How To Stop Worrying

As a pastor, the topic of worry is one that keeps arising.  Worry is a part of almost every situation. Either we worry, or someone is worrying about us.  We worry about money, our health and the well-being of others, our safety and security, and well… the list is endless.

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What makes this topic really dangerous, however, is that worry has a wide range of impact.  We can have worrying personalities that are hereditary, or have self-induced worry, or perhaps experience medically unbalanced situations. As believers, it’s really important to figure out where we stand with our worry, as it will dramatically impact how we deal with it.  With that said, we all have to start at the same place – that’s with Jesus.

Jesus is pretty clear: If we first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, there is no need to let worry distract us (Matthew 6:33).

“Seeking”, “Receiving” and “Worrying”

The Greek word for “seek” (zeteite) implies an unceasing journey.1  That means, we are to first seek the Kingdom and His righteousness, and do so as long as we live.  The key is FIRST.  It’s a growing daily journey of trust, where God is to be our focus (His will and His plan), and our job is to live selfless lives (ie. the beatitudes, loving, serving, giving, praying, and fasting,2  This is not to say, however, that our needs aren’t important.  It simply means that our attention should be towards the Kingdom, knowing that God will take care of the rest.

Worrying About Our Money

Early believers knew how to seek the Kingdom.  Believers sold their possessions to care for those in need (Acts 4:34).  Even the Roman officials noticed how the “Christians” were unstoppable because of their lack of worry and response to the daily needs around them.  Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate once told his officials:

“We ought to be ashamed. Not a beggar is to be found among the Jews, and those godless Galileans [he meant the Christians] feed not only their own people but ours as well, whereas our people receive no assistance whatever from us.”3

The early Church took care of, not only their own, but, anyone in need.  So much could be learned from their passion to seek the Kingdom.  What kind of impact would the Church make if we were known as those didn’t worry about tomorrow and simply took care of the needs around us today?  Our generous hearts have the potential to prove God’s faithfulness.

Our generous hearts have the potential to prove God's faithfulness. Click To Tweet

Worrying About Our Health and Well-Being

Jesus explained that the birds don’t worry about tomorrow, and yet God provides for them each day (Matthew 6:26).  I love this example because birds work hard.  They might prepare and build a nest for future seasons, but they simply do whatever is required of them each day and God provides.  God takes care of His creation, so why don’t we trust Him to provide for us?

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27)  If we truly seek God’s Kingdom and not ours, we’ll begin to trust and understand that no amount of worry will change tomorrow.  God is calling us to be faithful with our time; not distracted by worry.

God is calling us to be #faithful with our time; not distracted by #worry. Click To Tweet

Worrying About Our Safety and Security

This happens in two ways: we worry about the personal security of ourselves and our families, and also the safety of others while they are away from us.  In the West, this conversation seems to always come back to the worry of terrorism, boarder security, and immigration.  But if we seriously believed in seeking the Kingdom of God, we would trust God is bigger and any threat to our freedom or security will be combated with God’s protection and ultimate plan.

We also worry about others.  A good friend of mine admitted that this is true about how he worries about his college-aged kids.  My daughter is only two.  Time moves fast, but for now, she’s not usually far from us.  That said, worry can take over just as easy – you just have to watch her jump down the stairs to know what I mean.

But again, we have to seek the Kingdom first.  By seeking the Kingdom we let go of the things we can’t control, and start trusting God to care for our needs and the needs of others.  These times of worry, then, become times of trust.

When We Trust God

As we learn to trust God, our worry decreases.  It may be easier said than done, but I think we often focus on the wrong issue.  We tend to wonder why we worry and end up worrying about worrying.  But we need to ask ourselves, “Who do we trust?”

If we trust anyone, other than God, we set ourselves up to worry.

If we “…seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, [than] all [our needs] will be added to [us].” (Matthew 6:33)

If we first seek the Kingdom of God & His righteousness, there's no need to worry.. Mt 6:33 Click To Tweet

How Do We Respond To Worry?

Can we truly stop worrying?  Probably not – we’re human. In order to start trusting God, however, we’ll need to respond to our worry.  Here are three things to consider:

  1. Jesus doesn’t call us to be “care-free”.

Sometimes we think “care-free” and “worry-free” are the same thing.  God wants us to have concern for things.  A healthy level of concern will cause us to act.  We need to be self-disciplined and have a good work-ethic (Colossians 3:23-24).

  1. Too much worry, will cause you to worry.

Worry is real and, if we were honest, we have all faced that real feeling.  According to Jesus, however, not even our needs (food, clothing, and health) are reasons to worry.  If we don’t learn to trust God, our natural sense of concern will turn into worry and distract us from God’s plan.

  1. “Medically Unbalanced Worry” is combated with love and grace.

Some may find themselves in an uncontrollable unbalanced state of worry.  We live in a broken world, and our bodies are no different.  If you find yourself there, seek medical support and know the Church is there to love and serve you.  If you know someone in that situation, don’t simply give them scripture verses about how we shouldn’t worry.  This only adds more questions to why they are so unbalanced.  Instead, give them brotherly/sisterly love, support, a shoulder to cry on, and lots of prayer.

 

Your turn…

I would love to hear from you!  What have I missed?  How do you build trust in God and decrease worry in your life?

References   [ + ]

Don’t Worry, Christians Don’t Worry?

“Don’t worry, God won’t give you something you can’t handle,” said no Bible verse ever.  That’s right, that phrase isn’t found anywhere in scripture!  In fact, from my experience, the opposite is true – God regularly hands me situations that I can’t handle on my own.  Situations that I’m not ready for, too busy for, or otherwise just don’t want.  But God looks at me and says, “Get ready, I’m about to shape you! I’m about to give you something you can’t handle so you can learn to rely on me.”

worry

So if God is willing and able to carry us during times of stress, does that mean that Christians don’t worry?  Scripture can sound like that sometimes – almost a “holier than thou” picture.  The truth is: it’s not that Christians don’t worry, it’s that worry has no power over a faithful Christian.

I awoke with chest pain…

Last week chest pain got between me and my sleep.  It was significant enough to wake me up at 1:30am and for me to call a friend to ask to bring me to emerge.  The five hour ordeal left me with more questions than answers.  The good news, I didn’t have a heart attack.  The bad news, the doctor explained, the pain could be caused by nearly anything else (stress, lungs, pulled muscle, diet, gas, and the list went on).  I wish I could say I avoided the “educational” WebMD.com, but my questions required anxious answers.  A couple days later, my trip to the family doctor led to an x-ray and yet another anxious result three days later – negative.  My doctor has now narrowed it down to a muscular issue, or acid re-flux.  So the journey continues, and so does the natural human emotion of anxiety.  Unfortunately, the “unknowns” seem to always outweigh the positive news.  But let’s face it, we’re human and anxiety is a natural feeling.

To avoid anxiety seems impossible. Scripture, however, makes it seem obvious – “…do not be anxious about anything…”i Is that even possible?  The minute we all experience the unknown, our natural tendency is to think about the “what if…”  We may not call it worry, but asking “what if…” is simply worrying about tomorrow’s outcome.

So as Christians, how do we respond to worry and anxiety?

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus talking about anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-34).  Here’s the message: you don’t have to worry about what you will eat, drink, wear, the condition of your body, or even how you will pay for tomorrow’s needs because: 1) worrying won’t change anything; and, 2) God provides for all his creation, so how much more will he provide for His children. So instead of worrying, seek the Kingdom of God, and all your needs will be provided.

The key to understanding this “peace of God” seems to be found in Matthew 6:33.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I think we often misunderstand this verse. We are quick to ask God for help. But are we as quick to seek “the kingdom of God and his righteousness”? We are quick to ask God for help. But are we as quick to seek “the kingdom of God and his righteousness”? Click To TweetTruth be told, we probably pray for OUR WILL to be done long before we pray for GOD’S WILL to be done.  And yet Jesus told us to seek His Kingdom FIRST.

We probably read into the last part of this verse as well by interpreting “all these things” to mean whatever we are going through – be it our needs, wants, desires, or something else.  Jesus is telling us, to focus on His Kingdom and He’ll provide everything we NEED.

Paul put it this way when he wrote to Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”ii

The “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” is available to those who are abundantly Kingdom minded.  There is no promise that the feeling will NEVER happen.  The promise is that ANXIETY HAS NO POWER over the Christian who rejoices and puts their faith and work in Jesus and His Kingdom.

ANXIETY HAS NO POWER over the Christian who rejoices & puts their faith in Jesus & His Kingdom! Click To Tweet

Instead of anxiety ruling the situation, God takes these moments of being overwhelmed, and shapes us into who we need to be.  When we feel stressed, anxious, fearful, or otherwise overwhelmed, we have to remember that God wants us to grow through them and turn to Him for peace.

God has a purpose (even if we don’t see it) for every situation we find ourselves in.  James, at the beginning of his letter, said it this way:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”iii

So when I face worry or anxiety…

I need to keep quoting three scriptures:

1. Matthew 6:33– “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all [my needs] will be [provided].”

2. Philippians 4:6-7– “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, [I can let my] requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [my] heart and [my] mind in Christ Jesus.”

3. James 1:2-4– “the testing of [my] faith produces steadfastness… [so that I] may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The feelings of anxiety will still come my way, but the power of anxiety is decreased when I increase my dependency on God and seek God’s Kingdom first.  Quoting scripture is a beautiful way to remind ourselves that this truth is indeed a reality.

If we seek the Kingdom FIRST, pray with THANKSGIVING, and remember each situation SHAPES us, anxiety has no power over a faithful Christian.

 

Your turn…

Have you ever experience anxiety? Have you experienced the peace of God? If not, put your faith in Jesus and the power of anxiety will lose steam!


[i] Philippians 4:6a (ESV).

[ii] Philippians 4:4-9.

[iii] James 1:2-4.