(This is an edited transcript of “Relief from Worry,” Episode 5 of The Carpool Line Podcast. This podcast from Family Christian gives moms a few minutes to connect with God so they can better connect with their families. Here’s how to listen.)
Kids are really good at helping us be in the moment. Have you ever noticed that?
In a baby’s first year, our world seems to shrink as our attention becomes directed at this new life. We spend hours staring at our baby as they sleep and even more hours breathing in that new-baby smell. Then on-the-go toddlers turn us into lifeguards as we stand in constant patrol to make sure they are staying away from sharp edges, the cabinet with the cleaning supplies, or the dog’s water bowl of all things.
Then we enter the phase of parenting when we hear these words constantly: Mommy look at me. Mommy watch this. Hey mom look what I can do. Mom come see what I am doing!
And we stop doing whatever we were doing to look. To be in the moment with our child. To acknowledge whatever it is they are doing or want to show us.
I don’t know if Jesus had those moments in mind when he said these words from Matthew 18:3 but maybe He did. This is what Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What If Thinking
Young children seem to be grounded in the moment. And somewhere along the line as we grow UP we grow OUT of being grounded in the moment and shift into future thinking more and more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless part of that shift includes negative WHAT IF thinking:
What if I mess up my kids?
What if my daughter hates me as a teenager?
What if my marriage fails?
What if we go back to online school again?
What if I get cancer?
What if my child gets cancer?
What if there is a school shooting at my child’s school?
Being a Christian doesn’t exclude you from falling prey to What if thinking. In fact, in my experience, we are pretty good at it. It’s actually a consistent struggle I hear from moms I encounter in ministry all of the time.
And there is a reason.
These What Ifs steal our peace and fuel anxiety and stress and worry. They feed us lies about the limits of what the Lord can do and keep us distracted from His goodness, His faithfulness, His love for us, and His peace. Through these What Ifs, we lose sight of the One in control. We take our eyes off of Jesus. We stop paying attention to what God is doing right now in the present and how He is actively making Himself known all the time all around us.
God knows that worried thoughts are common spiritual attacks. Maybe that’s why He tells us over and over again not to be worried or anxious about anything. We need those reminders, too, because we are a pretty forgetful lot. (We talked about our forgetfulness in Episode 4.) So, here’s another reminder: The Lord will not abandon you to your worried thoughts. He won’t leave you alone with your stress. He offers you peace from them—even at 3am.
How to Stop What If Thinking
So, how do you stop looking at the What Ifs that stir up unrest in your mind and instead shift your thinking towards God and His rest and peace? Here’s one proven way. Ground yourself in what God is doing in the moment.
Matthew 6:34 from The Message translation puts it this way: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
By intentionally shifting your attention to His presence in your life right now in the moment, His rest and peace can be more easily experienced. It might be simple but it’s not easy. And it’s not a one and done kind of thing. It’s a process. When your mind starts to shift to the What Ifs, acknowledge them and then turn your thoughts to acknowledge God. Replace those What If thoughts by looking around and seeing God’s presence in your life.
At Family Christian, we like to share practical ways to live your faith in those everyday moments. So let’s get super practical right now. When you get caught up in the What Ifs, try this grounding technique, sometimes called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. It’s been shown to reduce stress, worry, and anxious thoughts.
Here’s how it works. Take a deep breath and hold it for 5 seconds. Breathe out for 5 seconds and then repeat that rhythm of breathing while also naming the following in the moment:
- Name 5 things you can see around you.
- Name 4 things you can touch around you.
- Name 3 things you can hear around you.
- Name 2 things you can smell around you.
- Name 1 thing you can taste.
Use this grounding technique to help you look to God and focus on what He is doing right now rather than your stress-fueled and worry-filled What If thoughts. And keep doing that as often as your mind starts to wander into the What Ifs. Focus on the One in control of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The God who rescues and redeems. The One who leads you to rest and offers you a peace that transcends all understanding. The One who is calling you gently: Hey look at Me. See what I am doing!
You can try it right now. Focus your attention on what God is doing right now, just like Matthew 6:34:
Name 5 things you can see around you.
4 things you can touch.
3 things you can hear.
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Before I pray for us, I wanted to say that this grounding technique can be taught to your children, too, especially preteens and older. And while this grounding technique is used by mental health professionals to help clients deal with anxiety, it is not a substitute for counseling. If you find your thoughts consistently caught in a loop of negative thoughts, please connect with a licensed counselor near you.
A Prayer to Relieve Worried Thoughts
Father thank You for being present in our lives. Thank You for making yourself known to us in so many ways. We ask for your help in keeping our attention on You and what You are doing in our lives right now. We admit that we sometimes get caught up in negative What If thinking that increases our stress and our worry. Help us to put into practice replacing those lies with the truth of who You are and how You are surrounding us right now.