“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.”
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”? Truth 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.
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.
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.