Why Worry is A Waste (and what to do instead)

Do you ever worry?

Maybe I should rephrase that to “how much do you worry?”

Worry seems almost second nature to those of us with female DNA. I’m convinced our worry comes from a good place—we just want everything to be OK.  But it also comes from a place where we like to control.  Everything.

Exactly two years ago this month I didn’t merely learn a lesson about releasing control and worry; I lived it. Or rather, my daughter did.

Ashton traveled thousands of miles across country to attend college.  Like most girls at her southern university she arrived early for sorority recruitment.  We prayed like crazy. Each morning she texted me a picture of her all dressed in her outfit for the day.  Each night I waited anxiously to hear how the day had gone. Despite being competitive and just generally overwhelming, all went well for her.

Until the night before Bid Day.

If I’m losing you in the Greek sorority lingo, stay with me, because the story gets good.

The night before Bid Day, each potential pledge visits three sororities.  After visiting the houses, each girl writes down, in order, her sorority preference.

Enter the panicked phone calls I received from my daughter.

Except I couldn’t answer—I was on a plane, traveling to be with her for Bid Day. During my layover I turned on my phone to see five voice mails and four text messages, all from Ashton.

“Call me asap.”

“Call Me now!!!”

“I need your help!!!!

“Where are you??????!!!!!!  I need to talk to you! Call me!!!!!”

Ashton felt torn between sororities and wanted my advice. Even after all the prayer for clarity and direction, she simply didn’t know what to do.

Heart pounding, I called Ashton, but got no answer so I left a message: According to the internet, one of the sororities had the reputation as a party sorority.  I hoped this tidbit of info would help her decision.

Two minutes later my phone rang. It was Ashton. I could hear the distress in her voice almost before she uttered a word.

“Mom” she moaned, “I didn’t get your message in time. I picked the party sorority.  What am I going to do?”

What indeed.

We had prayed for direction.  Every. Single. Day. We prayed God would lead her to a group of friends who would help her grow in every way—socially, academically, spiritually—and for a group she would help, too.

But now it seemed like the direction had taken a wrong turn.

And here’s the kicker:  Ashton had been so confused about which sorority to choose, she tossed a coin to decide!

I shook my head in disbelief.  I felt sick.

My mind began to spin with “If Only’s.” If only she’d been able to reach me….If only the coin landed differently….If only she’d checked the internet herself…if only God had made the choice more obvious.

The “if only” track was headed nowhere fast.  I knew I needed to get off.

So we prayed some more. Only this time we prayed for a miracle.  We prayed God would alter the decision making so when she opened her invitation the next morning, her second choice sorority (now her first choice) would be the name on the card.  And we prayed, that if not, Ashton would use the opportunity to be a light in the darkness.

Our prayers eased Ashton’s turmoil but, truthfully, I boarded the second leg of my flight with a heavy heart.  I still felt….worried. No mom wants her child to experience emotional angst on any level—much less the kind of angst that has the potential of lasting four years. I found my seat and began to pray one of the most fervent, heartfelt prayers I’d prayed in a long time. It came straight out of the Lord ’s Prayer:

“‘Lord, lead that child not into temptation, but deliver her from evil’.  And if a particular sorority would be too much temptation, deliver her!”

I must have prayed this 25 times.  At least.

We had prayed for direction, now it was time to pray for protection.

Finally, I opened a book I brought to read in flight. A book I’d randomly plucked off a shelf at home without giving it much thought. The pages of the book fell open on my lap. Written in bold letters was this:

Man throws the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” (Proverbs 16:33)

No joke. Those were the words. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Tears spilled down my cheeks as I thought about the implications of this verse. God is sovereign over the circumstances in our lives. Yes, Ashton tossed a coin, but God would determine how the coin landed.

God would direct and God would protect, no matter what the outcome. He’s that big.

I didn’t need to worry.  I could let go.

The next morning I waited excitedly with the thousands of other parents also waiting to hear which sorority their daughter had pledged.  Finally, the phone call came.

God had indeed controlled the dice.

Why do I tell you this story?

Because it’s not a story about Ashton at all.  It’s a story about God. And you.

It’s a story about a God who sees your life circumstances and the circumstances of those you love, every bit as much as he saw Ashton’s that day.

It’s a story about a God who is in control—even when things seem completely out of control from our vantage point.

It’s a story about a God who has plans for you and your loved ones and is working to accomplish those plans, despite our inadequacies.

It’s a story about a God who has the power to take mistakes and turn them around for your good and His glory.

It’s a story about a God who takes your sincere seeking of His will and sets you on the right path, even if you take a few wrong turns along the way.

It’s a story about a God who tells us not to worry because He controls what we cannot.

Do we play a part in all this?  Yes, we do.

We pray for direction.

We pray for protection.

Then we trust in the God who controls the dice.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)

 

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