RX for worry: A thankful heart

By James P. Gills, M.D.

In my practice as an ophthalmologist, we say that the worst part of cataract surgery is the week before the actual procedure. Thats when patients really start to think about the procedure and anticipate its effects. Many patients get concerned at this point about whether the surgery will hurt or whether they will lose their vision. And if they previously had a bad experience with some other procedure, they will be afraid of the cataract surgery.

These concerns and fears are very important and very real. A patients attitude affects his ability to relax and cooperate with us during surgery so that we can do the best possible job. Therefore, it is essential that we help a patient understand the procedure, and that we provide as much comfort and reassurance as possible.

But for some people, it doesnt matter how much support we offer. Some patients are going to worry about all aspects of their lives. Theyre paralyzed by their worries, and they cant enjoy life.

The perspective of worry blinds us to the wonderful realities of Gods loving care. We fail to be grateful for his sovereign rule in our lives. Too often we worry about things that are not so and we imagine situations that are not realities. One of the greatest reasons we worry is that we do not appreciate the Giver of life or the life that he gives us. Our lack of appreciation impairs our perspective and disposition more than we realize.

For example, when we are sick we worry about getting well, failing to realize that God has made our bodies with an estimated 60 trillion cells that are actively working to bring about healing. Our worry actually hinders that healing process. Our Creators intelligent design in our DNA has gone before us to prepare the way for our healing. But too many times we are oblivious to his ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1) because of our worry and lack of appreciation.

I often ask my patients if they have thanked God for their pancreas today. Probably not, but it has been working 24/7 for them since their birth. And there is much more that God is doing for them and will do for them. Yet, their mind-set of anxious worry shows a lack of trust in the Lord. It does not reflect a thankful spirit or appreciation of the Creator and all of his wisdom.

We understand medically that worry is self-destructive Yet, worry is unnecessary in the light of our faithful and sovereign Lords care for his highest creationmankind. Still, we all grapple with it and need to find help to overcome its deadly influence.

Do you know someone who has been paralyzed by fear and negative thinking? Or have you personally ever been so worried that you couldnt think clearly, couldnt sleep peacefully, or couldnt act wisely? This kind of chronic worry is a highly infectious disease that can permeate our inner being. It can infect our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. It can destroy us physically and emotionally. Worst of all, it can destroy us spiritually, because chronic worry drives a wedge between us and God. When were ruled by worry, we dont have complete trust and faith in God. We dont think we can depend on him. We feel isolated and alone. We blame God for all the bad circumstances in our lives, and we fail to see the blessings he provides.

Everyday, we must resist the temptation to worry and fear. I believe the most effective treatment for worry is two-fold: cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving and learning to appreciate the Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of life. When we learn to appreciate Gods sovereignty and his faithfulness, our mind-set of worry is dislodged by trust in the power and love of God. And we learn to live in his peace.

Ive seen this treatment work time and again in the lives of my patients. They have shown me that a constant attitude of thanksgiving breaks the grip of fear. These patients, in addition to facing their own surgery, may have family members who are dying; they may have financial problems; or they may be struggling in a personal relationship. Theyre certainly sad at times as they grapple with the problems in their lives, but theyre not worried. Theyre thankful to God, and they continually seek his presence. They are thankful for all of the ways he provides for them, including their pending surgery, which they know will help them. Because of their faith, they can look beyond their struggles and see God at work. These thankful patients have the same concerns and problems many of us face, but they choose not to worry. They choose to be thankful.

A thankful spirit

Patients who beat worry have learned to live the words of the apostle Paul: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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 4:4-7).

Paul tells us that the thankful spirit is the proper mind-set for all believers. He tells us to not worry, but to always be thankful to the Lord. Just like my patients who demonstrate a mind-set of gratitude, we can reject worry. We can rejoice with thanksgiving. When were focused on the person of Jesus Christ in thanksgiving, our anxieties and fears can be wiped away. Our hearts can overflow with a spirit of peace and joy because he lives in us.

What a relief to know that each of us can turn to God and put our lives in his hands! We can be grateful for his blessings and let thanksgiving fill our hearts. We can be filled with peace regardless of our circumstances. We can be faithful to the One who faithfully provides. We must focus on him with thankful hearts.

Appreciation

We have been taught that there are two categories of sin: sins of commissionwhat we doand sins of omissionwhat we fail to do. My patients constantly hear me say that my greatest sin of commission is worry and my greatest sin of omission is failure to appreciate the Giver and the gift of life. Appreciation involves a sensitive awareness and an expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude. To appreciate means to place such high value on something or someone that it evokes our deep admiration.

To truly appreciate the gift of life, we must first become aware of the Creator, the Giver of all life. Our eternal Creator designed life with a divine purpose. Learning to appreciate the Creator brings us into understanding of purpose. It brings into focus that purpose for our lives. As we learn to revere and esteem our Creator-Redeemer, we are filled with thanksgiving for his benevolence, wisdom, majesty, and power already at work in our lives. We focus on his goodness and love, especially in dealing with the matters that cause anxiety.

Failure to properly appreciate God aborts the possibility of a thankful spirit. Without cultivating that divine relationship, we feel alone, isolated, and totally responsible for our own happiness and success in life. This sense of isolation traps us in self-centered, selfish mentalities, which are destructive in many aspects. They result in broken relationships, fear, insecurity, and many other unhealthy syndromes.

Lack of appreciation for God, our Designer and Giver of life, will inevitably cause us to take all of life for granted. We fail to appreciate not only ours, but also the precious lives of those around us. Like all other sin, lack of gratitude brings with it terrible consequences, the most grave being a lack of relationship with God. Conversely, developing a personal relationship with God eliminates the destructive power of anxiety from our lives.

As we learn to appreciate the Creator and his design of all of life we will seek to know his wisdom rather than rely on our own confusion. We will look to his sovereignty, power, and gracious promises instead of our own frustrated perspective. When we learn to deeply admire and appreciate God, we quickly discover that God is much greater than all our problems. We become convinced that when we are worrying, we simply need to focus on God, who will put our anxieties to shame and silence them. It is not always easy to quiet a mind that is all worked up. But when a fresh vision of God breaks through, the child of God is renewed in his or her soul. We receive new strength to rest in the Lord and enjoy his peace (see Isaiah 26:3).

Are you weighed down with worry? Are you filled with fear? Theres refuge in the loving arms of God. He will break the bonds of worry. He will banish fear. We get his real and lasting peace when we turn to him and say, Thank You, Father, for always loving me. Thank You for the eternity that you offer to me through the person of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for me. When we turn to him for redemption, no longer will we fear and worry. Jesus promises a life of peace for those who accept his salvation: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in mePeace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:1, 27).

Certainly none of us can avoid the situations and circumstances that can create worry and fear. But we can counteract the worry itself by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving through humble appreciation for our Creator and Redeemer. When we begin to grasp Gods greatness, majesty, sovereignty, loving control, and wise purposes, we learn to cast ourselves on his care.

As we do, we will see that God has given us many reminders of his precise and detailed attention for our good in all of his creation. This reassures us that God is already at work, not only in creation around us, but also in the fulfilling of his promises to us as his children. He is absolutely faithful to those who turn to him. Therefore, he says to us, Trust Me!

The Bible tells us repeatedly, Fear not. Many of those passages are followed by the words I am with you. It is because God is with us that we do not need to fear. He will always be with his children. May we learn to trust fully in God with thanksgiving for his grace. He will destroy fear and worry! He will give us peace now and forever! Amen!

James P. Gills, M.D., is the founder and director of St. Lukes Cataract and Laser Institute in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This article was adapted with permission from Dr. Gills book, Rx for Worry: A Thankful Heart (Creation House). In addition to his extensive medical practice, he founded Love Press as the publishing outreach of St. Lukes Cataract & Laser Institute. Because of Dr. Gills belief in ministering not only to peoples eyes, but to their whole being, St. Lukes has gifted its patients with his inspirational books since 1985. Having become predominantly a prison ministry, over 8 million books have been distributed to 2,000 jails and prisons within all fifty states.

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