Worry is Temporary Atheism

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Growth, Life
Tags: , , ,

I’ve never been much of a worrier. My typical reaction to impending doom is to ignore it and hope it goes away.

This strategy has worked well more often than it ought to have. I think it may be because I’m not actually ignoring it, even if that’s how it seems. Instead of panicking and flapping around like a landed trout, I send the problem down to the subconscious to find a solution; meanwhile, my outward countenance has nothing to do, which gives the appearance of calm in the face of adversity. My conscious mind sees my apparent calm and figures there must not be anything to worry about. Eventually (sometimes days or weeks later) the hardworking brain cells in the basement send up a workable answer and I’m ready to act.

This never fails to surprise those who know me well. The action step usually happens just after everyone has given up on me and decided I’m not ever going to do anything.

I suppose that I’m just reluctant to take an action unless I’m sure it will be effective. Which lever do I pull? Which knob to turn? Where to steer? When to wait? What to watch for? Sometimes there seem to be no options, and sometimes there are too many. But anxious fretting has never been an effective strategy. If I worry, it’s very short lived; if I think something might go wrong, I’ll try to fix it if I can, and then there’s nothing left to worry about.

Watching people worry makes me crazy. It just doesn’t factor into analyzing the problem, working out a logical response, or even that other useless activity, finding someone to blame. The most perplexing examples of worry are those in which a person is worried about something they cannot change. What’s the point of that?

At a religious leaders conference called The Nines, Pastor Steve Robinson of Church of the King in Mandeville, Louisiana, gave a talk called, “Worry is Temporary Atheism.” That’s a powerful idea. I understand this to refer anxiety over things beyond your own influence. The concern that our future is potentially and permanently awful, and that God can’t or won’t get you through it.

Faith in God has an amazing capacity to strengthen resolve. There are thousands of stories of people who get through the most horrible situations and credit it to their belief in an afterlife and in a loving God.  But even if you don’t believe, is there really anything so terrible that you can’t find a way to live with it? Even unbelievers find ways to persevere. It’s astonishing how strong people can be when it’s required.

So is worry a useless emotion? I think so. It is fear of an unknowable future – and the unknowable part is key, there. Think about it: if you knew precisely that a specific awful thing was going to happen, you would stop worrying about that (and start worrying about the unknowable things resulting from it, probably). If you were worried about losing a finger while working on an engine, and a genie came along and proved to you that yes, in fact, you were going to lose your left index finger, what are you going to worry about after that? You stop worrying that you might lose a finger, first of all. But then you start worrying about the details your genie left out: “Will it get infected? Will they be able to re-attach it? Will I ever play the piano again? How will I pick my nose?” Suddenly, “Will I lose a finger” doesn’t even make sense.

Is there anything about the future that is knowable? Sometimes, but that doesn’t seem to solve the worry problem. You can worry about your kids, your health, your relationships, your career and your finances, but to what end? You can influence those things, but at some point the results are out of your hands. Worry will never change the results. You have to trust that you’ve done what you can, and let it go.

Do you ever struggle with worry? Have you developed a strategy to avoid anxiety, especially over those things you cannot control? Can faith and worry exist together? Share your story in the comments section, below.

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