Worry and Imagination — Broken & Hopeful

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I don’t mean to brag, but I’m amazingly good at imagining worst-case scenarios. I can stay up all night, daydream (can they be called day-nightmares instead?) and obsess on all the brutal possibilities. My focus can be completely consumed with what I think will help prepare me emotionally if those things were to happen.

But the reality is that none of this imagining actually prepares me for a bad situation. Instead, it steals any joy I could have in the moment today, and it puts my physical body in a place where it responds as if the problem is really happening. That steals more energy from my current place, as well as putting me in a stressful, reactive state physically.

I recently read a quote by Dan Zadra: “Worry is the misuse of imagination.” I think we forget that imagination has been redeemed as well as the rest of us by Jesus. Instead of using imagination to worry, fret or stew about the worst-case scenarios, what if we allowed it to be used by the Spirit in the way He created it to be?

I think we often condemn worry by saying we just aren’t supposed to do it, but we don’t provide an alternative. As with anything else, if our brains are not supposed to think about something, it becomes the only thing we can think about. What if the alternative was a redemptive use of the imagination?

If we are to fix our thoughts on good, we must be able to see it in our mind’s eye, our imagination. So, I must be able to think of something authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. We can use the incredible imagination God has given us to fix our minds on these wonderful things, even if they are very small and might be ignored as insignificant.

Research has shown that anxiety and gratitude cannot coexist in the brain. We feed one or the other. So, when you worry, you can fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always and this gratitude in looking for the good gifts He has brought today makes anxiety go away. It’s sort of like how darkness cannot stay with light—it has to flee the moment the light is turned on. This isn’t positive thinking—this is real, true and sometimes difficult to do.

When you are struggling with worry, God has provided some incredible paths out of it. First, ask Him to use your redeemed imagination to imagine the beautiful things happening in the world around you, even if it’s hard to see them right now. Second, thank Him in gratitude for that beauty, allowing the light to turn on and the anxiety to run away.

I know that you want this to be a constant state of being, but the worry actually becomes a good warning light that you are fixated on unhealthy and unproductive things. Instead, there is an option for something else! We can ask God to show us the way. He has provided a great awareness of the worry because of how terrible it makes us feel. Instead of choosing worry or anxiety, we get to live in the reality of His goodness that surrounds us even in the valley of the shadow of death. Nothing is too much as His love always follows us.

Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Put into practice the example of all that you have heard from me or seen in my life and the God of peace will be with you in all things. Philippians 4:6-9

Re-published with the permission of Hannah Morrell at Borken & Hopeful, a ministry created for those who feel broken to fin hope in Jesus.

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