You are facing an important exam, a medical diagnosis, your first flight or sporting event, and you feel worried. Most people would. You don’t have to be a ‘born worrier’ to worry. Some people may be so overcome with worry that they need professional help. You may not be one of them, but which one of us has not at some time been really, really worried about the future?
Is this a sin? To be nervous is one thing. To be worried is another.
Some people are naturally more nervous than others. They are made that way. But when a Christian is worried because they do not really trust God or accept his control of circumstances, then what else is it if it is not a sin?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear’. He mentioned ‘worry’ six times, so it must be important.
So how can we stop worrying?
There is no point pretending that concerns about health, money, work, family, and the future are not real. Neither is Stoical indifference any help in the real world. Nor is it much good to be told to pull yourself together, when that is the last thing you can do.
But there are at least three things we can do to help us stop worrying.
Accept the sovereign greatness of God
In 1 Peter 5:7 we read, ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you’. That is a command. We may not be able to do anything about the circumstances, but we can do something about the worry.
This command to cast all our anxiety on Him is written in the context of humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6). Peter is reminding us that God is in control of all things, including the details of our daily lives.
In 1962 at the height of the Cuba crisis when America and Russia were poised to launch nuclear missiles at each other, two believers met in a street in Harrow. One was very agitated and worried. But the other simply said, ‘The Lord God omnipotent reigns’. That didn’t mean they were sure that everything would be okay. But it did mean they were confident that whatever happened, God was in control.
In his letters, John Newton wrote that one of the marks of Christian maturity is ‘an acquiescence in the Lord’s will founded in a persuasion of his wisdom, holiness, sovereignty, and goodness’. Is this not why we pray? We bring our circumstances to God in prayer, and while it is appropriate to ask Him to bring us through them, it is also right that we should be willing for His will to be done whatever the outcome. For example, it is appropriate to ask for healing if we are sick, but we must also be willing not to be healed. Why? Because His will is best.
If knowing that God is good and sovereign is going to stop us worrying unnecessarily, we need to make sure our minds are controlling our feelings, rather than the other way around. That’s why Peter’s command to cast all our anxiety on Him is also written in the context of the need for a sober mind (1 Pet. 5:8). We see an example of this when Jesus met the two disciples on the Emmaus road. He listened carefully to their sadness but told them they were foolish and slow of heart. Their foolishness meant that the good news (He is risen) was lost in the bad news (the priests crucified Him). So Jesus straightened out their thinking. He told them that Jesus’ death was not a tragedy, but the purpose of God. ‘Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?’, He asked.
If they could understand that, they would not be downcast or worried. And if we are to win the battle with worry, we too need to think in the right way.
Receive the manifold grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
Those two disciples on the Emmaus road needed to understand why Christ had died, but they also needed to trust Him as their living Lord and Saviour. So Jesus directed their attention to Himself. They needed to trust Him and believe the Scriptures which spoke of Him.
Is this not also our problem? We face temptations to worry, and give in to those temptations rather than trust our Saviour and rely on His grace.
In Romans 8, Paul speaks wonderfully of the goodness of God who works in all things for the good of His children. We know that it is His loving purpose to conform us to the likeness of his Son. And we know that He is ‘for us’ because, ‘He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all’, and will, ‘with him, graciously give us all things’ (Rom. 8:32). If He has already done the greatest thing, He will also do the rest and give us the grace we need. He cares for us.
Suppose you become ill and do not know what will happen. What should you do? You put the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wisdom of your Father over every possible outcome. You ask yourself questions, moving from one possibility to another. Is my illness terminal? If so, it will be sad for my family, but I will be with my Saviour. Does it mean radical surgery? If so, I am in the hands of my Father in heaven, and He knows best. Will it involve unpleasant treatment? If so, the Lord will give me grace to continue. What if it is not so serious? If so, God will enable me to live with it.
The grace of God is suited to every need and is all-sufficient.
Trust the supply of the Holy Spirit
What a comfort it is to know that we have received the Holy Spirit and are not alone! He helps us in our weakness. He enables us to pray. We are no longer slaves to fear but have received the Spirit of adoption. He intercedes for us according to the will of God. He is the guarantee and down payment of our glorious inheritance.
Therefore, worry is an opportunity to give ourselves into the hands of our heavenly Father, to trust our Saviour, and to walk in the Spirit. If we handle it in the right way, it can be the means of growing in grace, in faith, in hope.
David learned this lesson when he was greatly distressed by the betrayal of his friend Ahithophel. He was driven to God and cried out to Him for help. As a result, he urges us, whatever our circumstances, to ‘cast our cares on the Lord, and he will sustain us; he will never let the righteous fall’ (Psalm 55:22).
Next in this series: Pride »