Jesus talks a lot about not being afraid. In fact, He devotes Matthew 6:25–34 to instructing us not to worry. He tells us that we don’t need to worry about our lives because God will take care of all the details. He also reminds us that, even when life gets really rough, worrying does not add a single moment to our lives.
So – why do we continue to worry? More importantly, how can we get rid of this nagging worry that keeps us up all hours of the night, tossing and turning?
Excessive concern over a current or possible circumstance, and our lack of control, can take hold and trap us into ruminating, or staying stuck on repetitive thoughts. The reality is that worry chokes us. Worry can make us feel like we can’t even breathe. In fact, Mark 4:19 says that worry chokes out the Word of God—the Truth. Jesus also said this when He taught the parable of the sower.
From a boat on the lake, Jesus was teaching a crowd standing on the shore when He began talking to them about seeds. Using a metaphor they were familiar with, He explained that when the farmer throws out seeds, there are different responses to the seed. I imagine the crowd nodding. They knew the challenges of farming. To be clear, the seed Jesus spoke of is the Word of God. For some people, Jesus explained, Satan comes and takes away the life-giving seeds of God’s Word. For others, “like seed sown on rocky places” (Mark 4:16), people can hear the Word, be filled with joy, but since no root takes place, they fall away. And for some people, the Word of God is “like seed sown among thorns” (Mark 4:18) and the worries of this life choke it and make it unfruitful.
It’s no coincidence that worriers feel as if they can’t breathe and that many people who head to the hospital thinking they’re having a heart attack are actually having a panic attack. When we worry, the Word of God cannot take root in our souls, and a life in His peace despite tribulations seems but a far-off wish or fantasy. This anxiety triggers many other problems, including those sleepless nights mentioned earlier.
But we don’t have to stay stuck in our suffering. Below are three antidotes to nagging worry and sleepless nights:
1. Write down your worrisome thoughts. Journaling is extremely therapeutic, and often recommended by mental health professionals. It will help you process what you are experiencing by writing out the situation you’re dealing with, what you’re thinking, and how you’re feeling. When you can’t sleep, you can take those thoughts keeping you awake and put them out of your mind onto paper, rather than continuing to keep them stuck on repeat in your brain. You can also use your journal to keep track of prayer requests and the answers to your prayers. Journaling helps us see how Jesus is present in the midst of some of life’s most confusing and trying moments, and how our emotions at the time, though legitimate, did not dictate the outcome. After writing down your worrisome thoughts, spend some time reading through how God has answered some of your past fears, and pray about your current conflict as you intentionally lay the worries on Jesus.