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The High Cost of Worry - Part One

By: Cheri Fuller

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow;

it empties today of its strength."

Corrie ten Boom

Margot wasn’t a big worrier until she found out that in six days she and her kids would be without a home because their landlord had sold their house. Mary Ann’s panic button was pushed when a gun and backpack full of ammunition was taken away from one of her daughter’s classmates at middle school. Carrie’s battle with worry began when her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and laid off from his job.

Worry is a feeling of concern or anxiety. The word derives from the Old English word wyrgan, meaning strangle. As we will see, that’s what worry can do to us: strangle the very life, energy, and peace out of us. In Middle English the original sense of the verb gave rise to the meaning “seize by the throat and tear,” and later to harass and be anxious.

Anxiety is defined as a fearful concern and apprehension, but it’s also a protective emotion that keeps us away from danger and threats to life and limb. These three terms, worry, anxiety, and fear, are strongly related, because chronic or intense worry leads to anxiety. If the anxiety is left uncontrolled, it can develop into full-blown panic or paralyzing fear.

Although men struggle with their share of worries, especially about career and finances, women are 50 percent more likely to be chronic worriers or suffer from anxiety disorders. Women worry about money, personal relationships, appearance, weight, and aging. They worry about children (the number one worry after a woman has her first child), health problems, family, and especially about the future. And the tendency to worry isn’t just a condition of the aged. Studies show that worry, anxiety, and excessive stress is increasing rapidly in young adults aged eighteen to twenty-five, and this generation of children takes more anti-anxiety medication than any in history.

Many people worry about how much they worry. Because it’s so common to worry about worrying, psychologists now have coined a new term, metaworry! Mothers especially have a lot to worry about: They worry about putting their kids on the school bus after another school shooting happens across the country. A big worry is that their children will be bullied. Moms fret over germs, especially with all the new strains of superbugs resistant to antibiotics. They worry about their children’s health and how they’re doing in school. Other moms fear for their kids in the chaotic world they’re growing up in.

Single moms are prone to worry about whether they can make enough money to support their kids. Working moms worry that they’re not balancing job and family well enough, about being a good enough mom, not spending enough time with each child, and how they’re going to get everything done. A big struggle I’ve heard from many moms is letting go of control. If I don’t control things, who will? Will everything fall apart? they wonder. Mothers of adolescents often are afraid their kids may get involved in alcohol, drugs, or the wrong crowd.

Health concerns such as cancer, especially breast cancer, are prominent among things women worry about. If we don’t take hormones, we may have heart disease or osteoporosis, doctors tell us, but when the new studies linking breast cancer to estrogen come out, we’re afraid if we take them, we’re doomed. We try to eat good food, but then the research study of the month shows something we’re eating is harmful. Interestingly, in the realm of the body parts women worry most about as they age, it’s not wrinkles or even gray hair, but about how their hands are aging. In the youth-oriented culture we live in, many women fear aging so much, they try to stave it off with Botox injections, plastic surgery, and other cosmetic procedures.

Worry has a negative effect on women in their careers. If they are seen as worriers, women are viewed as indecisive and lacking in leadership skills, and thus passed over for promotions. Some women even fear success because of the role conflict it causes with their mates and their priorities as mothers. Others fear that they can’t make it financially on their own if their marriages fail or their husbands are laid off. Single women tell me, “If I lose my job, I have no one to depend on.” Or “I’m afraid I’ll lose my friend. I continually fear loneliness.”

People worry about the unknown, the future, and disasters. Overall, most people’s greatest worry is loss: loss of loved ones, loss of health, spouse, or family members. Women today also have a greater fear of random violence such as rape, robbery, carjacking, and school violence. As the world grows more uncertain and violent, worry is escalating.

My prayer is that, God will bring you from worry to wonder, and from anxiety to peace. That you’ll realize more and more how much God loves you and experience a more joyful relationship with Him.

© 2015 by Back to the Bible.

“From Replacing Worry for Wonder, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”

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