© 2022 Jen Goffin / Harvest City Church
Worry. Anxiety. Fear. Misgiving. Apprehension. Disquiet.
There are many words to encompass that uneasy feeling we have all experienced at some point. The sense of impending disaster, that something terrible has happened, is happening or will happen in the future. It can vary in form and intensity, often out of proportion to the situation triggering it. Sometimes it can arise for no reason at all.
There have been, and still are, so many things to cause us concern in the world today. If not the ebbs-and-flows of a global pandemic, then war in Eastern Europe, the rising cost of living, uncertainty about the future and a gradual erosion of Christian morals and principles in society. This all paints a very bleak picture. No wonder people are worried. Fortunately that is not the end of the article!
The Bible gives us a very clear message about worry: Don’t
In the gospel of Luke, chapter 12, Jesus is talking to His disciples about various problems they will face. He tells them to expect opposition, to be on guard for false teaching and to be ready to defend their beliefs. He warns them to resist the temptations of the world, particularly in chasing after money and egocentric living.
The parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) describes a man who was greatly blessed with an abundant harvest. There is nothing wrong with this blessing, but the man’s reaction to his windfall was a problem. There is no suggestion that he was grateful or gave thanks to God, no consideration of how he could use his increase to bless others. He could only think of using it to try and secure his future. But as Jesus points out, if the man were to die that night, then it would have done him no good at all.
The recent global financial difficulties have shown how quickly we can move from comfortable living to pinching pennies, and if our money is our source of stability and certainty then we are on shaky ground indeed.
The hope of the world is focused on what is visible. Money, wealth, power and influence are all to be strived for and gaining them is a sign of success. Jesus encourages the disciples to look beyond the physical and to think eternally. He uses creation as an example of God’s faithfulness; that He will take care of all our physical needs. The world is preoccupied with material wealth but we are not to focus on such things, rather to store up treasures in heaven. Remember that this life is not the end, we are preparing for a life in eternity with God.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-34)
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:34-36)
It is not just money that the Bible tells us not to worry about, but all aspects of life:
- Do not worry about evil in the world (Psalm 37:7)
- Do not worry about everyday needs (Matthew 6:25)
- Do not worry about other people’s behaviour (Matthew 7:3)
- Do not worry about how the world will treat you (Matthew 10:19; 1 Peter 3:14)
- Do not worry about your current situation (1 Corinthians 7:21)
- Do not worry about the future (Matthew 6:34)
All of these worries can consume our thoughts and disrupt our productivity. They reduce our ability to trust in God and can negatively affect how we treat other people in our lives. In some cases they can even damage our health.
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)
It is interesting to note in Luke 12 that Jesus never reassures the disciples that all their troubles will disappear. If we cope with anxiety by trying to reassure ourselves that at some point things will get better, then our hope will be frail and easily crushed. Jesus tells the disciples that things will get worse, not better! He tells them to expect opposition and that He has come to bring division in the world (Luke 12:11-12; 49-53).
Our hope must be built on God and the promises that He has made to us. We know that He is faithful (Psalm 25:10, 91:4; Hebrews 10:23). We know that he is good (Psalm 27:13, 34:8, 100:5). We know that he loves us (Isaiah 54:10; John 3:16; Romans 5:8). That is our firm foundation; our God who is immutable.
Of course we ask God to help us and to change the situation, but even if He doesn’t our hope is secure. Jesus promises that we will have all that we need if our first pursuit is of God (Luke 12:31).
And so it should be with us. Our daily striving should not focus on the material and perishable things, but on that which has eternal value. When we become fearful of the future, we put needless cares on ourselves, usually by trying to avoid whatever it is we fear. Rather, we should be ready and prepared for His return. We should be watchful, not distracted by all the cares around us.
Oswald Chambers puts it this way: You should ‘be carefully careless about everything, saving one thing—your relationship to God.’
So what should we do instead of worry?
Pray. About everything.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Prayer and thanksgiving are our antidote to worry. They may not come easily or feel natural, but they put our focus back on God and help us to remember His promises. Paul writes that God’s peace ‘surpasses all understanding’. This means that we don’t have to make sense of everything before we can have peace. The verse doesn’t say that when we pray, God will move mightily by His power and supernaturally change the situation so that we will feel at peace. No, it says that even in the midst of whatever situation we are in, His peace will guard our hearts.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Through prayer we can cast all our anxieties on to God, and in doing so we recognise that only God has ultimate power over our lives. This requires us to be humble and to give up control to Him. When we decide to follow Jesus, our lives are no longer our own. We are redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son, who paid a debt we never could have and offered us a salvation we could never have earned. Paul is clear that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18-39). Once we understand that our lives have been saved and we have eternity with Jesus, all other concerns become secondary.
But the opposite of worry is not apathy. We do not stop striving and working for a better future. The Bible exhorts us to help the oppressed, feed the hungry and stand up for the truth. We should be wise with our money and the resources God has given us. Where worry immobilises us, our concern should move us to action, whether that be through physically meeting a need or petitioning God in prayer.
What sets the Christian apart from the unbeliever is hope. In the midst of evil, uncertainty, failure and trials, we put our faith and trust in a God who is more than able. Our hope is in the promise of our salvation and the Kingdom that He is establishing. Our God who is faithful and unchanging. He is our source of peace.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)