How to Break a Cycle of Worry

by | Jan 14, 2015 | Encouragement


Before I touch my feet on the cold floor and whisper a sleepy Good Morning to H, I lie still on the pillow and mentally rehearse a list fraught with what-ifs to the cracks in the ceiling. And suddenly, I am blindsided by worry.

What if our house doesn’t sell?  What if we are strapped with a mortgage when we move to England? What if we can’t afford to store what we can’t take with us? Or ship what we need to live in a crate?

What if my daughter gets the flu at college and I’m too far away to help her? What if we don’t have the money to fly her home for holidays?

Worry is the red flag warning us that what we know intellectually about trusting Jesus has yet to take root in the heart.

And James convicts me that it’s even more than that.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:5-8, MSG

Keeping all my options open when I worry prayers reveals that I fear full surrender.  What if there is something I can do to change things and I miss it?

The most challenging part of our lengthy waiting season to London is changing my perspective from a fearful What if to a hopeful Even If. When circumstances are unpredictable, irrational, and unexplainable to people who ask, the truth about God’s character is the answer.

Even if my house doesn’t sell and we must continue paying a mortgage, God hasn’t abandoned me, He is still my provider.

Even if my daughter gets sick without me nearby, God is the divine healer. He loves her more than I do.

Over the past few months, as we wait for the details of our move to fall in place (the skinny I’m impatiently waiting to tell you about) I have heard myself repeat the same question in prayer , mostly when I am exasperated by the lack of movement in our situation. What do you want me to do about this? 

Sometimes we think pleasing God is about doing when what He longs for is adoration and stillness. Lately, my prayers have transformed into truth-telling about Jesus that sound something like this.

Even if my house doesn’t sell before we move to England, I believe you are the God who can crush mountains with one word uttered from your mouth. Selling my house is but a sigh for you. I love you because you gave your life for me, not because I want you to change my circumstances.

In Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, Sara Hagerty writes, “Adoration is exploration. The Father loves to be explored. . . . Fear loses oxygen when every moment suspends itself under the purpose of bringing Him glory, of knowing His name and His nature.”


During the last week of December, after six months of relative quiet regarding the sale of our house, we had five showings scheduled. Miraculous, so the professionals tell us.

He sighed on New Year’s Eve for us with the sale of our house. And we celebrated by worship and signing a contract on the first day of 2015.

Now, instead of rehearsing my list of worries to the cracks in the ceiling, I am practicing adoration by reciting the Psalms back to Him. Not because it is a magic formula giving me what I want but because when I exchange my fears for the truth, His love frees me from the tyranny of worry.

What is the What If you can exchange for a hopeful Even If in adoration?

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  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I love this so much Shelly….singing the what-if blues, and changing them to the even-if praises. And you, like Abraham (whom we studied in women’s circle today) keep moving ahead even if you don’t know all the steps. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t matter, because you know who does, and if He goes with you, worry is going to transform to wonder. Sooo excited for you, and can’t wait to fill up on skinny!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m really having to practice what I wrote here Lynn. We found out this morning that the buyers of our house backed out of the sale. Regrouping and believing that even if my house is still on the market, God isn’t surprised by any of this. He works all things together for our good.

  2. Devi Abraham Duerrmeier

    What If to Even If – I love it, and it’s an easy thought to remember for those dark days. I think the insidious thing about worry is that it also doesn’t accomplish anything. There’s a book I read to our three-year-old about worry, and in it a worrying moose is asked the question something along the lines of “Bruce, have any of your What Ifs gone away the more you keep thinking about them?” and it helped me see that it’s the same in my life, my What Ifs actually stay, grow and become worse the more I think on them – and then they don’t do anything except tie me up into a ball of fear AND give me a “reason” to doubt God.

    My What IFs right now are often related to my kids, decisions we have to make about their education and that sort of thing, we live in a cultural context that is so foreign to me – will they be ok, will they be too secularized, etc? And now I’m going to try to switch them to Even Ifs.. Thanks!

    • Shelly Miller

      Devi, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perception and how our perceptions often determine perspective but we aren’t always aware how often we do that. Your comment gives me more insight to ponder. Thanks for stopping by, it’s lovely to see you here.

  3. Pat S.

    Great reminder. I love this!

  4. Mary Bonner

    What If to Even If…YES!! I love this, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      As you know, I’m having to really lean into the words God gave me with the loss of the sale on our house. I actually postponed sharing this blog post and God knew the timing would be serendipitous. Thanks for praying Mary, appreciate you.

  5. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    “What if” my son and his family (and 5 children) can’t find a place to move to at the end of February?
    “Even if” they have to wait until the last minute (because you are a 12th hour kind of God) I know you will grow your trust in them (and in me!). I also know, Jesus, you have all the best in mind for us…… ‘unexpected end.’ (Jer. 29:11 KJV).

    amen! Great post, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love the way you applied this to your situation Jody. Awesome example.

  6. pastordt

    Wonderful shift in emphasis just by changing one word. Praying with you for the other shoe to drop — and stay dropped!

  7. Dena Dyer

    Love this. Love you!

  8. Ahyana

    So grateful for this as I await the sale of my own house back on the east coast. Reading the word surrender just remains me that’s when all we desire comes. The sale would be sweet but the peace and knowing God will provide is sweeter still and surrendering that truth allows me to live that truth. Worry is the red dress that doesn’t fit like a glove. It’s alluring but doesn’t fit, we want the red dress that fits, we want God’s peace. Grateful for this post Shelly.

  9. Nancy Ruegg

    God is using you mightily these days, Shelly, as he holds you there on the brink, between the USA and London. This post is another keeper, to guide our thoughts and prayers when worry wants to creep in. Such mature wisdom and childlike trust here, wrapped in one beautiful package. Thank you for your open heart and humble spirit!

  10. Katha VD

    THANK YOU for this post and your powerful words! Such an encouragement and I needed to hear this today.
    Thanks for sharing your heart. I hope God rewards your waiting and what if’s with lots of his peace and unforeseen blessings! Especially in this in between stage. May you look back and marvel later on!

  11. Traci Rhoades

    A simple transition from “What if” to “Even if” but profound in its implications. What a journey!

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