Moving from worry to peace

Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

2019 year-end numbers have been tallied. For the third consecutive year, “worry” came out on top. The words of St. Paul in Philippians 4:6 were shared, highlighted and bookmarked more than any other verse in YouVersion, an online and mobile Bible app.

Is that surprising?

Finances, health and independence issues are top of mind for older adults. Many of us lie awake at night as those problems and other concerns buzz around in our heads.

Some of us actually use worry as a coping mechanism. We might think, “If I’m worrying, at least I’m doing something instead of merely wasting time.” Worrying might not be enjoyable, but at least we feel productive!

Experts tell us there are better solutions. We can use mental gymnastics, or self-talk, to shift negatives to positives. Or we can apply calming skills, like walking, playing a musical instrument or sewing. Some people learn to identify their worry triggers, then immediately look for distractions to divert attention away from unpleasant thoughts. Successful solutions allow a person to move beyond the worry.

Being older is actually a plus when dealing with worry. Research shows that older adults have learned to disengage from feelings of negativity. Millennials are known for their mindfulness, but as older adults we, too, have learned to focus on present situations. We can be totally “in the moment.” Some of that ability comes because we are aware of our shorter timeline.

Statistics tell us the YouVersion users who read 35.6 billion chapters of the Bible in 2019 had an even better idea. They turned to God. Those Bible readers prioritized Philippians 4:6. In The Message, veteran scholar Eugene Peterson describes a comforting image of that verse: “Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.” 

I can visualize God, our Father, gently lifting heavy worries from our hands. Can you picture that?

Using this modern translation, St. Paul continues, “Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”

That’s what every worrier craves: to move forward to a place of peace. And that’s what God offers.

We can’t anticipate what problems we’ll face in 2020. We can’t predict what issues might lead our thoughts to spiral downward into worries. However, we can be confident one coping mechanism will work. We can shape our worries into prayers, letting God know our concerns.

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