Sports can be a wonderful stress reliever. There are few things more therapeutic for me than an isolated trail run at the end of a hectic day. However, sports can also be the source of significant stress and anxiety. If you, or someone you love, has participated in a significant competition, then you surely understand this concept of worry and anxiety. Perhaps it was a high school championship, a tournament where the scouts were watching, or perhaps a meet where you or a loved one was trying to make a specific standard. While your specific sport or event might be very different from other athletes, the stress, anxiety and worry are very similar.
I recall chatting about this topic of worry and anxiety with a friend over breakfast one day. I shared with him an epiphany I had some time back and one which I was continuing to work through. For me, I considered everything I was worrying about and recognized that, at the source of every one of my worries was a desire for an outcome. If I was worrying about my son’s performance at his National track & field meet, I identified that I was actually worried that he would fail to reach his goal of making it further. If I was worrying about my daughter’s exam, I was actually worried what the consequence of failing would be – perhaps another year of schooling which she could not easily afford. When I worried about my eldest son traveling oversees, I was actually worried that he could be hurt or even worse, that we could lose him altogether. In every one of those situations, I recognized that God might actually have a different plan than the one I charted out for my kids, and my worry was actually that His will might trump over my own.
When you take an honest look at the issue of worry and anxiety you see that God doesn’t mince words. Paul’s letter in Philippians 4 is pretty clear: “do not be anxious about anything”. The Greek word for “anxious” in this passage is merimnáō. When you search the Strong’s Concordance meaning of this word, it first says “to be anxious, or to be troubled with cares” which I expected. However, in light of the epiphany God had given me, I was surprised and pleased to see that a secondary meaning is: “to care for, look out for (something); to see to promote one’s interests”. In each of the situations I described above, I had a desired outcome, a desired self-interest. And that is not saying that any of the things I desired are bad in themselves; in fact, it is hard to argue that they are anything but good. What good parent would want anything other than the best for their children? Why would you desire harm or pain for them, or for that matter, for yourself? But here is where the rubber hits the road if you are truly a disciple of Christ. A disciple of Christ must die to themselves (Luke 9:23) and make God’s will paramount in their lives, not our own plans for our lives and for those we love.
There is no harm in asking God for things that we desire (Philippians 4:6), but it would be healthy for you to consider the things that you are worrying about and determine the source of that merimnáō. Never forget that we are children of a loving Father who has sight of the end-goal in our lives and those around us. The route to get there might be very different from what we would have planned, but his route is truly good. Hold on to nothing with a closed fist.