A World Full Of Troubles
Many people believe they have much to worry about, such as jobs, money, fashion trends, marital problems, and even health concerns. While many of these conditions are unavoidable, it is sad that a majority of individuals respond very poorly to them, never truly knowing the answer to the problem of worry. In a society that is so wealthy and prosperous, it should surprise us that about 25 million people suffer from stress and anxiety. Two thirds of physically healthy Americans worry that they will develop a major illness in their lifetime and not have adequate health insurance. In some studies, almost half of young teenagers worry about money, social life, and grades. Beyond that, there is a constant sense of worry about war – one poll found that war topped the list of the things that Americans worry about the most. How should we respond to such a worrisome and stressful world?
Worry Makes It Worse
Our Lord spoke powerful words through the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It is encouraging to read that Jehovah wants us to pray to Him about the things that worry us. When we are stressed about our finances, or the health of a loved one, we ought to always pray to the Father for relief (Psalm 81:6-7). “Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). God does not want to relieve us of our anxiety simply to shut us up, or as a token act of generosity. No, the Lord cares for us. When we are suffering, He makes it His business. When we are nervous, He wants to allay that pain. Even when we are “in the valley of the shadow of death,” the Lord comforts us Of course, we have an obligation in the matter of our worries, as well:
· Just praying for something does not automatically ensure that it will come about – especially if our motives are not right (James 4:3).
· If we do not establish our faith in the fight against worry, then we will have no sure footing. Consider the example of Peter in Matthew 14:31, who had walked on water so well until he lost faith and began to sink in his anxiety! Our Lord told him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” The natural result of a lack of faith is increased worries.
· The same is true of “knowledge” in Ecclesiastes 1:18. There are times when we wish we just did not know about dangers or trials. For some, ignorance is bliss in parenting, marriage, dangers at a job, or in just driving down the road. But we cannot avoid gaining knowledge of some things.
There are conditions that we cannot avoid in this life, such as health issues or even death. But worrying does nothing to prevent those tragedies – it does, in some cases, quicken their onset. Christ makes it clear that worry is a fruitless activity; “And which of you, by being anxious, can add a single cubit to his life’s span?” (Matthew 6:27) What we must learn to do, therefore, is cast our anxieties upon the Lord (Psalm 55:22) and trust that all things will turn out as they should…
Worrying About Our “Needs”
Like Martha, there are many people today who are “careful and troubled about so many things” (Luke 10:41). We live in an age of worry, in which every person is under the perception that he or she has a long laundry list of anxieties and fears. We worry about money. We worry about moving into a good neighborhood. We worry about car accidents, house fires, bee stings, letters from the IRS, and just about everything else that can, does, or otherwise never goes wrong. One worrier said, “I have so many troubles that if anything happened to me today it will be two weeks before I can get around to worrying about it!” Do we ever feel like this?
We must remember that worry is not a wholesome activity – it is almost always discouraged by God because of its absolutely futile nature. “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27) Does worrying make our problems go away? Does it ease the tensions of a financially strained home? Worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you plenty to do, but it will get you no where! Admittedly, there are situations in life that are unavoidable and unpleasant. But the very fact that they are unavoidable should make all of us realize that we are only hurting ourselves by worrying. For example, many people worry about dying; but we all die (Hebrews 9:27), so why worry? Instead of fearing death, we ought to prepare our souls for it, and embrace the limitless joys of the afterlife. We also worry about growing old, but that too cannot be stopped (even with all the plastic surgery and botox in the world.) Rather than look down upon our aging process, we ought to respect it and enjoy the benefits of old age, such as the dignity of gray hairs (Proverbs 20:29), and the respect that comes with advanced years (1 Timothy 5:1-10).
Worry is absolutely unnecessary, and it shows a great lack of faith when we do not trust God with our worldly needs. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all of these things” (Matthew 6:32). If God knows what we need as far as food, clothing, shelter, and other comforts, then we should not make such a big deal about the things that we lack. We may perceive a need for a bigger house, a newer car, or better health, but it is up to God to distribute His blessings where He sees fit.
“Cast all your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). We are told that we must lay all of our anxieties at the feet of the Lord in prayers and petitions. Trusting Him is the key to relieving stress, depression, and general worry in our lives. But it is sometimes very difficult for us to accept this truth because we do not always understand, at the time, why we are suffering – especially when it seems to us that God neither hears nor cares about our prayers. So how do we reach a point at which we can truly learn to trust God and stop worrying?
Do not lean on your own understanding of a situation – First, there is a truth that we see in Proverbs 3:5 that is helpful; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding.” It is often not within our power to know why everything happens the way it does in our lives:
· When coping with stress at work, grieving for a loved one, or fearing a life of loneliness while unmarried, we may begin to formulate explanations about why these events are taking place.
· We must be careful because sometimes a true explanation is not to be found – our own limited understanding of a situation cannot possibly lend itself to appropriate answers most of the time.
· To gain peace and contentment in any situation, good or bad, we must stop asking why and simply accept that the ways of God are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).
· Not only that, but our perspective is not always proper for understanding certain situations. What may seem like a trial at one point may lead to great things down the road.
Live one day at a time – Living life a single day at a time is another way that we can cease living by our worries. The Lord Himself tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Be not anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” While Christ is not advocating a complete abolition of all planning and future-oriented thinking, He is making it clear that life must be experienced and enjoyed for the sake of the present. Remember, friends, that tomorrow may never even come, so why should we spend today worried about it. So many people are so concerned about the events of the future that they forget one very important thought: sometimes, the best preparation that can be made for tomorrow is what needs to be done today.
Stop looking for the “bad” in every situation – “An ungodly man digs up evil” (Proverbs 16:27). Naturally, we will worry about life if all we ever see is the bad side of it. If we look for evil in every place, in every person, and in every situation, of course we will be anxious. If we assume that every stranger is a criminal with an intent to kill, we will worry about meeting new people. Or a pessimistic perspective on a new friendship or courtship will make us nervous around these individuals. Cultivating a sense of optimism instead of the alternative will help create a shield against the sting of worry.
In the end, we must accept that God has been running this universe for thousands of years now and He, more than anybody else, knows what He is doing. We cannot worry about what we will eat, or whether we will have a good job, because none of those things matter when compared to the awesome promise of eternal life – where worry shall never appear!
Worry and Sin
Is worry a sin? We all do it at different times, so it is important that we consider our own lives, especially the motivation behind our anxieties. Worry is a sin for five very clear reasons, as outlined in Wendell Winkler’s book Heart Diseases And Their Cure.
· First, it shows a complete disregard for the commands of God, which tell us plainly, “Be not anxious…” (Matthew 6:25).
· Second, worry is a waste of time, both in our service to God and in our secular work. Almost all of the things that people worry about are not under our control. The University of Wisconsin conducted a study which found that 40% of the worries that people have are over things that never happen; 22% are over petty and needless worries; 30% are over events from the past; only 8% of our worries are actually over legitimately controllable scenarios.
· Also, worry is troublesome to the body, which is a temple for the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Many diseases have been linked to stress and anxiety.
· Worry is a sin because it robs us of our joy, happiness, and contentment. God wants us to be content in every situation, so when we choose to worry, we profane the will of God.
· Finally, worry is a sin because it prohibits our prayers from being answered. James 1:5 and Mark 11:24 make it clear that those who do not ask in faith and trust will not receive the things for which they pray.
All of us can help remove worry from our lives by cultivating a spirit of faith in God. Through our faith, we can conquer all of the fears that attack us from every side. We must make up our minds ahead of time that we want to defeat worry. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been about as happy as I have made up my mind to be.” By developing a proactive attitude toward our faith, we can beat sin before it has a chance to envelop our souls. Finally, we ought to never think that we are in control of everything in our lives. All we can do is try our hardest, do our best, and leave the rest up to God. After all, it is from our God, our Father, that we receive all the good and wonderful blessings of this life (James 1:17).