[Joan is taking some time-off and has asked her friend and fellow-writer Kathy Collard Miller to share
an excerpt from her helpful new book about worry and trying to over-help. Comment below to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of PARTLY CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED WORRIES. Drawing on 11/10/13.]
There’s something deep inside of us that believes worry can change others. If someone we love has a different perspective than we do, we worry. If someone we love has a different belief about God, we worry. If someone we love has a character flaw, we worry. We just know their wrong thinking will mess up their lives.
Some of these worries may truly seem “worthy” of worry. Your mother may not know Christ as her Savior, and she has cancer. Your son may be on the street taking drugs. Your friend may demonstrate a lack of integrity at work. Another friend drives while intoxicated. You may have tried to reason, cajole, quote Scripture, even manipulate each person into changing their ideas and their behavior, but nothing has worked—not even prayer. God hasn’t changed them either. You fear something bad, really bad, is going to happen.
Even if it’s not a matter of something really bad occurring, we can easily take responsibility for someone else’s happiness and then try to change them.
A verse that has helped me in releasing that worry is: “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:15 NASB). If God has the ability to give you and me a different attitude, He can do it for anyone. He is powerful and creative. When we worry or feel like we have to change someone’s ideas, we are saying, “God, you aren’t effective enough. You aren’t creative enough to work in this person’s life. I’ve got to do it myself.”
When I think of how God creatively worked in our daughter Darcy’s life, I sense the tears coming. Darcy went to Denmark for a semester of college and requested to live in the home of a Danish family. At that time, Darcy was friendly with us, but distant emotionally.
But while in Denmark, our phone calls soon were centered on how badly her Danish “mother” was treating her— ignoring her and saying mean things to her. Larry and I were incensed, as most parents would be, and I began to worry about my daughter’s emotional health. Then my worry fueled anger toward this woman who had no right to treat my daughter like that. We suggested Darcy move to on-campus housing, but she wanted to stick it out. Since we couldn’t afford to go visit her (I would have loved to give that woman a piece of my mind), I had to stew over it … in the beginning.
Then I saw God’s work in Darcy’s life. Because of her circumstances, she began to appreciate our family as she never had before. In comparison to the way her Danish family treated her, we were looking pretty good. In fact, fabulous. I’d never heard as much love and warmth in Darcy’s voice as when we talked with her.
Shortly before she returned home, she sent a Christmas card and wrote in it:
Dear Dad, Mom, and Mark: Since I can’t be there with you for Christmas, I’m writing to tell you how much I’ll miss not being there and how much I love you all. Being away has really made me realize how awesome a family you are. I love and appreciate all of you so much! I can’t wait to come home to see you all. Give my love to the rest of the family. I’ll be seeing you on January 6. Love, Darcy.
That was in 1994. After Darcy returned, her appreciation for our family continued to rise to great heights, and it all started with something I was worried about. It’s every mother’s longing to have her child value their family. But in our case, God accomplished this through mistreatment, something I would have changed if I could. But if I had, the good results God intended would not have occurred. Even today, when we talk about that situation, Darcy remarks, “Oh, yes, God really used that in my life.”
We don’t want to thwart God’s changes in those we love, do we? We need to make sure worry doesn’t prevent His work. Let’s live like we believe Philippians 3:15: God can change others.
NOTE FROM JOAN: Kathy and I seem to think alike in many areas and even write about similar topics. I love the above story and so appreciate the message. We can't change/fix others through over-helping or over-worrying. Only God can change hearts! This book is worth reading. Maybe you can WIN it. Just COMMENT here on this blog and my assistant Karen will put your name in the hat and then draw the winning name. She'll let you know who won while I'm on vacation.
It is possible to worry less through trusting God more. Regardless of the storms of trials, temptations, worry, uncertainty, confusion, or regrets that you're facing, you can trust God more. Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries offers a conversational style, personal testimonies, practical illustrations, and solid biblical teaching for breaking anxiety and the devastating effects of worry. Each chapter includes Discussion Questions for individuals or groups, along with a “Letter from God.” In addition, a profile of a woman in the Bible who struggled with or experienced victory over worry is featured in each chapter to inspire every reader to see God's hand in her life.
Kathy Collard Miller is a speaker and author. Her passion is to inspire women to trust God more. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. Kathy has 49 published books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson) and she blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.blogspot.com. Kathy lives in Southern California with her husband of 43 years, Larry, and is the proud grandma of Raphael. Kathy and Larry often speak together at marriage events and retreats.
“I know I’m late. But I don’t feel like I’m being productive or that I’ve achieved my goals unless I’m rushing and at least a half-hour late for each appointment,” said my client as he burst through the door and sprinted past me toward our conference room.
My internal reaction was: Well, Vic, you must feel a great sense of accomplishment today! He had arrived one and a half hours past our scheduled appointment time. Although I didn’t share his philosophy, something in his behavior rang a bell with me. Perhaps I was in awareness-mode, because several weeks later I admitted my own workaholic lifestyle. I was burned-out and wanted to change.
Slowly I began to understand that the narrower definition of a workaholic is someone who is addicted to action. An action addict (like Vic and me) is driven to do too much, expect too much, rush too much and prove too much. Some refer to it as the “hurry sickness.” It can happen to either gender, yet Dr. Brent W. Bost, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Beaumont, Texas estimates that there are 30 million women in America who are so over-scheduled and over-stressed that it negatively affects their physical health, sex life, jobs, and relationships.
The next time someone gives you the ultimate compliment for an action-addict: “You’re so busy. How do you do it all?” consider letting that be a signal to STOP. The antidote to action-addiction is to cease doing for a while. Be quiet. Rest. It will feel wrong. Your body, mind and emotions tell you that you must keep going.
This advice to cease doing for a while reminds me of Psalm 46:10 in The Message: “[Stop!] Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
Experts insist that this is a vital step, just as it is important for the alcoholic-addicted person to stop drinking. Your body needs to detox from the chemicals aroused by your constant action. It will be quite difficult--and so worth it. For more information about action-addiction watch for next week's blog “Are You an Adrenaline Junkie?”
What would it take for you to STOP for a while?
During a business dinner, an associate asked me about the book I was writing (The Relief of Imperfection.) When I mentioned the topic of perfectionistic thinking, workaholic behavior and burnout, he nodded and said, "Well, those things are not worth dying for!"
Soon after this I read an article about a trend called "downshifting." Downshifters are men and women who choose to leave all-consuming jobs for a little slower pace so they can experience more enjoyment in their lives. I don't know about you, but I admit this sounds really good.
Happy Labor Day weekend 2013! Perhaps you're really grateful that you get an extra day off. Or maybe you're one of the many who work through the holiday weekend. Before I write/say anything else, I want to acknowledge that I'm grateful for the opportunity and ability to work. You probably are, also (whether its work for ministry, volunteer service, an income-producing job, home schooling or taking care of your babies.)
More and more I talk with people in my coaching, mentoring, and every day life who are realizing that striving and working all the time (to be the best parent, to constantly reach for full potential for yourself and your family, to get more clients and make more money, to help others with very little time to refuel) is not what God had in mind when we made us with the capability to work. There is more to life.
LIFE is worth living for. So this weekend, how about STOPPING the work for a little while to focus on one of the life's enjoyments listed above. What do you choose? Whatever it is, have fun!
You want to pray with me? God, teach me the meaning of life with its balance of labor, rest, and enjoyment. Slow me down to listen. I know "It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work my worried fingers to the bone. I know You enjoy giving rest [and LIFE] to those You love. (Prayer based on Psalm 127:1-2 in The Message)
It's the weekend! Maybe this means you're taking a break from work. Maybe not.
In my experience as a life coach, speaker/teacher/trainer, and mentor, I've noticed that many people struggle with issues related to work and service. It matters not if they're an executive, nurse, homeschooler, ministry volunteer or a young parent. Even medical exerts agree that there's an "action-addiction" epidemic.
In her book Working Ourselves to Death, author Diane Fassel maintains that though action-addicts (another name for workaholics) work, serve, or rush a great deal, they aren't always working.
Yet, even Jesus--who came to earth to do the most important work of all--said "no" sometimes. (Check out Luke 8:26-38 & Mark 5:18-20)
The truth is: Your work & service (whether it's in the office, in the home, on the field or at church) don't have to be relentless or perfect to be significant, meaningful and productive. :-)
I find that such a relief. What about you?
What kind of a worker are you?
"Your head’s in the clouds." If you heard this as a child just trying to have fun, maybe you think it means you should stop dreaming, come down to earth and be boring.
If you were praised for not keeping your “head in the clouds” you may have learned to put your nose to the grindstone, stop being spontaneous and "silly" and avoid pleasure.
The wisest man in the world wrote, "Wise realists plant their feet on the ground."*
But being a "wise realist" doesn’t mean either extreme. You can make thoughtful (yes, even wise!) decisions about your current reality and still enjoy life.
Have you ever been told that "Your head's in the clouds?" What does that mean to you?
*Proverbs 14:18 MSG
Adapted from the "Prudence" entry in Everyday Wisdom.
Lord, who are these people, Your created children, who suffer pain deeper than words?
A mommy who lost her precious 3rd grader in this devastating tornado-monster in Oklahoma yesterday?
That daddy who thought his child would be safe
learning at school?
A little boy who can’t imagine never playing ball with his best friend again?
A young couple who had just started out and now their carefully-planned future
lies in a flattened pile of rubble?
An elderly man and his wife who just wanted to live out their final days on earth in peace?
The OK firefighter who usually assists others, now facing his own need for help?
Those first-responders climbing and clawing through the jagged boards looking for a glimpse of life–their minds and bodies throbbing with compassion fatigue…yet they work on?
God, I lift up these men and women, boys and girls to You.
I only taste their pain, while they are drowning in it.
I’m removed; miles away. YOU are there. “You are close to the brokenhearted.”*
Hold their hurting hearts and may they sense Your presence.
Because of Jesus, I come to You knowing that you hear me
and the myriads of others who pray.
*Psalm 34:18 NIV
“Perfectionists minimize their moral and ethical plus-side and magnify their failings,” writes Miriam Elliott and Susan Meltsner in the book The Perfectionist Predicament. I’ve noticed this phenomenon in clients, friends, family members and yes, even myself. (No surprise, huh?)
I watched one woman hang her head in shame when her job circumstances prevented her from attending a church meeting. Another mentioned how bad she felt that her sick child kept her from having her private prayer time for a few days.
I can give myself grief for not posting an inspirational blog on time or taking too long to respond to a hurting person who sent me an email over the weekend. What’s wrong with you, Joan? It’s like we set up unrealistic spiritual expectations and then worry that God is disappointed in us.
However, here’s what I’m learning (and I love it): God doesn’t withdraw His grace, compassion or support when we fall short in our own eyes. Once we accept the invitation to be His child, He’ll never change His mind. He gives us unique spiritual gifts and then employs us for service accordingly. God’s gift of grace, as well as His promise to comfort, provide for and protect us, are undeserved benefits. His call and gifts are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
Grace is the face love wears when it meets IMPERFECTION! Will you give yourself a little “grace” today?
Recently we’ve been surrounded with news of death, explosions, and terror perpetrated on innocent men, women and children. Pain is deep; grief inevitable. Like others, I’ve struggled to find words of comfort and hope. Then I remembered something God showed me through an experience that His Son Jesus had while He lived here on earth.
When one of His best friends died, Jesus arrived in town several days after the burial. At the grave Jesus wept tears of sorrow and anger — sorrow at the death of His friend and anger at the unbelief and wrong so prevalent in an imperfect and decaying world.*
Like Jesus, we feel angry and sad when we see the devastating effects of sin and unfaith. Death, abuse, injustice, and pain are the natural results of living in a world that ignores its Creator and doesn’t value others.
Both anger and grief are normal responses to death, evil, and injustice. As long as we live on this damaged planet, we will experience these and other disturbing emotions. I believe that one day we who have chosen to follow Jesus, will join Him in a sorrow free place. Until then, like Jesus, we can allow ourselves to grieve, to care, to pray and to help wherever we can.
So I’m praying, “Lord, teach me to be honest with my own human emotions, to accept people when they hurt, and to reach out – all while dreaming of a better day to come.” Want to join me?
* Jesus’ story from John 11:33-38.
During February I’ve been thinking about LOVE–and noticing how some in our Christian culture view married-love. There seems to be a mini-epidemic of spousal-obsession that gives way to over-helping, people-pleasing and just plain “fixing.” (Okay, if you want to call it codependency, go ahead! And yes, it can be done with lots of words or with silent manipulation.)
This leads me to ask: What did Jesus say about how to love? Along with other wise teaching He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) The original word for “neighbor” means someone close to you. Well, your mate couldn’t be much closer, right?
So here what I’m learning: Loving my spouse as myself does not mean loving him instead of myself. As a healthy child of God, I will love, respect and take care of myself. Yet I won’t be obsessively absorbed in self to the point of leaving him out of my inner life; nor will I live my life through orfor him.
To live primarily through or for another person means that I feel, think, decide, and hurt for that person. I try my best to fix all situations so he does not have to be sad or disappointed or angry or hurt. I’m sorry to say that I’ve been there and done that. I thought this epitomized LOVE, but it backfired.
I discovered that “fixing” (or excessive helping and managing) can actually rob a mate of living his own life before God. It may even deny him a sense of accomplishment and self-worth because I give the impression, “You are not capable of doing this, so I’ll do it for you.” In this process, I often deprive myself of the time and energy I need to grow personally and spiritually.
The relief-producing news: I can learn to accept, appreciate, and respect the person God created to live inside my own body. That God-ordained love, acceptance, and respect can splash over to my spouse. I can be authentic about our reality and still leave him room to develop and make his own decisions. I can learn to love myself and my spouse. It may be a messy process at times AND our married-love is worth it.
For each couple, this growing process will look a little different. What would it look like for you? (You don’t have to over-share. I’d just love your interaction and comments!)
NOTE: Guys, you can substitute the “him” words in the post to “her”, because guys can over-help and over-control, too. Just saying…
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.