Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trust & Worry Cannot Co-Occupy the Human Heart

Some of our Home Group friends

Of all the things I have ever worried about in my life, I estimate is that less than 5% of them have come to pass. Which means: I have spent a good deal of time worrying about things that come to nothing. Worry, anxiety, fear…  I have experienced them all, as I’m guessing you have too.

What sort of person would not worry? One answer: someone who has had their brain removed. But then, of course, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy their worry-free life. How is it possible to have the brains we have and move into greater freedom from worry?

The answer Jesus gives is: a person who experientially trusts in God would not worry. “Trust” and “worry” do not go together. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 6:25-34. Here are some of Jesus’ bullet points from these verses.

1. We do not need to worry about life’s basic things. Why? Because if we live our lives trusting in God, God considers us more important than, e.g., birds who are also provided for. Act in obedience to God; then release the situation to him.

2. Worrying adds nothing to our lives. Conversely, some studies that claim worrying subtracts from the days of one’s life. Surely worrying is non-productive. Worry, anxiety, and fear immobilize and lead to non-action. Worrying is counter-productive, making worrisome situations worse. If today you are worried about something, rest assured that “worry” will not make the situation better and, in some cases, will make it worse because of the resultant non-activity.

3. Jesus is saying that trusting in God will lead to basic needs being provided. Here we must distinguish between basic needs and personal wants and desires. In this regard I have found myself, at times, worrying about something that I don’t even really need. That now strikes me as a true waste of emotional time and energy. And note the need for community. Real Jesus-community cars for all the body parts.

4. Jesus tells us that “pagans” (=non-God-followers) run after material things. Richard Foster, in A Celebration of Discipline, argues that the more material things a person has, the more things they have to worry about. Here I am reminded of research I’ve read re. materialistic cultures and levels of anxiety. I have a friend, Dr. David Augsburger, who wrote a brilliant study showing how there exist cultures who have little materially, but do not even have a word for “anxiety” because the condition of angst seems nonexistent. Personally I have found that when I am thankful for what I have rather than needing to have more things to be thankful for I am more at peace in myself.

"Worry” or “care” is like the tip of an iceberg. Melt off the top of the iceberg, and more surfaces. The only way to get rid of the tip is to get rid of the entire iceberg. I am asking God to heal my heart that still is too filled with the cares of this world so He can use me to help others with their cares and concerns. The more self-obsessive I am, the less good I am to others.

Here are some things I suggest to get help and healing from worry.

  • Keep a spiritual journal. In that journal write your fears and worries, and give them to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
  • Re-read your journal periodically. Remembering how God has been there with you in the past gives real hope for the present. Remembering brings hope.
  • Saturate your heart, soul, and mind with God-things. Let them fill your heart. Do not let the media’s disasters take up occupancy in you. Note that a fair portion of media fears never materialize. (Remember, e.g., the great non-event of Y2K?) I have found that when I make it my first priority to fill heart and mind with God-things I gain an eternal perspective on world-things.
  • Separate real needs from mere wants. Begin to see how American materialistic culture works to create false needs that lead to false anxiety. 
  • Follow Jesus more intently and more intensely. Read Matthew 25 about what Jesus says in regard to helping the poor and needy. Take this seriously and move towards others. As you begin doing this, you will find that your own cares and worries will dissipate. Jesus-led other-centeredness is a cure for worry.
  • Trust God. Trust is not some emotion, but an action. Actually trust God with your life. Trust in God and worry cannot co-occupy the human heart.