When it comes to movies I usually go for romantic comedies (“Clueless,” “Moonstruck, “When Harry Met Sally,” etc.) so it’s a little surprising to me how much I love the “Pirates of the Caribbean” adventure films. I’ve seen all five of them – a few more than once!
If I’m being completely honest, some of the allure of the films might just be that Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp are downright handsome and easy on the eye (insert cat call whistle here 😉). Most of the appeal for me, though, is the silly banter between the characters. Lines like “Nobody move! I dropped me brain!” “ ‘Ello, Poppet,” “If you want pain, try wearing a corset,” and “This is either madness or brilliance” make me smile.
One of my favorite lines from the movie popped into my head recently. It’s when antagonist Hector Barbossa says to Jack Sparrow “You’re off the edge of the map, mate. Here, there be monsters.” (for extra credit try saying this out loud and be sure and use your best pirate-ese… think: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh matey!)
Off the edge of the map? Monsters? Let me explain…Pirates and explorers of long ago had a fear of the unknown. Fears and worries so big that cartographers in medieval times would put the words “Here there be monsters” or “Here be dragons” (with illustrations of dragons, sea monsters, and other mythological creatures) along the edges of maps to indicate potential dangers in uncharted areas.
To my GPS-at-my-fingertips modern thinking, the fear of monsters or dragons being in places I’ve never been to seems quite ridiculous. But, to be truthful, I’m not so different from the cartographers and pirates of old. The unknown frightens and worries me too.
Sadly, my “what ifs” and worries often turn into “here there be monsters” that threaten my neatly planned out, no-room-for-surprises, list-making, and organized life.
The Sky is Falling!
The past few months have been filled with sad, bad, and alarming news for me. The news included the loss of several of my peers’ parents, a cancer diagnosis in the family, and a health scare for me. It’s taken everything in me to not hop on the worry roller coaster (calm one minute-mentally a mess the next) and scream “Here there be monsters!”
Full disclosure: sometimes I have a propensity to catastrophize. Catastrophizing (believing that you’re in a worse situation than you really are) can be mentally debilitating. Sometimes I find myself worrying about all sorts of things – big and small. To get a little glimpse into what my Chicken Little (aka Henny Penny) “the sky is falling” psyche can be like, check out a few (there are many more) of the thoughts I’ve actually had:
I’m going to get a staph infection and end up dying if this cut on my finger doesn’t heal (I really, really need to stay off of WebMD!).
It’s 20 minutes past the time my kids usually get home from high school…They probably got into a multi-car accident and now they’re on the side of the road lying in a pool of blood (morbidity at its finest!).
I’ve never seen this freckle before; I’m positive it’s skin cancer! (WebMD again!)
I know what’s going through your head. “Lynn, those thoughts are ridiculous! You worry too much!” Tell me about it! God is always at work in me though and, praise God, He’s been refining my thinking on this subject (keep reading to find out how).
The Usual Suspects
Lest you think all of my fears are of the calamitous sort, they’re not. Some are quite ordinary. Maybe you’ve had some of the same. Do any of these seem familiar?
- Money and finances
- World events and politics
I know I’m not alone. Worrying is part of the human experience and is a feeling that everyone can relate to. Feeling worried is completely normal, but when worrying gets out of control (here there be monsters!) it can impact our joy and affect our well-being.
Useless worry. Worthless worry. Futile worry. Irrational worry. Call it what you will, God understands our worries. He gets us. Not one worry is too big or too small. And…before you start thinking that God gets exasperated with us when we bring our worries to him, He doesn’t (never, ever!). He’s patient with us.
Worry doesn’t mean our faith is flawed either. Worry just indicates that we need Him even more than ever. God loves us so much that He went to a whole lot of trouble to give us His promises in scripture to help us. Did you know that the words “do not be afraid” are written 365 times in the Bible? They are! Why? Because God knows that you and I can be prone to fear and worry. He wants us to know that we can trust Him to take care of us.
Here are a few of my go-to verses when I sense that “worry monsters” are popping up in my life:
- “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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Mt. 6:22-25-27, 34 NIV
- “ Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
- “God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”” Heb. 13:5 NIV
- “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV
- “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10 The Message
- “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;” Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)
These past few months God has been pressing it on my heart more than ever that He can and will help me overcome my worries, but here’s the important part, only if I get to a place where I trust Him and let Him take over.
I’ve started reasoning this out with Him during my quiet time. I’ve also been recalling His faithfulness. Doing both of these things helps me to release all control to Him. Here’s what I mean:
Reasoning Things Out
I grew up in a church where it was common to pray (recited) scripted prayers. There’s nothing wrong with this, but for me reciting words kept me from having a relationship with Him. God wants to talk with us. He’s not stymied by our questions, frustrated with our complaints, and not put off by our worries. So when I’m feeling anxious, I’ll often read a promise or teaching in scripture, and then I’ll “reason things out with him.”
A conversation between the two of us might go like this: “Okay Lord, You tell me not to panic. You say that you are with me and that You will bring me peace. You say that You are most careful with me and that you will hold me steady and will keep a firm grip on me. Lord, I believe You. You never lie. But right now I need to feel Your promised peace, I need Your comfort, I need You to put things in perspective for me because this worry is consuming me and I’m afraid. Help me.”
Recall His Faithfulness
When I feel myself getting anxious I recall how faithful the Lord has been to me. I remember the times when He protected me from danger when I made foolish choices. When He healed me from sickness and redeemed my mistakes. When He set me free from bondage and turned my sorrow into rejoicing. Simply put: I replace worry with gratitude for His goodness and praise for all His blessings in my life.
When I sense myself letting my thoughts run away from me or ruminating on the what-ifs and unknowns (monsters) I tell myself “I’m letting go and letting God handle this.” As cliche as this statement may seem, it works for me. Instead of having a power struggle with the Lord, I surrender. He is all-knowing, I’m not. He is all-powerful, I’m not. He is able to see my future; I can’t. End of argument.
Here There Be NO Dragons!
Friend, life goes by too fast. Let’s not allow worry to steal another day from us. Let’s hold our ground! Let’s be brave! Let’s get angry! Let’s look our “monsters” in the eye and tell them how ridiculous and useless they are. Do what I do, and say to yourself, “Here there be NO dragons!” Let’s trust God, rest in His perfect Fatherly love for us, and believe that we can cast every single one of our worries on Him because He will always care for us.
Before I go consider these questions:
How do you usually cope with your worries? Do you like to control the outcome of things? What would your life look like if you surrendered your need for control to the One who is able to do (and handle) all things? Do you believe that God will lead you along “territories” that are unfamiliar to you? What verses have ministered to you in times of worry? Shoot me a note and share your answers with me. I’d love to hear from you!
* Need an additional reminder about how God can handle your worry? Listen to this song (you’ll be glad you did).
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