Worry: How are we as Christians to address it?
This is clearly a subject of concern for us all. Who do you know who has never worried? People worry about all kinds of things. There’s family, friends, finances, health, country, weather, deadlines, and on and on the list goes. You may have even seen something in that list that has now distracted you and caused you to worry. We are truly a world of worriers. But how are we to address these things as God’s people? Is there something we can do to overcome this that should set us apart from how unbelievers address this problem? There certainly is! And while there’s much that could be said about this, I’ll address in this article some major truths we should all apply to counteract it.
Someone has said worry is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but you’re not going anywhere. Worry is often the anxiety we feel when we have extreme concern over something we can probably do nothing about. Isn’t this something we’ve all done at one time or another? But as with any problem, what do the Scriptures tell us about it?
The first thing we need to know about it is that it is something we are commanded not to do. Here’s my favorite passage of Scripture on this.
6 Be careful for nothing ; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]
As you know that first phrase in verse six is not at all the way we talk today. What it is saying is to stop worrying about even one thing. Prayer and supplication are all about speaking to God about it. We’re to always bear in mind that what we can do about something may have serious limitations whereas God does not. He can do anything!
One of the great things about this is that we can pray at any time because God knows what we’re thinking. Therefore, we never have to pray orally for Him to “hear” us. It is because of this that we can be obedient to the command to pray without ceasing.
I Thessalonians 5:17
17 Pray without ceasing. [Emphasis added]
It is interesting to note that when the apostle Paul wrote that he did so amid two other thoughts. We see these thoughts in verse sixteen and verse eighteen. First let’s look at verse sixteen.
I Thessalonians 5:16
16 Rejoice evermore. [Emphasis added]
Some will say, “How can I rejoice when I have so much to worry about?” As verse eighteen tells us, we need to replace the time we’re worrying with thoughts about all the blessings we have. You’ll find it difficult to worry and count your blessings all at the same time.
I Thessalonians 5:18
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. [Emphasis added]
“In everything” means just what it says—in everything! But some will ask, “How can you do that?” How can we give thanks for everything that happens in our lives? You can do it when you know and believe that God can turn the worst of situations into the greatest of blessings.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis added]
Here’s another verse where we see this same principle.
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: [Emphasis added]
Again, God can intervene and act in our behalf in any circumstance we face. No situation is too great for Him to address. But we must be very careful with Scripture and not try to claim promises in the Bible that are not ours to claim. I address this and many other things related in my book, 22 Key Promises You Can Count On. Here’s one example of what I’m talking about.
16b …whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. [Emphasis added]
Then our Lord says this again one chapter later.
23b…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. [Emphasis added]
That’s a clear statement to me. Isn’t it to you? But what most people fail to realize is that this promise was not given to us today. It is not a promise to us as members of the Body of Christ. Instead, it was to Israel. It applied for a time when it was given and then it will apply again in the coming time known as The Tribulation. But right now, it does not. And if you don’t believe that, you may have to learn this lesson the hard way. Many people have been greatly disappointed when they didn’t get what they asked for in prayer. However, you won’t find a believer today who gets whatever they request in prayer. Not even one! God keeps all His promises to the ones to whom they were given. We have ours today as in Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 1:11, but not ones like this one in John’s writing. Furthermore, it is important to note that in a sense there’s no such thing as unanswered prayer because no is just as much of an answer as yes. Therefore, God may remove your causes for worry, but He may not. If He doesn’t, you need to claim this promise that says He will work it all out together for good for those who love Him.
We also need to realize that legitimate concern is not the same as worry. Concerns can be addressed by us and often should be. Worry is an inordinate concern over something. Generally, it is inordinate concern over something you can do nothing about. Therefore, it is a waste of time. Again, worry involves things that are beyond our control.
Churchgoers, like others, are often prone to doing all kinds of things to address something they’re worried about. They are especially prone to “claim promises” of Scripture that were never addressed to them in the first place. I’ll give you a second example of this.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
This whole passage is addressed to Israel, not us today. At the time in which it was given Christ was speaking of a coming kingdom on Earth He was going to offer them. That kingdom would have come if they had accepted Him as their promised Messiah, but they would not. Note what He told them.
31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Then notice what else He told them to do. If you believe this passage is addressed to us, have you obeyed His command?
33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. [Emphasis added]
People who’ve tried to apply this command were sorely disappointed in the outcome. Again, this prophesied kingdom has been put off to a future day. It was not long after it was promised that the whole program was interrupted, and a new period known as the Dispensation of Grace was introduced through the apostle Paul. It is that period of history that we’re now a part. Therefore, claiming promises that were given to them and not to us is futile.
Worry is not only futile but can even be destructive. It can affect your health, your work, your family, even your country. It can be terribly destructive of what could have been a wonderful life despite the irritations that can come along. So, what is the greatest “irritation” you could ever face? Isn’t it the thoughts associated with dying and death itself? Please notice the apostle Paul’s thoughts about this as he was faced with the prospects of dying an executioner’s death as a prisoner of Rome. Losing your job, your money, your spouse, your family doesn’t compare to the thought of decapitation, losing your head. So, notice his words. They’re here for our learning.
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [Emphasis added]
Did you see that? He says, “to die is gain.” Does that sound like he’s worrying? Hardly! He knows that the moment he dies, he’ll find himself in Heaven in the presence of the Lord. Why in the world should something like that be a source of worry? Instead, it is a source of real confidence and blessing. Then notice his next statement in that passage.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: [Emphasis added]
Paul was literally torn between the two—living and dying. It was all the same to him. He knew that either way there was blessing to be enjoyed no matter what happened. Therefore, even in a dingy Roman cell with the prospects of execution, he was completely at ease. Worry is not a part of his life, nor should it ever be ours.
Anytime you find yourself worrying—
- Acknowledge that worry is a sin.
- Believe that God loves you and is fully aware of your situation.
- Do whatever is within your power to address the situation.
- Be willing to accept those things over which you have no power.
- Follow the instructions we’ve been given about it.
6 Be careful for nothing [stop worrying about anything]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Then we see the promised outcome.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [PHROUREO = to keep with a military guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]
This peace of God is the peace of mind that is beyond all natural forms of comprehension. It is a blessing of God that guards our hearts and minds, providing peace and stability in any circumstance or situation. When you think no one else cares or is looking out for you, He does. We are to believe this and relate it to everything that is going on in our lives. Only the believer has access to this. It is one of the many blessings that is always there for us to use and enjoy. But you must choose to believe these things. That’s where faith comes in. Again, it is when you choose to believe these things that you can have complete peace of mind no matter what you’re faced with. This is what the apostle Peter said about this same thing.
I Peter 5:7
7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. [Emphasis added]
Yes, take your problems to the Lord in prayer. Speak with Him about it. You have immediate access because of who you are in Christ. As I’ve seen it said, “Worry is a conversation you have with yourself about things you can’t change. Prayer is a conversation you have with God about things He can change.”
One of my favorite hymns through the years has been What a Friend we have in Jesus by Joseph M. Scriven. For many years I’ve had the framed music and words to this hymn on the wall next to my bathroom sink. This hymn tells us what we’re to do when we’re tempted to worry.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.
Never complain about those things you’re tempted to worry about because they serve to make you mindful of your need for our Lord. It has always been suffering and not prosperity that’s done the most to cause us to see our need for the Lord. We’re told that even our Lord learned obedience by the things He suffered. It won’t be any different for us or anyone else.
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; [Emphasis added]
What’s going on in your life where suffering could do this for you? How are the worries you’re now experiencing going to contribute to your spiritual growth? Are your worries serving to get your attention and to draw you closer to your Lord and Savior? Or will you be stubborn and go it on your own? The choice is yours. You will decide by what you choose to do with the principles stated in this article. I hope you’ll see them as helpful.