“Just read a few more verses.”
“I bet if you prayed more you’d worry less.”
“If you had more faith, you wouldn’t be so worried.”
When people who are anxious and prone to worry tell friends or church acquaintances that this is their struggle, these are among the statements they hear in response. No wonder friends of mine tell me they’ve learned to tell only a few trusted people. Statements like these do not help. In fact, they can make them feel worse.
Could worry be due to a lack of faith? Sure. Does it help to meditate on Scripture? It can. Does praying decrease worry? If we’re praying to the God of the Bible, in faith, it can.
But, even though those statements might be true, let’s think before we speak.
Have I earned the right to say what I’m thinking?
If I say it, do I have the time now to follow through and actually pray, suggest some relevant verses, and talk about how this person could respond in faith to what’s going on?
Even people with faith in the God of the Bible will have situations that take them deep into what I call valley experiences they must walk through. (See Psalm 23.) Sometimes that’s how God works. He takes us through difficult situations to grow our faith and increase our confidence in Him and even in ourselves.
In the valley, people may worry especially if they’ve not been there before. It’s not our place to judge whether they’re “too” worried. Isn’t it a better use of our energy and love to support them? To pray for them? To ask how we can help? To encourage them when we see them walking through their situation and not sitting down in their valley? To point out their joy in spite of their challenges? To remind them they’re not alone in their struggle?
People who worry may stop being honest and vulnerable to avoid hearing the Christian platitudes. That’s sad because it means we miss an opportunity to truly help them. And, a major way we can help is to sometimes reframe what they think is their tendency to worry. Let me explain.
People worry for many reasons. And, there are many reasons people appear to be worried. My mom would get down on herself, especially after trusting Christ and getting to know God better, because she didn’t want to worry. I helped her see she wasn’t as worried as she felt she was.
My mom’s Mind Style™ caused her to constantly process information with the question, “What else could it be?” Therefore, she’d make a decision and often second-guess herself. She appeared to worry most of her life about major things and some things we might have identified as minor. But, she usually wasn’t worried.
My mom was also curious and very people smart. She loved people well. Therefore, she’d see someone else make a decision and wonder what else he or she could have done. Her almost constant thinking could have looked like worry to some.
Additionally, just like everyone else in our immediate family, my mom was logic smart. Therefore, she naturally thought with questions and was an instinctive problem solver. But, this ability coupled with her “What else could it be?” way of thinking meant she’d think of solutions constantly, but not be confident in them.
I loved helping my mom understand why she thought the way she did. I know she felt less guilty after we talked this through on different occasions. She learned to verbalize “I’m thinking” instead of “I’m so worried.” This was helpful.
Here’s the bottom line for me. If people are truly worried, support them. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a chemical imbalance that can be helped with medication, a lack of faith, or something else. We should choose to not add to their misery by questioning them. If you believe people are thinking the way God has designed them to, and confusing it with worry, support them.
Let me remind you: It’s not our place to judge whether they’re “too” worried. Isn’t it a better use of our energy and love to support them? To pray for them? To ask how we can help? To encourage them when we see them walking through their situation and not sitting down in their valley? To point out their joy in spite of their challenges? To remind them they’re not alone in their struggle?