Does this look familiar to you?

A thread of irritation needled Bree. How could Lauren not worry even a bit? Bree wished she knew Lauren’s secret for taking life in stride, bumps and all. Sometimes her (business) partner was almost too relaxed. Bree felt enough stress for both of them, but her worry wasn’t going to rescue them from disaster.                                                                                                    (from Prodigals in Provence)

Indeed. How could Lauren NOT worry at all? What was her secret? Do we know that secret? We may know it in our heads. Have faith in Someone stronger than us. Manage our thoughts. Surrender.

And, of course, Bree has a point: Worry won’t save her and her company from disaster. Worry is useless, in fact, though we sometimes feel we’re accomplishing something when we worry. We’re “doing our part” when we feel helpless. (I hope you’re either laughing or shaking your head now.)

Instead, this is what we sometimes think:

Bree would have to fend for herself if everything went up in smoke. So, she prepared for the worst, plotting her leap from the burning building before it actually caught fire.

We might make a backup plan. We aren’t exactly sure that someone will come through for us, or even God will, so we depend on our plans. (Oh, how risky that is!) Nothing wrong with a good plan, but don’t depend only on the plan!

In the book, Bree makes a backup plan for something she doesn’t think will happen and that only leads to more stress for her. It does for us, too.

I confess that’s exactly what I do far too often. The problem arises and immediately, my mind is looking for a disaster plan. My brain goes into overdrive until I skid to a stop and remember. I’m not alone to fend for myself. In fact, if I were, I’d surely make a mess.

Bree, like us, knows what’s going on, but feels helpless to stop the pattern.

She stared up at the ceiling. “Lord,” she whispered into the empty room. Sighed deeply. “I know this needs to stop. I’m a control freak. I torture myself every step I take. Please, help me to let go. Please.”

She blew out a sigh. Why didn’t she let Lauren take care of breakfast, since that was her responsibility? If only Bree hadn’t come down to check, she’d have been serene instead of in a flutter. But she’d done it again, taken over out of fear.

Do we “take over” with our kids, our spouses, friends, or colleagues? Help them along? It’s so hard to let go and give them a chance to do their tasks. Our minds start running away with us. Ever been there?

My mother is a worrier. I’m thankful to say, I’m usually not. Except for when I get those little images in my mind. You know the ones I mean? Like just now, I had a crick in my neck and suddenly pictured myself in traction with no way to write but voice dictation. (Really.)

The world leads our thoughts to dangerous places on a regular basis. Believe me, it’s not a good place to stay.

You can choose your thoughts. What? You say. You don’t believe it. Not the thought that flies into your mind, but the thoughts you maintain. The thoughts you entertain. You may invite them in for dinner, serve hors d’oeuvres and entertain them. Better to kick them out the door and warn them never to return. They are unwanted guests.

Makes me think of an expression I’ve always remembered: You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.

Thoughts, as well as worries, are like those birds. They come unbidden. But we have not only the ability but the mandate to shuck them off and latch onto the truth. It takes self-awareness, which many people lack. But it can be built. Be aware of thoughts and what they say. That worry says God isn’t on top of it, doesn’t care. Is that true? You know it’s not. So, shuck it off and latch onto what you know. God does care. You know because he said so in 1Peter 5:7. He is on top of things (Psalm 93:1).

So, take a deep breath when you need it and change your guest list. Don’t entertain unwanted thoughts for any longer than it takes to recognize them and claim the truth. And even if we do have human reasons to fear, we don’t have to fend for ourselves. Fictional characters can sometimes give us important reminders! Reminder number one is the one we already know: Have faith in Someone stronger than us. Manage our thoughts. Surrender.