I have a lot of experience worrying. It’s always felt like a natural way of thinking that pulls me right along.

Being a counselor, I’ve gotten a lot better at capturing those thoughts and challenging them. But it’s still a habit that demands my attention and effort. The main reason we worry is actually plain and simple: We are trying to protect ourselves. It’s a kind of preparation. We think that if we know about things ahead of time, we will be ready to handle them. We imagine that the more we mull something over in our heads, the safer we will be. We also believe that the more we dissect a situation—even if we’re outlining the worst case scenarios—we might find a solution to prevent it. Essentially, we’re looking for an escape route. And ironically, we’re looking for an escape route from our fears.

It doesn’t make much sense. After all, being afraid and worried does not prevent problems or make us more able to handle them. But it comes from a part of our thinking that isn’t quite rational. It’s the emotional, instinctive part of us that reacts to threats, perceived or real. Our self-preservation instincts can hijack our rational mind and tell it what to think.

Those of us who were raised in chaotic environments as children are even more prone to anxiety and worry because we used it as a coping mechanism to, once again, prepare ourselves.

Truth be told, we hold on to our habits because we believe we are benefiting from them. We might be sick of worrying and want nothing to do with the behavior, but if we’re still doing it, we won’t fully let go unless we convince—and I mean fully convince—ourselves that we don’t need to anymore.

Where Does God Fit in?

Part of worry is this unspoken belief that God won’t totally take care of us or those we love. It’s the opposite of the one thing God says He wants most from us: faith.

We may have heard it before: “Fear tolerated is faith contaminated.” And it’s true. Too often we tolerate worry. We get concerned over other more “sinful” habits, while we forget to recognize the seriousness of worrying. In actuality, this persistent little habit is a far greater sin than we realize. It’s fear that actively doubts God’s goodness and power. It comes from a mentality that we’re alone or God is just at the sideline, and we have to self-preserve.

This causes us to take matters into our own hands, control whatever we can and try to fix a situation ourselves. And actions are not only a way to try to fix a situation; worrying is an effort to fix it too. Worry is a means to control that overestimates our abilities (or that of others) and underestimating God’s.

Changing Your Thinking

Does worry prepare you for what’s to come? Chances are your worrying drains, confuses and exhausts. In that state you are far less prepared for anything that might happen. It also doesn’t prevent anything, so what’s the use? I love the quote, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.”

Worrying makes us feel lousy, causes confusion, does nothing to affect the future and hurts our health with thoughts that are not even true. Many of the situations we worry about never end up happening. That’s a lot of wasted energy and contaminated faith.

If we can fully grasp the fact that worrying doesn’t give us what we want and doesn’t actively prevent what we fear, we may begin losing our desire to do it once we realize it’s pointless. And that’s when it doesn’t have a hold on us anymore. Now, many of us know what’s true in our heads, but we’ve also got to know it in our hearts; which just means we need to believe it completely.

Building up Your Faith

Besides thinking yourself out of your worries through rational, another antidote to worry is of course, faith. But it’s not enough just to tell someone to trust God more. It’s a matter of looking into what creates trust in the first place.

Trust comes from really knowing someone and we can’t trust God if we don’t know Him. We may know a lot about God. We may have grown up in church and even have a good relationship with Him. But when we worry, it’s a symptom that we don’t fully know and believe His goodness.

Notice I said “fully believe.” Many of us know mentally that God is good and able, but do we know it in our hearts? Or do only 50 percent of us know it?

When we’re afraid of the bad stuff that could happen or wonder if we can get through a difficult time, we’ve got a faulty or incomplete view of God’s character; namely, His love and power. In fact, those are the two areas that we should read most about, meditate on and ask His help to absorb more deeply. We’ve got to know God loves us enough to want to take care of us. He is powerful enough to keep us secure in his hand.

The majority of even us committed Christians need to know more about what we already know about God. Our understanding of His heart for us and His incomparable greatness needs to be absorbed more deeply.

It’s during the stressful times that we see what kind of faith is really in us. Thankfully, if we find ourselves wrestling to stay afloat, fraught with worry over what could happen, God does not condemn us for falling short. Even though an unhindered faith is His greatest desire for us, we serve a God who is slow to anger; rich in mercy and compassion. He is familiar with and unsurprised by our weaknesses. He views times of worry not as moments to judge us, but rather as opportunities to invite us into His presence and a greater knowledge of His faithfulness. It’s there that God nudges us to see how we can know Him better and ask for His strength to act.

Let’s look beneath our tendency to worry into what it means about our view of God, and where it is we’re looking for refuge. Let’s accept His invitation to meditate and more fully absorb what is true, that we may be able to say this with peace: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:2)