:1-13

MORE
Read James 1:19—20 and consider what it says about anger and how it can negatively affect our lives and testimony. 
NEXT
How have you experienced worry turning to anger? What’s at the core of your fears and worries? How can you deal with them so that you don’t become anxious and angry? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Not My Worry

October 12, 2015 

READ: Isaiah 40:25-31 

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22

 

A man worried constantly about everything. Then one day his friends heard him whistling happily and looking noticeably relaxed. “What happened?” they asked him in astonishment.

He said, “I’m paying a man to do my worrying for me.”

“How much do you pay him?” they asked.

“Two thousand dollars a week,” he replied.

“Wow! How can you afford that?”

“I can’t,” he said, “but that’s his worry.”

While this humorous way to handle stress doesn’t work in real life, as God’s children we can turn our worries over to Someone who has everything perfectly under control even—especially—when we feel it is not. 

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God brings out the stars and calls them all by name (40:25-26). Because of “his great power and mighty strength” not one of them is missing (v. 26). And just as God knows the stars by name, He knows us individually and personally. We are each under His watchful care (v. 27).

If we are inclined to worry, we can turn that worry over to the Lord. He is never too weary or too tired to pay attention to us. He has all wisdom and all power, and He loves to use it on our behalf. The Holy One who directs the stars has His loving arms around us.

— Poh Fang Chia

Lord, You know there are times when I get really scared. And I forget that You have promised that You will never leave me to face difficulty or loss alone. Help me to trust.


Worry ends where faith begins.