As a mom I find that I spend a lot of my time giving instructions. As a mom of a toddler, I find that often these instructions consist in telling my kid what I don’t want her to do. The word “no” is frequently on my lips as I try to teach her what is safe to touch and what isn’t, what should go in her mouth and what shouldn’t, and a hundred other lessons that will hopefully serve her well as she grows and matures. It can be a tiresome endeavor but I know that my consistency now will pay dividends in the years to come.
In helping my daughter learn how she should behave, I often find that my instructions precedes her behavior. In other words, as I watch her roam and wander I can anticipate the steps that might lead to trouble. So before her little hands reach out for the dangerous object, I am telling her that she shouldn’t touch it. As we are walking, I tell her where she shouldn’t go before she gets there. This isn’t because I am controlling; it is because prevention is often better than allowing her to do something which she shouldn’t. I tell her that she doesn’t have permission to do something before she attempts the action because I know that if I were to allow her to do it, the consequences could be far worse.
It is likely that this approach should be adopted more often in my own life as well, specifically when it comes to the temptation to worry. Too frequently I find that I allow myself to grow anxious and then try to tell myself all the reasons that I shouldn’t. However, Jesus said in John 14:1 – “Let not your heart be troubled.” In other words – we shouldn’t give ourselves permission to worry and then instruct ourselves as to why it is unnecessary – we shouldn’t allow our hearts to get to that point in the first place. Our hearts should be so focused on Jesus that there is no competition for its attention. If we are consumed by Christ than we can’t be consumed with anxiety. If we refuse to give ourselves permission to worry than we never have to talk ourselves out of it later on.
This is no easy task. We live in a day and age where worry is not only accepted, it is expected. The media, our friends, and our culture will attempt to fuel a concern with matters over which we have no control. However, we do not have to give into this temptation. Instead, just as I tell my daughter “no” when I can see that she is advancing towards dangerous ground, we can fill our hearts with the promises of Scripture when we feel the temptation to focus on the temporary. We can withhold permission to advance any further and trust that He who has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33b) can overcome whatever we are facing as well.