30 Seconds for Hope: Fears and dangers are real! So a downward spiral of worry is hard to shake. But I’ve learned a simple trick that creates benefit out of worries—a swimming pool analogy that reminds me to jump to overriding truths. Whenever I recognize I’m worried, I don’t guilt myself about being worried but instead just say, “Time to jump!” Worries can become helpful reminders that send you to the pool of benefit.
And now the full story:
When I was ten, I loved using my swimming skills in shallow water, and sometimes I ventured into the deep end. But I was reluctant (terrified!) to dive off the scary diving board on the far side of the pool.
One night my daddy decided to change that. He dived into the deep end, and while treading under the board, he began to urge, “Come on! Climb onto the diving board and jump! I’ll catch you!”
Though it took a lot of urging while I stared into that abyss of deep-end water, eventually I believed my dad, and I jumped—and he caught me. (Of course!)
Worries can be like that diving board—a tool for jumping.
But what if you didn’t know what a diving board was for? You might look at it and think, “This thing is such a bother! It just gets in the way, and it could trip people!” If you didn’t understand the springboard’s purpose, you might wish someone would rip it out and dump it!
And so it is with worries. Worries can be bothersome and even an embarrassment. They trip us up, and we wish we could get rid of them (or at least control everything that makes us afraid). But we can’t because dangers will always exist.
I’ve had lots of experience with worry because I have lots of fears and phobias! But over the years my husband has helped me learn a new approach, and it has made a big difference. Since I can’t banish everything I’m afraid of, I’ve learned to use worries for a beneficial purpose. Worries have become my assistant—to “jump, float and swim.” How?
Whenever I recognize a worry, I start telling myself, “Time to jump!” My jump is a thought leap to truth that’s truer than my worry. I examine what I’m afraid of and what I’m believing about it, and then I choose to focus on a bigger truth that’s relevant to my specific fear. When I was anxious about the immaturity of my preschool children, I focused on the bigger truth that they weren’t grown yet and still had time to mature. When I’m anxious about a tornado hitting my house in Tornado Alley, my bigger truth is that God is master of the wind. (And yes, I do go to my basement, but more on that later.) I trust that God is just like my loving daddy—always there, ready to “catch” me.
Using worries to jump to my heavenly Father transforms worries into benefit because those worries compel me to anchor into God. I jump to Him by focusing on:
- His character attributes (for example, God is good)
- What he’s done for me (for example, he’s forgiven me)
- What he’s promised for the future (for example, he’s promised to be with me)
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NLT)
After jumping, then I float—float in a pool of gratitude. I do this by giving thanks about the truth I’ve jumped to. It’s one thing to think about truth on an intellectual level. It’s another thing to be grateful for that truth—to turn your heart to God in prayerful thanks. “Thank you, Lord, that you are the master of wind and water. Thanks that I can trust you to help me while this tornado bears down on our city. I’m so grateful that you care about what happens to my family.” Gratitude benefits us. Gratitude buoys us up!
Swimming is next. Swim into action. It’s important to take action on things that are in your rightful control. When tornado sirens blare over our city, I take action by quickly running to my safe place while I’m “jumping and floating.” I run down the basement stairs while I tell God I’m trusting he’s powerful enough to control weather events. I thank him for his help, and I acknowledge that even if the tornado hits our house, I know he has a good purpose for any pain.
Swimming into action means you do what’s needed to confront the dangers or fears. Are you out of a job and worried about finances? Fill out dozens (hundreds!) of job applications while you jump to the truth that your Father loves you and while you thank him for his promises to provide what you need. Are you sinking in anxiety? Find a good counselor who can walk you through steps for managing panic. Swim into action.
Also, while taking action, be aware of the limits of your rightful control. In trying to banish worries, some people try to control and manipulate others. It’s not good to take over someone else’s freedom in order to alleviate your own worries. For example, some empty-nester moms pester their grown children with texts and calls, seeking reassurance that their kids are OK or demanding that adult children follow their (abundant!) advice. But often this is actually a façade for soothing their own mommy worries. If moms don’t learn to jump, float and swim, they can end up alienating family and friends. (You’d be surprised what college kids say about their pesky, worried moms!)
I no longer focus on trying to achieve a life without worries, but instead I use them as signals. Rather than get stuck on the diving board of worry, I’ve discovered I can transform my anxieties into benefit when I:
Jump to truth
Float in gratitude
Swim into action
Cheat your worries. Trick them into benefiting you!
Jump. Float. Swim.
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