Worriers Live In The Future

Storm

Since I was a little kid I’ve struggled with the sin of worry. Some of my fears were normal little-kid fears like, “What if my mom and dad die?” But I was afraid of some pretty strange stuff too. When I was three years old I was convinced that Cookie Monster from Sesame Street was under my bed, which pretty much scared the pajamas off me. When I got a older I was terrified that a storm might arise during the night, causing a lightning bolt to come rocketing through my bedroom window, which would in turn electrocute me. I was also afraid that at some point a tornado might hit our house, even though the odds of that happening are about the same as Mr. Rogers getting into a fistfight. I admit, I had some strange fears.

Unfortunately, worry doesn’t go away when you grow up. It just takes on different forms. Now I fear for the safety of my daughter Charis, and my wife Jen. Sometimes I go into Charis’ room at night just to make sure she’s still okay. I worry about paying the bills on time, and being successful at my job, and the health of my parents and siblings. I’m a grownup now, but I’m still a worrier.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Ed Welch. This book was written for sinful worriers like me. At one point in the book, Welch says that worriers live in the future. He says:

Fear can be triggered by the past, react to crises in the present, or anticipate them in the future. It’s preferred time zone, however, is the future. Dread, panic, nervousness, worry, and anxiety all speak of our potential future vulnerability…Anxiety and worry are less oriented to the present. They say, “I think there will be a danger;” “Something or someone I love might be threatened in the future.”

These words spoke to me. Generally, my worries are future oriented. Will my daughter be safe? Will I have enough to pay the bills? Will I preach well next Sunday?

As I pondered my fears, God gave me a particularly helpful insight. When I worry, I’m imagining a future apart from the grace of God. For example, I worry that Charis might become seriously ill at some point in the future. I vividly imagine doctor’s appointments and doctor’s appointments. And yet in all my imaginations, God and his powerful, loving, sustaining grace is nowhere to be found. If Charis became seriously ill, it would be a trial beyond my imagination. But I also know that God’s grace would be present each moment, sustaining me, encouraging me, and refreshing me. The Lord would carry me through the trial.

When I worry about the future, I’m essentially functioning as an atheist. I’m envisioning a future devoid of the almighty God who sustains me and carries me through trials. When I ponder the future, I must remember God.

What are you tempted to worry about? Today, as you consider these things, rejoice in the grace of God that will sustain you through every trial!

__

Originally published April, 2008

  • http://garyboalnireland.blogspot.com Boaly

    Sesame Street has alot to answer for, for me it was BigBird who haunted my dreams and gave my parents sleepless nights as they tried to settle me down when I was a child!

    Great post, must get a copy of “Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest”.

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Boaly,

    There’s just something frightening about Sesame Street, isn’t there?

    Seriously, you really do need to get a copy of the book. It’s really good!

  • http://www.jenniferpartin.blogspot.com Jennifer Partin

    So true—that’s what future grace is about!

    I suppose that is why it is so important to stop and remember past providences as well. The same grace and mercy will carry us through into the future!

    And boy—you did have some rather unusual and rather excessive worries as a child! :) (I bet you have a vivid imagination too!)

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Jennifer,

    I guess if I would have known about future grace when I was younger, I wouldn’t have been so fearful of the Cookie Monster. But you have to admit, Cookie Monster is freaky…

  • j

    Pfffft. Cookie Monster is nothing compared to the large pink Easter Bunny at the mall.

  • DeeDee

    I went through a great struggle with anxiety last year. I got some great nouthetic counseling that really helped me apply my theology to this particular struggle.
    Also, my dear friend just kept reminding me, when I was in the middle of an anxiety attack about the furture, that of course it would feel scary, I didn’t have the grace now for that because I didn’t need the grace now, but that God would supply the grace when needed, and and not a minute before. I have really learned what it means to “take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.”

    I love the way Whelch points out that we who worry are really, in essence, false prophets. That really hit me between the eyes!
    Thanks for sharing Stephen!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    DeeDee – I agree, the point about worriers being false prophets is really good. I really appreciate how Welch writes. Simple, yet profound…

  • Becca

    Did anybody else do the “safety town” out at East Pike elementary? They showed a video on carbon monoxide poisoning and how it was worse than fire because it was invisible. That was horrible! I was already terrified that the house would catch on fire because of our wood stove, now something invisible was after me! It’s funny in retrospect, but worry really is like having something invisible that’s after you–you feel like your being chased by your own future, which doesn’t exist yet. I’m thankful for God’s grace in the here and now to help me overcome my fears of the future.

  • Robin Schmitt

    Thanks so much for your post. The past three years have been difficult ones in my marriage and family and I sometimes anticipate that certain things will be repeated. Sometimes they aren’t repeated and I worried for nothing. But even when my fears are realized, God’s grace is sufficient. I know that it will be because it has been, so why bother worrying in the first place?

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Becca – I can totally relate to the fear of carbon monoxide, the invisible killer. Yet another thing to be afraid of. I’m really grateful that God is sovereign, because otherwise I would always be a worrying wreck.

    Robin – Isn’t it funny how sometimes our worst fears are nothing more than fears? But even when our fears come true, God really is there to sustain us in the midst of trials. Glad you were encouraged!

  • http://www.stanknrankn.blogspot.com Sara

    Stephen,

    Thanks for this post. I too am a worrier of the future. My attention was effectively arrested by your statement about worrying about the future is imagining a world apart from the grace of God.
    I will be chewing on that one for awhile.

    I also liked your ending in turning our attention to God and rejoicing that his grace will be there to sustain us through any and every trial. This is just a random thought, but I wonder if gratefulness for and gratitude about God’s grace would help to combat against worrying about the future?

    Thanks for the post and for sharing about Cookie Monster. Hopefully Charis won’t latch on to CM or else you probably will find a stuffed CM underneath your bed at some point. :) Oops! That statement is probably not helping you with worrying about the future. :)

  • YellerDaisies

    Thanks Stephen! That is a great reminder! I have been reading Welch’s book and I love it! It’s been so helpful. I too have been a worrier since I was little. I think I can easily top your CM!!! A vivid imagination isn’t always helpful. :-)
    How grateful I am for the patience of my Savior! When I sit and think of my worries, they’re so silly and honestly (most times) don’t logically make sense. I’m just imagining life with my amazing Savior’s grace. That’s so arrogant! Why would I even imagine myself without Him (i.e. being self-sufficient)? Very helpful reminder…thanks so much!!!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Sara – I think you’re onto something about the connection between thankfulness and worry. Being thankful often puts things into perspective for us. And no, I don’t think I’ll ever find a CM doll under my bed…

    YellerDaisies – I’m so grateful for God’s patience as well. I’ve struggled with worry for years, yet God has always been patient.

  • Bret C

    I’ve got the book by Mr. Welch that you mentioned in your post. I’ve read some but I need to start back over in it;it’s been a while since I’ve read in it. I struggle with fear/worry/and doubt. It’s been especially raging for over a year now. I feel like the book will be helpful I just need to read it. I really appreciate your blog.

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Bret,

    The book by Ed is really helpful for worriers like you and me.

    I’m glad you find the blog helpful…

  • http://www.stanknrankn.blogspot.com Sara

    Stephen,

    Thanks for responding above. That encourages me what you said about gratitude and gratefulness because I wasn’t sure if I was using the right weapon in the right battle.

    I also came across a quote I put in my journal that has helped me to battle fear about the future It is from the “Shortcomings” prayer in the Valley of Vision.

    “My sin is to fear what will never be. I forget to submit to thy will and fail to be quiet there. But Scripture teaches me that thy active will reveals a steadfast purpose on my behalf and this quietens my soul and makes me love thee.

    Thanks again.
    Sara

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Sara – Isn’t VOV awesome? They had such a way with words. I love how they capture what we’re feeling so effectively…

  • http://www.stanknrankn.blogspot.com Sara

    this maybe my last comment on this post, but I just wanted to let you know I finally picked up a copy of the book. Looks large and intimidating, but I am encouraged to read it seeing how it’s affected your life and others who have shared with me that they read it as well. Thanks again!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Trust me Sara, it’s worth the read!

  • Tom

    Great post Stephen, thank you!

    I’m a worrier – I worry about the future – I need a job-will I get one?, I want to get married-will I ever meet anyone for me?, etc etc.

    Your comment about worrying being like imagining a future away from the grace of God is a challenge! We never know what’s round the next turn in life – but we do know that “twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home”! Something I definitely need to remind myself of more.

  • chiefofsinners

    I’m very thankful for this post. I’m in the midst of paralyzing fear and anxiety right now. It started with nagging little ailments that cause me to fear for the future of my family. This week it has evolved into what I might call depression. I’m almost afraid to leave the house. I saw my doctor, everything seems ok but she recommended a mild medication for 6months to help with the anxiety. It’s providential that I read the blog today because I just ordered Welch’s book this morning. Pray for me. All of your comments were encouraging.

  • http://www.theeffectivespirit.net Chad Prigmore

    Great post!

    I’ve written about worry myself and one thing I would like to pass on here is that most of the things I’ve wasted time worrying about never ended up happening. Also, God always provides a way that I would probably never have thought of or imagined.

    God Bless!

  • http://blog.harmlessonline.net Mr. Harmless

    Ed Welch is so good. He is coming to our church this summer. But I hadn’t heard of that book. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Stephen Altrogge

    Tom – that line from “Amazing Grace” is one of my favorites. It fills me with faith to know that God has been faithful thus far, and he will continue to be faithful.

    chiefofsinners – I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing such terrible anxiety. I pray that God meets you and brings you through it. Thanks for sharing so humbly.

    Chad – You’re so right. Worry is such a waste of time. If only I could remember that when I’m worrying.

    Mr. Harmless – Yeah, Welch is great. What church?

  • http://www.fishoilfaq.com Gavin Wright

    Relaxation techniques and meditation can help a lot during Anxiety Attacks. .*`