By Jessica Palardy
I decided on a whim years ago to give up worrying and anxiety for Lent, and I had a pretty good idea what to expect. It wouldn’t be easy, of course, but I’d give it up and give my cares and concerns to Jesus and have lots of peace and joy and good stuff.
For the first week of my fast from worrying, I was happy, feeling released from the bonds that have held me for so long. I really wasn’t worrying anymore. Whenever I’d feel the familiar tug of anxiety in my mind, I’d stop myself and breathe, then make a list of what I could do right now to fix the problem. Once I had done what I could, I firmly planted the rest of the worry in Jesus’ hands, knowing I had done what I could do and that He’d take care of the rest. The more I gave Him, the more I could believe in His love for me. I was placing my worries and cares—which really meant the majority of my thoughts—in His hands and trusting that He would not let me fall.
As the second week continued, something felt a little off. Where I expected peace, I instead found emptiness. It was pretty startling, really. Wasn’t I supposed to be filled with happy butterflies and sparkly wonderfulness? At this point, I realized just how much worry had had me in its grip. It had consumed my thoughts and my heart, and I didn’t know what to do without it. I was actually frustrated by my lack of thoughts to think, because so many of my thoughts were now off-limits. My worried thoughts had been an automatic go-to so that I could keep my brain busy throughout the day. The worry promised me happiness and fulfillment, because if I didn’t constantly worry about things, how would I get anything done?
So I didn’t let my mind go there. I didn’t let my mind go to where it would be constantly consumed and led on by worry’s false promises. Instead, I was still. I started noticing my surroundings more, and I realized how nice it is to speak with Jesus when it’s just our voices, instead of the usual clamor that fills my head. It remained weird, and the emptiness would drive me crazy. As weird as it sounds, it’s like my heart is Swiss cheese. All the holes used to be stuffed with worry, and now the worry’s gone so there’s a bunch of empty spaces. Those spaces don’t have to stay empty for long; Jesus wants to fill them with things far more substantial and filling, like joy and peace and love and mercy.
But I have to choose to keep the holes open for Him to do that, and that’s been the struggle. I’ve been relatively successful in keeping the big worry moments away, but as Lent wore on, I started paying less attention to the smaller worries that got in. They began to permeate my mind again, and it got to the point again where I didn’t even realize I was worrying because I was just so used to those frenzied thoughts.
But you know what? I have hope. This was never meant to be just a Lent thing; I’m kicking worry to the curb every day for the rest of my life. I’ll have to wake up and choose not to worry, eat lunch and not worry, drive home singing and dancing with my radio and not worry. And I know that I can do it. Remember our pal Martha from my last post? She was the sister consumed with worry about the daily things of life, and they consumed her to the point where she wasn’t listening to Jesus (AKA, my life).
Martha and her sister Mary appear again in the Gospel, and this time Martha has been transformed. Her brother Lazarus has just died and she’s grieving his loss, but when Jesus comes, she tells Him, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (Jn 11:21-222) When Jesus asks if she believes that He is the resurrection and the life, she answers, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (Jn 11:27) Martha shows that she is growing and trusting Jesus over despairing when it all seems pointless, lost, too complicated or too painful.
After the last 40 days, I promise you that I am no trust-expert, but I have tasted what it’s like to truly be free from worry, to not have it constantly invading your mind in even the tiniest of ways. It’s worth it, guys. We were never made for worry or anxiety. We were made for trust, and joy, and peace. Take courage and break up with your worries today, and if you don’t believe me that it’ll be the best thing ever, listen to God: “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7