I don’t know about where you live, but here in southern Oregon, winter means fog… And lots of it. I live in a valley, which means that the fog stays around for quite a while. We often get air stagnation warnings during the winter because the air is trapped between the mountains and can’t circulate well. It’s better to stay inside than to breathe so-called “fresh” air during these times, particularly for people who already have sensitive respiratory systems. Sometimes the fog is so thick that it’s almost impossible to see through. That makes it really hard to drive, especially at night. Headlights only serve to illuminate the fog and make it more opaque. It’s easy to get cabin fever when it’s foggy because the air is too bad to go outside, and you can’t see to drive anywhere even if you do try to brave the elements!
Isn't life like that sometimes? I know I often feel like I’m surrounded by fog. I can’t see where I’m going, and I get restless waiting around. I can’t go anywhere, and I start to get cabin fever. Truth be told, I don’t like waiting very much. I’m sure a lot of you are in this boat with me. When a big transition – or even a potential big transition – takes place, it’s often hard for us to understand how it’s all going to work out. We can’t see what’s in front of us. The fog closes in. We get scared because we don’t know what’s coming our way. It’s scary, and we get tired of waiting but have no choice. The only solution is to wait for the fog to lift and God to give us the next step in getting where he wants us to go. I’m not sure what your situation is – maybe a new job or moving to a new town – but for me, it’s grad school. I will be graduating with my BA in English this spring, and I plan to go into my school’s Master of Arts in Teaching program right after. Whenever I think about doing that, the fog starts to come. What happens if I don’t get accepted? What happens if I do, and I can’t keep up with the program? What if I graduate from the program and realize I hate teaching? I can’t see what’s in front of me, and it scares me!
If there’s one thing I’m learning from it, though, it’s that the only thing I can control is my reaction. I can’t necessarily change my outward circumstances, but I can change the way I respond to them. I can’t make the admissions office accept my application for the MAT. You can’t make a potential boss hire you or the bank approve your loan for a new house. But you can choose to do as much as you can and then refuse to worry about the rest. I am choosing to do that with my application. I have done all the steps on my end that I can – got my letters of reference, filled out the application, paid the fee, and all that. That’s all that I can do. So what’s the point of worrying? I can’t control what happens next. It’s not in my hands anymore.
So how do we actually go about refusing to worry? There are a few steps that I've learned to take whenever I start to worry about things that I have no control over (which is often!).
- Take it to God. That’s always step one. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV). When you feel yourself starting to worry about something, tell God about it. Tell him everything you’re afraid might go wrong. Thank and praise him for being sovereign over the situation. The result of doing this is that a supernatural peace will overcome you. This is peace that doesn't make any sense to anyone else. God will comfort your fears and gently remind you that he has everything under control.
- If there are any steps in the process that you do have control over, take care of them. It will make you feel better. If there is anything about the situation that is in your power to change, do it! If you are waiting to hear a decision from the bank on a loan you applied for, call and ask about the status. Whatever steps are available to you, take them. Being proactive will help you not to worry.
- Remind yourself of how much God cares for you. When you remember how much you mean to him, it becomes easier to remember that he is going to work everything out for your good (Romans 8:28). Here are some verses to help you: John 3:16, Zephaniah 3:17, 1 Peter 5:7, Jeremiah 31:3. Start by reading these verses and then look for some of your own!
When you take these steps, you will start to feel much better! Once you give your worries up to God, he is able to give you peace and calm your fears. At the beginning of a new year when many of us are undergoing big changes, remember that there is nothing that God can’t handle, and he is with you always. When the fog starts to close in and scare you, remember that the sun will come burn it away in due time. God will give you direction for moving forward in his timing. In the meantime, there’s no need to worry. You are never alone, and even if you can’t see where you’re going, you can trust the one who is leading you.