I wish I would have waited better.
Had I known what my LORD was doing behind the scenes, how He was lining things up, how He was causing all things to work together for my good, even as I grieved, wept and worried, I would have honored Him better by being still and unfettered by anxiety and despair.
But as long as I can remember, I’ve been saddled with worry. The nuns at the Catholic school I attended from first- through eighth-grade coined me the Worry Wart. I worried over some of the most ridiculous things: grades, friends, my body, my health, my home life.
Worry cost me many sleepless nights. It robbed me of joy. It at one time reduced my already petite-body from 115 pounds to less than 100. Worry was winning, consuming the better part of my days for far too long. At times, I felt like a spectator watching from the bleachers as Worry dominated my life like an all-star, strikeout pitcher at a baseball game. It was part of me. It was a character trait I believed was irrevocable until I accepted the reality that someone far greater than I was in charge and no amount of worry on my part could ever alter the course of events or circumstances swirling around me.
It took a monumental life change to teach me that lesson. I am a work in progress, though. Worry still comes to haunt me at times, but I’m far better about retrieving the right Scripture verse that reminds me of truth and how worry can’t add an inch to my height (although I’d very much like a couple more) nor a day to my life.
In the waiting after my life veered, I learned how to be more trusting in the Almighty, who sees the whole picture from beginning to end and everything in between. In my finite mind, I fixate only on the here and now. Things I thought impossible to resolve or destined for an unfortunate outcome are handled with perfection and precision on His timetable not mine, and it nonetheless requires waiting.
“Waiting is hard. Waiting well without worrying is even harder. They say worry gives a small thing a big shadow. And that worry leads to catastrophic thinking, which is exactly how I worry.”
You would have thought I’d learned something from my earliest memory of how I let worry get the best of me only to realize I’d fretted all night long for nothing. Then again, I was only six and profound life lessons were just not yet that impressionable. It began with a simple first-grade homework assignment, which was to cover our text books with brown-paper book covers provided by our teacher. Label it and include your name on the cover, the nun in the black-and-white habit instructed.
Maybe it was a subconscious fear of angering a nun or my self-imposed standard of perfection that led to my hours-long obsession with worry, but whatever the impetus was that provoked my worrying proved baseless.
When I sat down to complete my homework assignment, instead of labeling the cover of my reading book, I incorrectly wrote my name at the top of the cover. To rectify, I blacked out my name in ink and wrote in the title below, leaving this glaring blob that looked like a Rorschach inkblot. A feeling of dread came crashing over me like a tidal wave. I worried that I failed to follow my teacher’s instructions correctly. I worried she’d see that inkblot and find it repulsive like I did. I worried she’d hold it up for all to see how Lainey failed with an admonition for onlookers on how not to cover your book. I worried I’d be a laughing stock in front of my first-grade classmates.
That morning, as I settled into my desk among my peers with my freshly covered school books, I purposefully kept my reading book hidden at the bottom of the stack. I sat there with knots in my tummy, waiting for an embarrassing reprimand. Sister Theresa made sure we all had covered our books, but there was no inspection. The inkblot at the top of my reading book cover would go unnoticed. My misstep mattered not to Sister Theresa nor little Johnny Jacobin, my first-grade crush. All that worry and turning over in my bed the night before was for naught.
“That should have been a lesson in futility that worry accomplishes nothing more than a lost night of sleep and an upset stomach. And yet I let worry move right in and take up residency.”
When I worry, I don’t eat or sleep. I hibernate and isolate. I pace and I imagine worst-case scenarios. Ask my kids. When they were in high-school, I always waited up until they walked through the door. If they spent the night at a friend’s house, I worried about house fires and whether the family’s smoke detectors were in working order. If they went on long bus trips with school mates, I worried about accidents. I even worried about the future. Where would I live? Will I have enough money to make it? Will I be safe?
Worry is all-consuming and unhealthy. It took that major life change to uproot the weeds of Worry. God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed that blindside to sweep me off my feet. It was an opportunity for God to work on me and others connected to me. He swooped in and used an unfortunate circumstance to bring about transformation in a number of lives not just mine. He let me know right away that He was working on my behalf. I know it sounds crazy, but He whispered to my heart to wait and to let Him work.
In the two years I waited, I meditated on His promises and memorized Bible verses that comforted me, gave me hope, strength and courage, and equipped me with words that reminded me of His presence (Joshua 1:9). I recited them often. The journey, however, was not completely devoid of Worry. There were moments of relapse, when I forgot to trust (Proverbs 3:5-6), to recall God’s faithfulness and to rely on His promises to always be there with me (Isaiah 41:10). There were moments of fear, when I failed to remember that God is in charge and delivers best-case scenarios. There were moments of sorrow, when I lost sight of His reminder to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30). I just needed to wait (Psalm 27:14) on His perfect timing, His precise pruning and His omnipotent intervention.
God was faithful. He was just. And He delivered. He gave me the desires of my heart when I delighted in Him (Psalm 37:4) and when I finally learned how to worship instead of worry.
Had I known what the LORD had planned, I would have waited better.