By Keith Simon
Everybody is worried about something. We look for strategies on how to stop worrying, but we know that (realistically) we’ll never be completely rid of it. Worry is inevitable. We look to all kinds of support to help us get our worry under control, including the Bible. That explains why one of the most highlighted Bible passages on Kindles is…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
People are prone to worry. We worry about big things and small things, things we can control and things we can’t. We worry about money, the future, kids, health, relationships, our image, our houses, our careers, and more. Why we worry is a complex question and I don’t have a simple answer. But my guess is that at least part of the answer is that we worry that we won’t have something we need to be happy.
If my happiness depends on good health then I will worry about the test results. If it depends on my kids turning out how I want, then I will worry about their friends, grades, attitude, and whether the coach likes them. If I need to look a certain way to feel good about myself, then I will worry about my weight, acne, or whether my clothes are in style.
Don’t Say: “Don’t Worry.”
I thought today I would share with you how I fight worry. Before I say what does help me, here’s what doesn’t help: people who say, “Don’t worry. Things will work out.” That’s the advice that I hear most often and it drives me nuts.
Surely I’m not the only one who realizes this bit of advice is demonstrably wrong. The truth is that things don’t always work out. Marriages fall apart and people get divorced. Health declines and leaves some with chronic pain and others with unwanted medical expenses. Kids make poor choices and pay steep consequences. Careers don’t advance as hoped and people feel stuck in jobs they don’t like, or even worse unemployed.
My bottom line: Sometimes things do work out and that’s great when that happens, but anyone who thinks that things always or even mostly work out is either very young or hasn’t been paying attention.
4 Truths That Help Me Fight Worry
1. I live in a fallen world and life here isn’t going to be as great as I want it to be.
The Bible teaches that truth over and over and over and yet too often I’m surprised when things go south. Left to myself I have this crazy expectation that life here is going to be good and if it isn’t, I can easily feel as though I’ve been gipped.
So what helps me is reminding myself that in this life I should expect hardship, trials, and difficulties. Sometimes that will come because the world is unfair or because of other people’s sinful choices or because of my own foolishness and stupidity.
Disappointment is the gap between reality and expectations. When that gap is narrowed, not only am I less disappointed but I find myself worrying less about it.
2. I’m not in control but God is.
One of the most helpful verses for me is John 1:20. Let me briefly set the scene. The Pharisees are intrigued by John the Baptist because of his teaching and the crowds he’s been drawing but they are unsure of who he is so they send out a delegation to ask if he’s the Messiah. That leads to John’s response…
John 1:20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
It’s good for me to say, “I am not the Messiah.” When I say that what I mean is that I can’t be Jesus for myself or other people. I don’t know all the issues or what the best course of action is. I can’t change hearts or make problems go away. It’s not possible for me to shield people from difficult seasons of life. The list of things I can’t do is pretty long.
Sometimes worry is the result of an inflated view of self. It can be rooted in an attitude (conscious or unconscious) that says, “I can solve these problems.” When I think that I am the solution to problems, I worry about them because I think that I need to figure out the right thing to do and I need to make the right thing happen. When I realize that I am not the Messiah and that I’m not in control, I worry a lot less.
3. If the worst case happens, if things go really bad, then where would that leave me?
I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could realistically happen?” I don’t have enough saved for retirement and end up living in a nasty nursing home. My kid doesn’t study and can’t get into college or even find a job. Of course there are worse things that could happen. I could be diagnosed with cancer. Someone I dearly love could die in a car wreck. I could lose my job.
Okay so where would I be if one of those things happened. Well, depending on exactly which of the above scenarios played out, I’d still have my family. I could look for another job. I could endure a nasty nursing home for as long as necessary. But most importantly, no matter what happens I’d still have Jesus. Gospel math (Jesus + Nothing = Everything) undermines worry because it says that the best thing can never be taken away from me.
4. Life is short but heaven is forever.
My life here is a mist. It will soon be over and by God’s grace I will be with Jesus. Heaven is full of endless and increasing joy. Not only is this world is not my home it isn’t the main world. I’m not seeking my ultimate happiness here. If I were, there would be great reason to worry. But since my eternal joy is secure and I will soon be with Jesus, worry about things in this world just doesn’t make much sense.
Sometimes worry comes from what’s going on in our lives. But a lot of it is rooted in deep anxiety that goes beyond our circumstances. So when we ask “how to stop worrying,” we need to consider those deeper heart issues fueling our feelings. Check out this podcast episode– and accompanying reflection guide– from Ten Minute Bible Talks about how to address this anxiety at its source.