Don’t Feed The Animals

The following is my latest article for the Vermilion Standard, published under the title: “Worry Clings To Us Only If We Feed It.”

You have probably seen the sign at different locations (zoos, national parks, etc.) that emphatically states: “Don’t feed the animals!”  If you feed the animals, it is not good for their diet and they will keep coming back for more.

This same warning can be translated in our lives about worry.  We can get fixated on an issue, a problem, or a dilemma and it ruminates and grows in our minds.  Consequently, we incessantly think about, dissect it, replay it, and rethink it.  This is the phenomenon we refer to as “worry.”

This is an issue that many people struggle with and an affliction that many people suffer from.  Worry is like a wild animal, it will eat your joy, happiness, attention, positive outlooks, etc. and will leave you empty and sick, evidenced through bitterness, impatience, selfishness, lack of appetite, ulcers, etc.   In short, worry will eat your joy and keep coming back for more.

This problem stems from our natural inclination to think, reflect, meditate and focus on things.  It other words, we are designed to fixate and focus on something.  Worry is, in fact, evidence of this truth.  It is the result of our fixation going off course and being misdirected.  We have been designed to fixate our lives on something and this something is God.  When this occurs, it is evidenced in purposed thanksgiving and humility.  The problem is, we like to focus on ourselves, our problems, etc. and so the natural inclination of our hearts becomes repositioned away from God and onto the unhealthy focus of our selves, our problems, our dilemmas and our circumstances.  This repositioning inevitably manifests itself as worry.

This common problem is addressed in the Bible and the Bible actually gives a treatment for our misaligned human hearts, evidenced in worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)  

We are instructed in everything, by prayer and with thanksgiving, to keep the object of our focus on God.  There are two key elements to this instruction.

First, we are called to pray.  In other words, to intentionally focus on God, ask for his help and seek his guidance; in other words, to get the focus off of us and onto God.  In my experience, most people who struggle with worry also struggle with prayer.  Worry and prayer are often at odds because they have different focuses.  Just as you can’t face North and South at the same time, you can’t have your heart focused on you (evidenced in worry) and on God (evidenced in prayer and thankfulness) simultaneously.

Second, we are called to be thankful.  If you struggle with worry, the Scriptures tell us to make a disciplined attempt to be thankful.  One way you can do this is by writing a list of everything you are thankful for, reading the list daily and adding to it regularly.  It won’t solve your problems, but it will put them in perspective.  The Bible teaches that prayer and thankfulness work to reposition our hearts, resulting in the treatment of the disease of selfishness, manifested as the symptom of worry.

The Bible says that the result of this repositioning is peace, contentment and joy.  How does that sound?  Are you experiencing this or are you so busy feeding the wild animal of worry that it has starved you from peace, contentment and joy?

Where is your focus and how is it manifesting itself in your life today?

Worry is like a wild animal.  If you feed it, it will just keep coming back for more.

Remember: “Don’t feed the animals!” 

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