Thursday, December 17, 2020

Overcoming Worry: A Few Thoughts

(Monroe county)

“Don’t worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need, 
and thank him for all he has done.”

Philippians 4:6

Here are a few thoughts about worrying, and how to overcome worry.

Much of what we worry about in life does not come to pass. Of all the things I have worried about in my life, I estimate that less than 5% of them have happened. I have spent a lot of time worrying about things that came to nothing. Surely, this is not helpful.

Worry, anxiety, fear… I’ve experienced them all, as you have too. What sort of person would not worry? One answer is: someone who’s 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 this: a person who trusts in God would not worry.

“Trust” and “worry” do not go together. That is, where there is trust, worry cannot survive. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 6:25-34. Slow down and re-listen to these words.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


We don't need to worry about life’s basic needs. Why not? Because if we live our lives trusting in God, God considers us more important than the birds of the air, who are provided for.
Distinguish between basic needs, and personal wants and desires. I have found myself, at times, worrying about something that I don’t even really need. This is a waste of emotional time and energy. (But what about some who trust in God but are not provided for? Concern for those Jesus calls "the least of these" should lead to action. See here, here, here, and here.)

Worrying about something adds nothing to our lives. I’ve read studies that claim worrying subtracts from the days of one’s life. Worrying is non-productive. Worry, anxiety, and fear immobilize and lead to non-action. Worrying makes worrisome situations worse. 

Material things are not a cure for worry. Acquisition can promote worry.  Richard Foster, in A Celebration of Discipline, argues that the more material things a person has, the more things they have to worry about. Dr. David Augsburger wrote a brilliant study showing how some cultures who have little materially do not have a lexical entry for “anxiety,” because the condition seems nonexistent. 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” is the tip of an iceberg. Melt off the tip, and more surfaces. To get rid of the tip, get rid of the entire iceberg. Spiritually, this is about our heart. Ask God to heal your heart. It may be too consumed with the cares of this world. Then God can He use you to help others with their cares and concerns. 

Worry is self-obsessive. The more self-obsessive we are, the less good we are to others.

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

- Keep a spiritual journal. Write down 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.

- Saturate your heart, soul, and mind with God-things. Do not let the media’s disasters fill your heart. A fair portion of media fears never materialize. Remember, e.g., 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 your real needs from your mere wants. Observe how our American materialistic culture works to create false needs within us that lead to false anxiety over: a) either not having such things, or b) over having them and needing to care for them, protect them, store them, worship them, etc.

- Follow Jesus more intently and more intensely. Read Matthew 25 about what Jesus says in regard to helping the poor and needy. Take His words seriously, and move towards others. As you begin doing this, you will find that your own cares and worries dissipate.

These are some ways we can exhibit trust in God. Trust may be accompanied by certain feelings, but is, at its core, a mindset, an attitude, that leads to action.

Trusting God, and worrying about the future, cannot coexist in the same heart. I have found that, as I grow into a trusting person, worrisome activity diminishes. Care and concern, and empathy, are then allowed to flourish.