Don’t Worry

bird painting

We are all probably pretty familiar with Jesus’ teaching on worry in the Sermon on the Mount. We are not to worry about our life, our food, our drink, our clothes, or tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34). That covers just about everything that we can worry about. But being familiar with the teaching is not the same thing as obeying the teaching. That’s the hard part.

Why are we told not to worry? Because our life is more valuable than food, our body is more valuable than clothing, and God is overseeing all these things.  He knows we need them, and He cares for us more than He cares about the birds (and He feeds them), and more than He cares about the flowers (and He decks them out gloriously).

Yes, but what about tomorrow? Tomorrow is the unknown. We know about the needs for today, but we don’t know what might happen tomorrow. And we are practiced at writing bad stories in our heads about what might happen tomorrow. But Jesus says, let tomorrow worry about itself. Today is enough for us creatures. Don’t we have enough troubles today? Why should borrow more from tomorrow?

We believe that God will be with us tomorrow, whatever tomorrow brings. Worry is antithetical to faith, which is why Jesus spends ten verses on it in this sermon. The Gentiles are worriers. We are to have faith.

But how can we get to the place where we quit worrying, where we are no longer anxious about anything? I don’t think we can expect to be temptation-free in this life, but we can grow in our ability to trust God and resist temptation.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

We are not to pretend we have no concerns, worries, or fears,  but we are to make them known to God, thanking Him for hearing and bearing all our requests. Then we are to leave them with Him. When we do this, we are then promised that His peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ. When we can fully leave our requests with Him (thankfully), He gives us a peaceful heart and mind.

But sometimes this is a struggle. So here are a few suggestions.

Worry sometimes comes in the middle of the night (have you noticed?) and there you are in the dark, worrying and tossing and worrying all night. If it is the middle of the night, you should know that this is the worst possible time to discuss your worries with yourself. They will only get worse. So turn it off. Change the subject. Be quiet. Do not listen.

Learn to distinguish between the accuser and the Comforter. The Holy Spirit does not speak to His children with an accusative tone. “You are a lousy Christian. You are a bad mother.” This is not the Holy Spirit. Do not listen!The Holy Spirit convicts us of specific sins, not sweeping generalities.

Worry often presents itself as, “What if…..?” Don’t try to answer what-if questions. They can’t be answered. What if the house burns down in the night? What if it doesn’t?

Worry is generated either by the accuser or by our own flesh. We think of worrisome things, and then we meditate on them and meditate on them some more. And it simply grows and grows. So we have to learn to change the subject. Discipline your mind. Set your mind (pick it up and put it elsewhere) on things above, not on things below.  What kind of things?

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

So when you are worried, change the subject. Think about your shopping list or your garden or what you’re going to fix for dinner. Anything that is edifying or “praiseworthy.” This is how we train our minds and discipline our thoughts. When worry pops in, we must learn to ignore it and change the subject. Meditate on true, lovely, pure, virtuous things, not on worrisome things.

You will either feed worry by meditating on the worries, or you will starve worry by thinking about something else. Our minds will naturally wander off to unpleasant things if we let them, so we must discipline them. We have to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves. Learn to change the station (so to speak) if the thoughts in your head are unedifying or worrisome.

Tune in and see what the background noise is all day in your head. Are you meditating on the pure and lovely? Or are you listening to bad stories and worrying about tomorrow? Give your true concerns to God,  confess your worries, and be thankful. Don’t try to figure out why you worry, and don’t condemn yourself for being a worrier. Sin never makes sense, so just leave it alone. God will forgive your sins and you can pray for the grace to set your mind above when it drifts off. And then set it again and again. And soon you will see that it is not as prone to worry as it once was.

One final note. Sometimes women get so scared or worried that they break out in a sweat or their heart races. Can I just encourage you here? Don’t get distracted by the physical manifestations of worry or fear. God doesn’t care if your blood pressure shoots up or if your heart starts pounding. That’s what our bodies do when we are frightened. Rather, focus on trusting God, resting in His forgiveness, and being thankful that He loves you. Deal with the worry, and the sweats or the panicky feeling will take care of itself. Those are not the real problem, so don’t worry about them. Remind yourself that God doesn’t care about that. So don’t beat yourself up about it. Be thankful that you are being sanctified and that God is teaching you to trust Him more. You are not the first person to struggle with worry. Apparently the first century Christians needed encouragement in this as much as we do.

 

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14 thoughts on “Don’t Worry

  1. Great post! One of the ways I often use to “change the subject” on my anxious thoughts is to read P.G. Wodehouse. It helps me laugh at the ridiculous (as many of my worry scenarios are).

  2. Thank you Nancy! Wow that was an incredible, useful message. How do you know me so well?! :-) I just put down the book, The Art of Divine Contentment, which you recommended (thank you,it’s fantastic) and Watson was referring to Matthew 6!! Love when God does that! A similar thing happened too the other day with your posts and the Watson book focusing on the same scripture!!! :-) Thank you for letting God use you to communicate with his children. Your work is much appreciated.

  3. Nancy,

    I would really want to read your new book Virtuous, but Canon Press “tells” me they don’t ship to Finland (have done it before, though). Any suggestioins how I could get it?

    Eva

  4. Thanks for this!

    Now that I’m a parent, I find it so easy to slip from “It’s my job to keep my children safe if I can,” to, “It’s my job to worry about my children.”

    Worry can even begin to seem like a virtue, especially when tied to a Christian evaluation of the negative trajectory of our national culture and values (hey, I’m only worrying about my children’s future! I’m only worrying because I’m smart enough/Christian enough to see how bad this stuff is! Ahem). It’s good to remember that there is no virtue in focusing on the evil in the world.

  5. Very helpful, especially the part about not worrying about your pounding heart. I have several health conditions that run amok anytime I’m the slightest bit anxious, so I will be making a grocery list next time it happens. :)

  6. Thank you so much Nancy! I feel like this approach will help with other sin I struggle with, the idea that if you feed it, it grows, starve it and it will loosen its grip more and more. And also not getting caught up in wondering why you do what you do! What a blessing you have been to me over the years!

  7. It is the middle of the night, I’m due in seven weeks, my husband is picking between two stressful jobs that require a move in 4 months, I’ve had the ability to prepare nothing for this baby because mostly I’ve been waiting (though thankfully this is not my first rodeo), we need to buy a van before baby… I keep telling myself not to fear anything that is frightening but sometimes you are just numb. The other day I was trying to decide whether to buy an outfit on sale for one of the kids and I just couldn’t. Worry can slam you like a mack truck. Then, at least if you are me, you just need other people to step and pray in your place.

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