So a few days ago, I was crazy.
No, please, there’s no need to say “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad” or “You’re being too hard on yourself.” I was there and I am self aware enough to admit that for about 18 hours I was not thinking rationally. It all started when the back of my mouth started hurting. Like any good hypochondriac, I immediately grabbed a flashlight and a mirror and began investigating the issue. It didn’t take long until I located it—a bump on the very back of my gums. Obviously, this must be the culprit. Then I did what no one should ever do, and I went online and researched my symptoms. And we were off! Because I don’t know if you’ve realized this or not, but the internet rarely tells you, “Relax and don’t worry.” No, it usually lists the deadliest diseases first. With a complete lack of medical knowledge, I concluded the obvious: I must have an abscess which would need antibiotics and a root canal, if it didn’t kill me first. (I’m not kidding when I say that the internet does say that an untreated infected tooth could kill you. It neglects to say that it would take several months). Anyway, it was just around bedtime when I made my self-diagnosis. (Bad, bad timing) Then I stayed up most of the night worrying about what the dentist would say when he actually looked at the tooth. For hours I imagined the worst—-the pain—the side effects from the antibiotics—-the plans that would have to be changed—-and of course, the BILL. As the night went on, it seemed like the fear took over my brain. Before long, I was physically sick with worry. When I eventually did fall asleep (around 4 a.m.) I dreamed about the dentist telling me the worst case scenario. When I woke up the next morning, I was nauseous (from worry) and still completely crazy with fear of what would happen. You can ask my brother---I was pretty much nutty until the dentist could finally see me at 1:30 p.m.!!!! I was shaking, unable to concentrate, and unable to eat all morning long as I let fear of what might happen control my mind. Whenever Jamie tried to reason with me, I didn’t listen. I just kept thinking, “But the internet says…” In the end, it turns out that Jamie was right and I had myself all worked up over nothing. The bump in the back of my mouth that I self-diagnosed as an abscess had actually been there all of my life. The dentist couldn’t find anything wrong, and sent me home with a clean bill of dental health and instructions to stay off of medical internet sites. (By the way, yes, he did laugh at me as he explained why my fears were unfounded and why medical websites are dangerous.) As I got into the car and my brother waited for the diagnosis (I made him drive me because I was so convinced I’d be unable to drive myself home), I said the words he loves to hear “You were right, I had myself worked up over nothing.” Suddenly crazy Adessa was gone, and normal Adessa was back. (And she needed a nap because being crazy is exhausting!) Since then, I’ve had some time to reflect on this situation. What I’ve concluded is something that my friend has told me for quite awhile: There is no benefit to playing out the worst case scenario in your mind. Yet, we all do it. When faced with an issue or a challenge or even the prospect of our futures, for many, our natural tendency is to let fear of the worst case scenario take over our thoughts. We allow our imaginations to run wild playing out scenarios of what could happen and how awful it could be. This causes worry, fear, anxiety, and keeps us from enjoying the real life God has given us. Here’s an interesting fact: there’s a study that says that 85% of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misconceptions. I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m tired of this tendency stealing my peace, my joy, and chunks of my life. Even though it’s funny to look back on now, I’d rather not have a repeat performance of “The Crazy Lady and the Dentist”. Instead, I want to be this woman: She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)
As I think about “how” we can do this, one of the biggest answers I can come up with (besides avoiding medical websites) is to purposely train my mind to rely more on the faithfulness of God instead of what could happen. You see, I believe there is a truth in the study that I cited earlier. Notice that even of the 15% of things that did happen, 79% of those experiences produced something good in their lives. I can testify to the same thing in my life. Even now, as I’m looking back on my life, I can see God’s hand at work. Even when things turned out differently than I planned, even when unexpected situations arose, even when change occurred or we were faced with challenges that we didn’t want to face, in EVERY SITUATION, God had a plan to work things out for our benefit and our good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I love that phrase—-all things. In “all things”, God has a plan to work for our good. It is when we truly believe this—that God has a plan, that He has a purpose, and that He will work all things for our good—-this is when and how we can truly face the future without fear. Today, as we’re still wading into the start of 2019, I want to encourage you with these words. Even if you aren’t sure what 2019 holds, put your trust in the God Who does.
Believe that He has your best interests at heart and choose to follow Him. Instead of letting your mind be filled with anxiety and fear, put on the peace that comes from knowing that in God’s mind the future is settled. He already knows what is going to happen and how He is going to work out every detail for your good and the good of His kingdom. Choose to love Him. Obey Him. Follow Him. And let the future in His hands. That’s how to face the future with strength and dignity. Also, I’d advise staying away from online medical websites—-read the Bible instead. Looking forward to all that God has planned! —Adessa