Worry, Worry, Worry

by Joshua V. Best

Everyone knows the signs: sleepless nights, sick stomachs, mental breakdowns, deep depression, hiding away, high blood pressure. turning to drugs and alcohol, etc... These are indicators an individual has fallen victim to his own worry.

Worry eats people alive, and Christians are not immune. It touches the lives of virtually every family and affects millions of people every single day, touching all walks of life in myriad circumstances: The educated worry because of everything they know, while the uneducated worry because they know so little. The rich worry because they have so much, while the poor worry because they have so little. The old worry because they aren't young, but the young worry because they aren't older.

Worry takes so much time for so many folks, interfering with everyday activities, sometimes even making people physically ill. It remains, however, one of those silent problems few seem to want to talk about. This is not just a psychological issue, though, and there may be many who would be surprised to learn that worry is prohibited by God (Matthew 6:25-34). "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life ..." (Matthew 6:25).

The unfortunate fact remains that many Christians do not consult the word of God for their daily problems, failing to realize that anything can be properly addressed using the wisdom and knowledge from God. Yet, these same people will consult doctors, read worldly books, listen to what Oprah or Dr. Phil has to say, etc. We need to address worry from a biblical standpoint, realizing it as a problem and habit that can cause us to be lost eternally.

Fact About Worry

It Causes Physical Harm

In Psalm 32:3, we read: "When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long." David speaks here of sin he kept to himself, but anything bottled up inside can lead to "groaning bones." Most everyone has felt that pit in their stomach and feelings of real anguish over something impending, a sure sign that worry has taken control.

Worry Does Not Mean Being Thoughtless or Careless

Some have mistaken teaching against worry as an endorsement of indifference or carelessness. If we adopt an attitude of apathy, we are guilty of the opposite extreme and no better off than if we were worrying. In his teaching in Luke 14:28-32, Jesus talks about planning using a builder and a king as an example. We are reminded by this to be mindful of what is going on round about us and making the necessary arrangements to handle whatever undertaking. There must be a balance between worry and apathy, and neither extreme pleases God.

Worry is Useless

I would suggest that people only worry about two things: Things you can't change, and things you can change. Everything falls into one of these categories, and neither represents a good reason to worry. After all, if there's nothing you can do to change something, there's simply no point in worrying about it. And if there is something you can do, heed the direction of Ecclesiastes 9:10: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."

So how can we stop the sin of worry, and do so according to God's Word?

Forget the Past

Many spend their lives in past days. Some can't live today because of the greatness of yesterday, while others can't make it through today because of the problems and sins of days gone by. And while there is nothing wrong with fond memories or nostalgia, and certainly much can be learned from past mistakes, the Bible teaches against living in the past, regardless of the way we remember it.

Paul writes, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). In this passage, we are instructed to forget the past and look toward the goal, ahead to our goal of eternal life, not dwelling on those things gone by. How much better we would be if we took this advice and pressed forward? Instead, we offer excuses, saying we can't clear our minds of the past. We must be leery of such a line of thinking, though. The words of Philippians 3 are not suggestions, but commands of God, and we must forget what is past and move forward in Him. Imagine if the great Apostle Paul had dwelled on and worried about his past -- what a waste it would have been -- and his was a past full of horrible sin, much of which you and I have had no part. "Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (I Timothy 1:13).

So, from yesterday we must learn from mistakes, give thanks for our blessings, and then turn our attention to today.

Live One Day at a Time

"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).

Perhaps it is the speed of modern life with all its conveniences and fast pace. For some reason, people today have a difficult time taking one day at a time. Rather, they "live life in the lump," overwhelming themselves with everything at once. If you think about everything you have to do this week, it will depress you with worry about how you can possible get everything done, and you might not face your week. This kind of thinking is well illustrated in the following facts I recently came across: The average man's lifetime includes 20 years sleeping, 6 years watching television, 5 years shaving and dressing, 3 years waiting for others, 1 year on the telephone, and 4 months tying his shoes. It is overwhelming for me to think about standing in line for 3 years, but we all understand how unreasonable it would be to worry about such a thing. Why then must we consume ourselves over other matters? Good advice according to Jesus' teaching: Don't dwell on everything you have to do, set your mind on what you must do next!

Understand and Accept Yourself and Your Abilities

To really beat worry, we need to come to terms with who we are and what we can do. I'm not saying we should accept sin in our lives or be content with doing the bare minimum, but we must understand everyone is different. We have different degrees of ability and can do different things to serve God. The parable of the talents comes to mind here (Matthew 25:14-30). Note the one talent man wasn't condemned for not being the five talent man, rather, for not using what he had. How unfortunate that some feel because they cannot do big things they cannot do anything.

You may not be cut out to be a preacher, teacher, song leader, elder, etc. But if you are, use that talent or ability to the glory of God. Don't waste time comparing your service to the service of others; they are not the standard by which we will be judged. We should spend our time seeing how we measure up to the word of God, His standard, looking into it to see how to apply it in our lives, and how we can use our abilities for the furtherance of the kingdom.

Count Your Many Blessings

Often we only want to notice our problems, what's wrong with us and all about us. For many, it is a constant gloom and doom outlook -- this is wrong and that is wrong. Instead of counting our blessings, many folks are busy counting their problems. The Bible speaks to the thankful attitude of the Christian:

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

"Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20).

"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Here's something to think about: How would we feel when you put forth great effort and achieve great accomplishments, yet someone complains about what we didn't do? It's like that boss we all had at one time that always made us feel like nothing we did was good enough. Similarly, how must God feel or think when we, the most blessed people in the world, both spiritually and physically, bellyache and moan about all our problems? Especially when what He has done for us so greatly outshines the earthly comparisons of what we might do.

If we count our blessings, instead of our problems, we will beat worry.

I really believe the reason people worry is that worry is easier than action. I came across a funny little quote that illustrates this pretty well:

"Worrying is less work than doing something to fix the worry. Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom with the dishes."

Now, that's not in the Bible, but it reminds us of a biblical truth. Worry is the easy way out, as sin usually is.

"Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

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