How many of your worries begin with the words, “what if?”
I probably have a bit more research to do, but thus far all my concerns begin, “What if,” and then proceed to contemplate various scenarios, none of which I have any control over, and all of which entice me to live tomorrow before I have finished trusting Christ for today.
In short, worry assumes responsibility for something that is expressly in God’s job jar.
Jesus asked, “Will all your worries add a single moment to your life? Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt. 6:27, 34). It’s appropriate to recognize the issues of tomorrow, but if we lose sight of what we know today, we have begun to worry.
Worry is fearing that God is not sufficient.
The dictionary says worry is feeling undue care and anxiety, and while that is a good definition—after all, it made its way into the dictionary—who’s to say when feeling anxious becomes “undue”? If your worst-case scenario begins unfolding, and you are ravaged by the ungraciousness of your dread, who’s to say what an appropriate level of anxiety is versus an “undue” level?
Malcolm Smith says worry is fearing that God is not sufficient. I think that’s a workable definition.
Although the Bible doesn’t talk much about worry, God does devote a number of verses in His Book to anxiety. Perhaps the most familiar is Paul’s exhortation, “Be anxious for nothing.”[i] The passage we referenced above from Matthew is the Bible’s lengthiest and most compelling discussion on anxiety delivered by Jesus during his sermon on the mount: “Do not be anxious for your life, for what you will eat, what you will drink, or what you will wear. Consider the birds. Think about the flowers. Your Father watches over the birds, clothes the flowers, and cares more for you than He does for either birds or flowers. Why be anxious?”[ii]
We all face the temptation to believe our concerns are the gravest of all time.
I can’t help but wonder—as much as Jesus quoted the Old Testament—if He was trying to make an application for His mountainside audience regarding David’s statement in the Psalms, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, / Your consolations delight my soul.”[iii] The argument could be made that David did not face the ominous prospects we face—war, human rights abuse, computer viruses, infrastructure collapse, nuclear proliferation, terrorist threat—and thus makes an assertion that doesn’t apply today. But then again, David spent a fair bit of time running for his life and dodging hurled spears from Israel’s disgruntled and insecure monarch, King Saul.
I think we all face the temptation to believe our concerns are the gravest of all time and that no one has ever faced the pressures we face. Of course, in our rational moments, we know this is not the case, but the temptation persists nevertheless. Our Heavenly Father knows the pervasiveness of this temptation and inspired David to say, “Even in the face of multiplying anxieties, / Your consolations—thoughts, comforting perspective, and encouragement—delight my soul.”
Isaiah wrote, “Say to those with anxious thoughts, ‘Take courage, fear not.’”[iv] It is my experience that denying anxiety is futile. But when I seize upon the courage that is mine because of the confidence I have in Christ’s strength, I find anxiety abates.
Worry is built upon a false supposition—that God is insufficient to handle your concerns.
Determining to believe God, and not yield to worry, is not synonymous with sticking your head in the sand. It is wise to assess the circumstances in your life and consider the challenges you face. Given the ungracious circumstances around us, this can be an arduous undertaking. But fretting, losing sleep, and yielding to anxiety does not help. Not only do these responses not add a single moment of comfort, they do not answer the challenges before you or take into consideration the promises of your Heavenly Father to care for you.
Plan, yes. Contemplate and consider, yes. Evaluation is appropriate, but worry is not. Worry is built upon a false supposition—that God is insufficient to handle your concerns—not to mention that it flies in the face of your heavenly Father’s counsel in Scripture.
God’s consolations are before you. Your worry may become a reality, but it won’t diminish God’s determination to take care of you today.
Take courage. Father God’s grace is more profound than the potential ungraciousness proposed in your worry.
[i] Philippians 4:6
[ii] Matthew 6:25 ff.
[iii] Psalm 94:19
[iv] Isaiah 35:4