“Worry is the state of engaging in chains of thoughts and images of a negative and an uncontrollable nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats.” (Wikipedia)
I worry, you worry, we all worry about things. Sometimes they’re huge things and sometimes we worry about tiny little things. Our worries can be rational or irrational, sensible or strange but what they have in common is this: worrying is useless.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Luke 12 v 25
Jesus said these words when he did a sermon on this very topic of worry. It’s a great line and one we often forget. Most Christians have a vague idea that they shouldn’t worry but speaking from my own experience this rarely prevents me from worrying. And it’s very easy to worry because it’s a default human response to uncertain situations. Yet Jesus tells us:
"But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
Luke 12 v 31
How do we combat this urge to worry? I think the only way to wean ourselves off our worrying is to constantly remind ourselves of the truths of the Bible. As such, I’m going to go through all the common worries that we are, will or might face in the future and look at the Biblical antidote to worrying.
The Huge Things
Nuclear Armageddon! Volcanic eruption! Asteroid strike! Climate change! The Sun goes kaput! The Lib Dems winning the next General Election!
These are all major disasters that could happen when we least expect it. We can’t control any of the above although we might like to think we can. They all involve death, ruin and suffering on a massive scale (except if the volcano is located in Iceland and merely blows ash in our direction!) So, do we have an excuse to worry about these things?
“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”
Psalm 24 v 1
“The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.”
Psalm 33 v 10
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Genesis 8 v 22
And with those three Bible verses we rule out climate change, Nuclear Armageddon, asteroid strikes and other such earth destroying natural disasters. Why? Because the Lord is in control of all things. Nothing happens without his permission, for who can thwart the plans of the Lord?
Smaller yet still large problems
Ok, let’s bring it down a notch and move onto other problems the world faces. Ones like poverty, disease, civil war, conflict, floods, famine, national debt, collapse of a country, etc, etc. Now, these are relatively local issues – the world won’t end because of wide spread poverty. Does this mean that God cares less about them? Do have something to worry about?
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”
Proverbs 21 v 1
“The Lord works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
Proverbs 16 v 4
“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”
Proverbs 14 v 26
“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor…for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.”
Proverbs 22 v 23
God is in control of everything. He is our refuge and our fortress, our God in hope we trust. Poverty, war, famine, disease, all are under the Lord’s control.
Ok, what about the personal things?
There are many things to worry about on a more personal level: new social situations, your future, new job, getting sacked, marriage, children, money, church, friends, etc, etc. God may control the really big things in life but does he care when it comes to the small things? Is God still in control?
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10 v 29 – 31
God’s will covers even the sparrows! How much more then does he care about you? In fact, I challenge you to find a single Psalm that does not speak of God’s personal care for his people! I’m going to open my Bible on a random Psalm and see what I get:
“Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.”
Psalm 36 v 6 – 7
You see? God is control of your life as well as the big things in life. Not only is God in control but he loves you! He cares for you personally. Surely then our grounds for worrying have been taken from under our feet. It is in the Lord’s hands.
What about necessities?
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, 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, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12 v 22 – 31
And once again we have no reason to worry – God knows he need food and clothing – we need to seek first his kingdom and all these things will be given to us as well!
What is worry? It is a lack of faith in the Lord God Almighty, it is a lack of trust that he will provide, it is an unbelief in the many promises of his word, it lowers God to something less than he is, it expresses a mistrust in the promise the God is with us.
In short, worry is something we should seek to avoid. And that is hard, it is very hard. I know that I worry far too much. I know how easy it is to really have faith in the promises of the Bible. I know that it is difficult to be confident in our God.
So if you are worried today, if you’re anxious, then turn to the Bible, read the Psalms, renew the truths of God’s all encompassing goodness and above all pray that you will not be so easily shaken, that your faith will not so swiftly wither but that your trust will be in the Lord. For our God is the God of all things.
Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy great peace.
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
But the wicked will perish:
The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields,
they will vanish—vanish like smoke.
The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be cut off.
If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.
Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.
The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;
but the LORD will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.