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Essays on Faith: It’s impossible to pray and worry at the same time

As a child, I thought it amusing to hear my father quote this scripture: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. (Job 14:1). He obviously believed it because he quoted it often. Throughout history, much has been written about the worry people experience, both real and imaginary, as they face a multitude of challenges in the journey through life.

Some people seem to have no trouble dealing with unpleasant things and putting them behind them right away. I’m not one of those. I’m a wallower. After sufficient wallowing, I can usually let things go ... or at least, accept them and go on.

My daughter says, “If it bothers you, don’t think about it!” And she doesn’t. Everything goes on the back burner. What worries me is that one day, all of the stuff on the back burner will come rushing to the front at once.

Then what?

My son has a theory, too. He says, “Don’t worry about anything; it’s not worth it. You can’t change most things anyway so just go on with your life and things will take care of themselves!”

And then, there’s my husband, who never worried a day in his life. His little nugget of wisdom goes like this, “Why should I worry? You worry enough for both of us.” Or, “It’ll be fine.”

I sure wish I could follow any or all of these examples, but try as I may, it’s just not possible. People like me suffer more, of course, but, unfortunately, we are what we are and we can’t change just because someone tells us we should.

I learned to worry from my mother who was an expert worrier. I figured it came with the territory. When I don’t have anything to worry about, I worry because I’m not worried. “Things are going too well,” I say. “Something must be wrong.”

But please don’t follow my lead. There is a better way.

Worrying is a choice, and you can choose not to do it. Once you catch yourself, you can say, “Okay, I’m getting off this merry-go-round. I’m not going to do this to myself.” Then, get completely absorbed with something that requires your full mental attention: work a crossword puzzle, answer e-mail or count the change in your piggy-bank. Just do something to get your mind off whatever is causing you to worry.

Worry is bad for your health. It leads to high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, headaches, lowered immunity against viruses and lots of other health issues. Chronic worrying affects your daily life so much that it interferes with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep and job performance. Many people who worry excessively seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs.

But you can’t wrap everyone up in a neat little package. Personalities are complex. My mother, whom I’ve already stated was an expert worrier, lived to be 85. She ate anything she wanted, started smoking cigarettes at an early age and continued her whole life — even after a heart attack. When she developed macular degeneration, her ophthalmologist told her she’d be blind if she didn’t stop smoking, but she continued.

My father, on the other hand, was an easy-going man who gave the impression he didn’t have a care in the world. He watched his diet, didn’t smoke and did everything his doctor told him, but was plagued with stomach ulcers for years, then suffered five heart attacks within a short period and died at 63.

One wonders why some people get away with anything and others ... well, just don’t live long lives no matter what they do. Doesn’t seem to matter, does it? Some say, “When it’s your time, it’s your time and there’s nothing you can do about it.” However, others believe that we can hasten the end – or slow it, according to the choices we make and the attitudes we assume.

Tonight, after fretting all day about a disappointment, I opened my Bible to seek answers from the scriptures. I discovered that Jesus talked quite a bit about worry and anxiety.

His Word is clear—believers are not to be given over to anxiety. But it’s not simply a cold, abrupt command to stop worrying. Scripture is explicit that we shouldn’t focus on the plans, needs and uncertainties of tomorrow, but it’s also clear about where our focus should be instead.

This is what Jesus said to His followers and the same instructions apply today: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

It’s impossible to pray and worry at the same time.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

Funerals for Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Berdine, Robert - 2 p.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation Inc., Arnoldsburg.

Bonsall, Buddy - 11 a.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Holstein, Gary - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Keener, John - 8 p.m., Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Miller, Edward - 1 p.m., Taylor-Vandale Funeral Home, Spencer.

Wright, Virginia - 11 a.m., Nitro Church of God, Nitro.