When Blessings Make You Anxious

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Jun 8, 2023; Updated on Jun 8, 2023

Most people would admit to worrying a bit about their trials and tribulations. But for some of us, anxiety can creep in when things are going well. God’s blessings can trigger new fears that “surely this won’t last,” or that “I’ve got to do everything right to keep up this lucky streak.” What do we do when blessings make us anxious?

I must admit that I fit into this category.

Often, if I find myself in a positive season when “my cup overflows,” I get a peculiar type of anxiety. It’s almost like there’s a scale that’s weighing my blessings, and when the balance tips past a certain point of extravagance, it’s just too much. The sheer generosity of God’s blessings makes me anxious.

I’d like to share my personal experience in this area. Right now, I’m in an abundant season of my life that I can only describe as magical and very much overflowing. But over the last few days, I’ve felt some of the old anxiety creeping in…because life is just so good, it can’t be real. It can’t last. I better get ready for the lightning strike…

But I don’t want to listen to that old voice.

This particular blog post might be a bit more rambling and personal than usual, but maybe you’ll appreciate coming along with me as I imperfectly try to grow through this area of my relationship with God.

A Wonderful Season of Life

Right now, I am in the happiest season of my entire life.

I am seven months pregnant with our first baby and I’m more in love with this unborn child than I ever thought possible. Every time I feel her kick or stretch, I smile in wonder at the miracle of this life growing inside my womb.

Everything in my life seems to be covered with gold. Maybe it’s just the happy pregnancy hormones, but I feel so undeservedly blessed. I have an amazing, supportive husband of almost ten years…I have a ministry with the scrupulosity community that I find incredibly fulfilling (I love you guys!)…I am surrounded by a loving tribe of friends and church family… And surprisingly, after two and a half years of slogging through a horrible housing market, we are finally buying a house, just in time to welcome our baby girl into the world.

No, it’s not a big or fancy house. It’s a very small, modest rancher with the ugliest 1970’s kitchen I’ve ever seen. But it’s the dream house we’ve been holding out for–one of the few small homes in the few pockets of “countryside” within commuting distance to the greater Washington DC area where my husband works. We don’t care about the ugly kitchen–all we can think about is how our daughter will have four acres to play on, where she can splash in the creek, grow vegetables, and eat the fruit from the mulberry trees.

We are blessed. So blessed.

Too many blessings make me anxious

Every day I hold my belly and sing lullabies to our growing baby. I am starting to learn little things about her–like the fact that she gets terrible cases of the hiccups, just like her daddy. She hates when the midwife uses a doppler, which makes me wonder if she’ll turn out HSP like her mama. And she’s beginning to have predictable wake windows when she does her acrobatics–an hour after I eat, for example, and what seems to be all night long!

I love her so much…and in my moments of reflection, when the blessedness of motherhood is so intense I can feel it tangibly, that’s when I start to become anxious.

Too Many Blessings Make Me Anxious

A few blessings here or there are nothing to worry about–but too many blessings make me anxious. Ironically, this phenomenon has been called “too-good-to-be-true anxiety.”

It feels like all of this is too good to be true. Surely it can’t last! Surely there’s a “catch,” and my next cycle of trials will involve God pulling the rug out from under me. It feels like something awful is coming to counterbalance the goodness I’ve been given.

There’s a passage in Ecclesiastes that I remember one of my Bible professors preaching about. It says:

In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

I remember my professor preaching about this passage, reminding us that God balances the good and bad seasons in life. There are days of prosperity set against days of adversity. Nobody’s life is a bed of roses, and nobody’s life is utterly horrible. The good and the bad are interspersed for the purpose of leading us to God. The unpredictability of normal life–that is, our inability to “find out” what will happen next–helps us learn to trust in God at all times.

When I heard him preach about this passage, I really liked it. It helped me feel better about my difficult seasons. But I think it’s left me feeling insecure in my blessed seasons. When things get too good, it feels like I must be reaching the pinnacle of joy right before the descent into my next tribulations.

Lately, in this season of abundance, I’ve been having unwelcome thoughts that something might be wrong with my baby.

Maybe she’ll be wheelchair bound…

Maybe she’ll be intellectually bound by something like Down Syndrome…

Maybe she’ll be stillborn, and we’ll bury her tiny body under the mulberry trees…

I know all pregnant women deal with baby-related anxiety to varying extents. But I have dealt with anxiety for a long time, and I have had a lot of victory over it. I am simply not willing to let myself get caught up in this. I am not willing to sit and catastrophize and obsess and ruminate. I see these anxious thoughts swirling around me, and I want to deal with them in my “sound mind” in a responsible way that helps me grow spiritually instead of ruminate.

So as I find these wonderful blessings making me anxious, I’ve chosen to walk into the anxiety and ask it for the keys to its defeat.

I think I’ve discovered a few things. Let me share them with you.

Worry Is a Form of Loss Prevention

In scrupulosity recovery, we talk often about our addiction to control.

The urge to ruminate and compulse comes from our desire to control the situation. We don’t want bad things to happen, so we gather up our best mental resources and throw them at the perceived problem, hoping it will prevent any possible losses.

For example, maybe you have a prayer compulsion that’s meant to prevent your mother from dying. While prayer is a good thing, it must be couched in a mindset of “Thy will be done,” a mindset that is usually lacking in the obsessive-compulsive cycle. The person with OCD can’t wrap their mind around the possibility of losing. Bad outcomes are not an option–therefore we compulse endlessly to prevent loss.

We compulse because we can’t let go of control. We can’t accept loss.

Thus, all our worries and obsessive-compulsive behavior, at the root, are an attempted loss-prevention technique.

The funny thing is that we worry, ruminate, and obsess about things that may never materialize!

There may be a tiny chance of something bad happening, but we pour inordinate amounts of energy into preventing this bad thing. Perhaps you are afraid your house might burn down if you don’t unplug all the appliances before leaving. This leads you to check, check, check, and check again. You make yourself embarrassingly late to work. You constantly feel jittery, on edge, and anxious.

But of course, your house never does burn down, even when you forget to unplug the iron (once, I accidentally left the iron on for several hours when I went out. And guess what? Nothing burned down. In fact, the iron has an automatic shutoff feature when it’s not used for awhile!)

Our worries rarely materialize. And yet, we are spending our energy on worrying because it feels like the only way to prevent tragic loss.

worry is a form of loss prevention

In my case, I know I’m worrying about my baby because I don’t want anything bad to happen to her. She’s valuable to me; she’s my most precious earthly treasure. And I’m not willing to lose her. This loss-prevention mindset is what drives my worries. It’s what makes me check and recheck my ultrasound scan results.

Yes, she’s got all her limbs, all her fingers, all her toes. No, she doesn’t seem to have any of the soft markers for Down Syndrome. Yes, her organs seem to be working just fine.

Whew.

But a few hours later, true to the OCD pattern, another “what if” will arise.

What if the ultrasound missed something? WHY did I opt out of the nuchal translucency test?? What if she DOES have Down Syndrome? What if she comes out with a disability and I’m so psychologically shocked that I’m unable to love her?

What if, what if, what if…

Like you, I have a choice about how to respond to that “what if.” And I know the best way to respond is to cut the control off at the knees by not letting myself ruminate. My worries will not prevent loss. My worries are not even representative of the actual amount of risk–most of these worries are unreal and will never materialize.

So what I’ve been trying to do is to let go of my controlling, loss-prevention tendencies. I try to accept whatever comes to me, and to be happy with it.

If she’s disabled or not, I will love her.

If she lives or dies, I will praise the Lord.

If my blessings turn to ashes or if they are a gift that will remain with me, I will move forward and grow.

I composed a song about this struggle as I am striving to give up control. I’m not going to sing it for you, because I’m not that great of a singer, but I’ll share the lyrics because I think they express my sentiment well:

Into Your hands I commit my unborn baby
Into Your hands I commit this tiny soul
Take my worry, take my torment
I trust my child in Your control.

Yes, Lord, You give and You take away,
But please let me keep this one, I pray!
And whatever You decide
Help me abide
In the warmth of Your changeless love.


Into Your hands I commit my unborn baby
Into Your hands I commit this tiny soul
Take my worry, take my torment
I trust my child in Your control.

Nothing can befall her but that which is best
Even in her suffering, she’s blessed
And as she grows in years
Help me bring my fears
To Your heart of paternal love.

Into Your hands I commit my unborn baby
Into Your hands I commit this tiny soul
Guard her future, guide her heart to You
I trust my child in Your control.

I trust You love her, Lord,
Eternally
Paternally
More than a mother could.

The Teachings of Jesus About Worry

As I’ve stated, too many blessings make me anxious. So it’s comforting to read the words of Jesus about the nature of worry.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

You might hear psychologists talking about “mindfulness” and being “present in the moment.” These concepts are actually thousands of years old. Jesus gave us the essence in the Sermon on the Mount when He said not to worry about tomorrow.

The antidote for anxiety is to live in the present. There’s enough going on right now today. Jesus said, “tomorrow will worry about its own things.”

It’s interesting that Jesus said, “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” If you’re like me and blessings make you anxious out of fear that you’ll lose what’s most precious to you, these words are extremely relevant.

Although life’s good seasons can seem so good that they can’t possibly last, I think if we step back for a better analysis, we might see that there are more trials in the present than we are recognizing. In my case, for example, everything in my external life is like a perfect storybook. But inside, things are a different story. I’m stressed about moving. I’m worried about my baby’s health. I feel overwhelmed with all the life changes taking place.

If there was an actual scale weighing my blessings and trials, it would be rare for it to tip 100% in any direction. For some of us, our trials may come predominantly in hidden ways–in the mind.

For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.

2 Corinthians 7:5

Paul differentiated between the “outside” conflicts and the “inside” fears. If you’re like me, and blessings make you anxious, just remember that you’ve probably got plenty of “inside fears” to balance the scale. Life is never that perfect. Yes, Ecclesiastes spoke about days of prosperity and days of adversity, but when do we ever have a pure, unpolluted day of prosperity?

As Jesus said, “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” You’ve probably got more negatives going on than you realize! This is one more reason why I think it doesn’t make sense for us to let blessings make us anxious.

blessings make me anxious

If Blessings Make You Anxious, Look for God’s Extravagance

In my anthropological studies, I encountered a worldview paradigm that is common in some cultures where poverty is high and resources are very limited. It’s called “the law of limited good.” People who grow up in places where basic needs are not always available can develop a mindset that “goodness” is permanently limited.

It is often in these cultures where superstitions like the “evil eye” are more common. In cultures ruled by the law of limited good, the evil eye of jealousy is dangerous. Each person carefully guards their own goods and resources. Not having enough rice, potable water, or educational opportunities translates into a mindset of “not enough” in many superstitious ways. In these worldviews, there isn’t enough of anything. If your neighbor has a baby, it means the universe’s supply of babies has just gone down, so it limits you from having your own baby. If your friend gets a marriage proposal, it makes you less likely to get a marriage proposal. If your brother’s cow calves twins, it might mean your cow will have no calves.

The law of limited good isn’t always rational. It’s merely a mindset that views everything through a finite lens of “not enough.”

I’ve been thinking about this worldview and wondering if I’m bringing it into my relationship with God. Do I adhere, subconsciously, to the law of limited good? Do blessings make me anxious because at some level, I’m expecting God’s goodness to run out at any moment?

Early in my pregnancy, as I struggled with my “what if” fears of miscarriage, I read a comment online that challenged my obsessive pattern. One pregnant woman wrote, “what if everything turns out just fine?”

Now that turns the old OCD “what if” on its head! What if everything turns out fine? Why do all our “what ifs” have to be catastrophic in nature? Why do we adhere to this sickening expectation of limited good? What if God’s goodness for us is extravagant beyond expectation? What if He fills our cup to overflowing and then keeps pouring, pouring, and pouring? What if He chooses to bless us so intensely that we can hardly receive it?

The prophet Malachi writes about bringing tithes and offerings into God’s storehouse, and in the context of this topic, he indicates something beautiful about God’s blessings. He says,

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of Hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such a blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.”

Malachi 3:10

Think about the imagery that Malachi uses! God doesn’t merely send a few blessings, He opens the windows of heaven and pours out a blessing so lavish that there literally isn’t enough room to receive it. This doesn’t sound like there’s a problem with “limited good!”

If blessings make us anxious, one response we can use is to focus on the love and extravagance of God. There is no limitation in His supply. There is no “scale” by which God measures our blessings and decreases them once they get to be too much. I don’t want to have the limited good mindset because it will surely distort my understanding of God’s character. I choose to look for His extravagance and dance within it’s warm glow of love.

looking for God's extravagance

If Blessings Make You Anxious, Learn Acceptance

A second response to our tendency to get worried from too many blessings is to learn acceptance.

I can’t guarantee what the future will look like. I don’t know how healthy my baby will be. I’ve had several “scares” over the course of this pregnancy–some of which were figments of my own diseased imagination, and some of which involved concerning symptoms the doctor was never able to figure out. I have to live with the possibility that sad things might happen. I do my best to have a healthy pregnancy and cover my growing baby with prayer, but then I have to let go of control and accept God’s will.

A refusal to accept unwanted outcomes leads to compulsive behavior. It leads to rumination as we attempt to comfort ourselves that nothing bad will happen.

It doesn’t feel good to accept the possibility of bad things happening. But if we don’t make this step, we’ll never be able to live fully in the present. We will forever be living in the future, compulsively fighting demons that may or may not exist.

Jesus said “do not worry about tomorrow.” This does not mean that tomorrow is guaranteed to be perfect. It simply means that worrying about tomorrow is unhelpful. I have to accept that my future is unknown and that I cannot manipulate it through mental tinkering. Instead, I must trust in God and accept whatever comes from His hand.

Think of the story of the manna in the book of Exodus. God only fed them one day at a time. He never gave them more than they needed for any single day, except on Friday, when He instructed them to gather double for both Friday and Sabbath. In so doing, He taught them to rest in His daily provision. If God fed His people day by day, what makes us think we have to gather strength and predictability for trials that do not yet exist? I’ve heard it said that God will not give us tomorrow’s strength today, and I have found that to be very true.

Isn’t it better to bask in the blessings of today without worrying about losing them?

Acceptance of all possibilities–the ones we wanted and the ones we didn’t want–is imperative for moving forward from our paralysis of worry.

Conclusion

As I become a first-time mom, I find myself in the most thrilling and miraculous period of my life. But I’ll admit that the intensity and preciousness of all these blessings make me anxious at times. I fear losing what I’ve been given. I fear that things are so good that surely it won’t last. I sometimes feel that I have to do something to persuade God to let me keep what He’s granted–that if I sin, He might punish me by sweeping it all away.

But all these mindsets set me up for unnecessary worries and they distort the loving character of God.

Receiving God's grace gracefully

What’s helping me move forward are the following principles:

  1. Learning to live in the present
  2. Looking for God’s goodness and extravagance
  3. Accepting all possible outcomes instead of trying to control the outcomes

If blessings make you anxious, maybe these principles can help you, too. The bottom line is that God doesn’t want us to deal with the chronic stress of always being worried. He wants us to trust in Him, that whether He gives or takes away, He does nothing unless it is for our best good. We can rest in His love, knowing that even if we lose that which is most precious to us, we are still blessed.

Let’s try to live in the moment, expect the best, and accept all things with equality. God loves us, and sometimes He simply chooses to bless us in powerful and intense ways that we aren’t prepared to receive. Whether you find yourself in a dating relationship, in a new marriage, expecting your first baby, or some other life stage where you feel yourself to be blessed beyond measure, please–receive God’s love for you. Receive the blessings He is pouring out.

I’ve written before about our difficulty in receiving good things from God. If you find yourself in an abundant season, use this opportunity to practice receiving grace gracefully.

I am imperfectly trying to learn this lesson, so why don’t you come along with me, and let’s try to learn it together.

Best wishes on the journey,

jaimie-eckert-signature
  • I never felt understood until I found your blog a couple years ago. Definitely related to this article. God is using you and your ministry powerfully. <3

  • Thank you for your beautiful and honest post! I love how you said you are walking into the anxiety and asking for its keys to its defeat. That is the solution to compulsions and it is available to us because of Jesus! Walking in instead of avoiding! I too get nervous when things are too good. And I relate to obsessions that arose because of pregnancy and parenting—I have four children and faced many of the same worries you do. I just want to share with you how excited I am that you are expecting this lovely baby girl and I am praying for this season to truly be the best. I know this baby girl will be blessed by you and that you will experience such joy from her! God bless you!

    • Thank you so much for your prayer! And God bless you in raising your four blessings. I do think most mamas get parenting obsessions–even non-OCD mamas–but the fact that we know and understand our struggle makes us more motivated to work through it in a healthy way. God will help us!

  • I can massively relate to this and really struggled with this when I had my own miracle baby girl a couple of years ago after many years of waiting. I couldn't understand why I struggled with anxiety and even some depression when I should be so joyful. The anxiety was immense, This has made me realise it's an OCD thing and helped me make sense of it. I had some scares too, some which were due to my imagination and like you, some which the doctors couldn't figure out. I found the anxiety after she was born even harder, afraid to go to sleep in case something happened, afraid to take her out in the pram in case I let go (I strapped the handle to my wrist in the end!) So many intrusive thoughts and mental images of accidentally hurting her and things that could go wrong. Feeling like I was a failure as a mother constantly. Please try to enjoy this wonderful time and know that you're not alone in experiencing anxiety and that fear is a liar.

    • Lynsey, thank you so much for sharing your experience with such vulnerability and honesty! It can be hard for me to have pregnancy anxiety, even though I KNOW I am prone to OCD and anxious rumination. I imagine it must have been much harder for you if you weren’t entirely sure what was going on in your head. I’m glad you’re in a place now of knowing what you’re dealing with, and that no, you’re not going to harm your baby or let the pram go…that you can trust your baby AND yourself in God’s merciful hands.

      Even the best and most miraculous pregnancies are a biological and psychological marathon–so let’s be gracious with ourselves! And especially being prone to OCD, we have an extra layer of vulnerability, but God knows all about that.

  • Is it possible for the opposite to happen, instead of worrying, ruminating and obsessing over something bad that might happen and trying to prevent it, I obsess and ruminate over something good that might happen, convinced that God is telling me, and I start trying to indeed make it happen? Is it also a form of trying to keep the control? And, what if reading the Bible makes me anxious because I struggle to see and understand what God is saying to me personally, or I see it but I struggle to believe it because it is just too good to be true and i've just had too many situations where I thought God was saying something and I expected it but it never happened?

  • Hey Jaimie. Rhonda again. I was wondering if you have written an article about how family is affected by a scrupulosity diagnosis. I have been battling depression and anxiety since March along with OCD diagnosis. To say it's been rough on my family is an understatement. Add caregiving to autistic son, I worry about my husband and oldest son. I didn't know if you had written anything about while you were recovering how it affected your husband. Sorry for asking here but I don't know how to find the little hand emoji to ask a question during Sundays zoom class. 😊

  • Another incisive and insightful post, as always! Your quotes:

    "The good and the bad are interspersed for the purpose of leading us to God. The unpredictability of normal life–that is, our inability to “find out” what will happen next–helps us learn to trust in God at all times." — with ROCD, it seems like it always comes back to trusting God. With everything.

    "I see these anxious thoughts swirling around me, and I want to deal with them in my “sound mind” in a responsible way that helps me grow spiritually instead of ruminate." — Such a learning step for me personally! Thank you for articulating it so clearly!

    "Now that turns the old OCD “what if” on its head! " — I've actually thought, "WHAT IF I'm exactly where God wants me to be, doing exactly what He wants me to do?" An interesting brain response.

    Excited for your family! And so glad you are taking care of yourself! Love being a part of your "community"!

  • Jamie, one of the greatest gifts God has ever given you, is the gift of giving of yourself to others! You unselfishly devote your time to helping others like us that suffer with a common thing called scrupulosity, and you do it out of the one thing that is most important to God and to us, and that is LOVE! You are a wonderful blessing to so many people, and I believe God is blessing you with the most precious gift He could give you, aside from Christ Himself, and that's the gift of a precious little life in the form of a tiny little girl! If for some reason, as you've stated before, God takes her before we believe He should, your attitude is spot on, but I believe, God will bless you with this child, however she comes into the world and that she will be loved no matter what because you are so loving that it's just your nature, just like Christ! In any case, we will do the one thing that we can, which is powerful!, and that is keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers, including the wonderful little life you are carrying. it's the least we can do for someone who's done so much for so many! God bless!!

  • Another wonderful article, it was so very relatable. I always felt like, if my day is going good I had to maintain it by my obedience— but then I heard a really good sermon and I realized that Jesus was the one who qualified me for the blessing in the first place, because he is my representative before the father. If it was based on my goodness, I would not even have been blessed. I don’t know if that makes sense but, it just helped be to keep my eyes on Jesus rather than myself.

    I pray that your baby will be born blessed, healthy and strong!

  • Jaimie, first, I’m so thankful for your season of abundance and specifically your first child on the way! Thank you for being willing to so often be vulnerable and share the fears and struggles you have that so many of us can resonate with. I struggle with this too. Sure life is going well right now, but for how long? When will that rug be pulled out from under me? I can lose so much joy from God’s current blessings by worrying about future trials.

    Recently I was reading in Psalm 112 and portions of v6-8 really resonated with me and this struggle. The CSB version reads “The righteous one will be remembered forever. He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the LORD. His heart is assured; he will not fear.”

    It’s encouraging because it doesn’t promise there won’t be bad news. But with the LORD we don’t have to fear it because we can have confidence that he will bring us through. Admittedly, my trust and faith is often weak and I DO often fear bad news. By God’s grace may my faith and trust grow in him knowing that he is in control of all things and will see me through whatever comes because he loves me and allows both the good and the bad times for my ultimate good.

    • I love this passage…thanks, Mike, for sharing it! It’s indeed relevant to the topic and I appreciate the reminder. Hope all is going well for you and your family!

  • Blessings to you and your precious family Jaimie. Congratulations on the purchase of your home.

    Numbers 6:24-26

    24 The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

    25 The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

    26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace

  • Your articles are a pure blessing to those of use afflicted with scrupulosity. Thank you so much for your work.

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