Stress. Anxiety. Worry. These words are being used more and more, and are the cause of many sick days and doctors appointments. But stress isn’t a new invention. In fact, Jesus preached a sermon on stress in Matthew 6.
Why do we worry?
A university in America conducted a scientific study and discovered that worrying is, to some extent, genetic. They discovered that we’re either born with a tendency to be anxious, or we’re naturally laid-back. So, if you’re a worrier, it’s not your fault so you needn’t worry, but since you’re a born worrier you can’t help it, and if you’re naturally laid-back, you’ve got nothing to worry about because you’ll always take everything in your stride, not that you would worry anyway!
But, there are some things that everyone worries about.
Why shouldn’t we worry?
R.H. Mounce said that ‘Worry is practical Atheism and an affront to God’. When we worry, we are effectively saying to God ‘I don’t trust you to handle this’. It’s a way of trying to retain some control of our lives. We think that God doesn’t understand, and that we can do a better job of running our lives ourselves. We might not mean to say those things, but that’s what worry shows about us.
Besides being offensive to God, worrying is a complete waste of time!
- It’s unnecessary
No-one can gain anything from worrying. Nobody works harder than birds, they find their own food, build their own nests, they protect themselves from their prey. They have no need to worry, because God looks after them. The same with flowers, they don’t worry about how they look, they are beautiful because God made them that way.
- It’s useless
Being anxious about something doesn’t change it or make it go away. It can’t add a single hour to our lives, in fact it can shorten your life. Spending sleepless nights running over the things that cause us anxiety doesn’t mean that problem will magically disappear.
- It’s blind
It’s no coincidence that Jesus uses examples from nature in His sermon on the mount. If we’d only open our eyes we’d see plenty of examples of God’s care for the world He created and His love for His people. When we worry, it as if we put on a pair of blinkers that stop us seeing all that evidence.
- It’s forgetful
We ignore all the times when God has worked everything for our good as He promises. We can all look at occasions in our lives when things were hard, when we were struggling with a particular issue, when we couldn’t sleep or eat, when there seemed to be no way out… and what happened? God saw us through, didn’t He? And He promises to do that again and again and again.
Why worry when you could be seeking God’s kingdom?
That doesn’t mean that if you don’t study for an exam, but spend all your time praying, that God will miraculously give you the answers and you’ll pass with flying colours! Rather, when we put God above everything, and do everything to honour Him, He’ll be there when things are hard. God’s plan isn’t always the way we would choose, but it’s always the best way. We need to look at God’s big picture for our lives. Often when we’re worried about something it becomes our focus, and we can’t see the wood for the trees. But if we really believe that God has a plan to prosper us and that He can use everything for our own good, then we should greet every pang of anxiety with a different attitude.
Why are you telling me this now… I’m already worried?!
I’m sure that some of you are thinking ‘this is all very well and good, but I’m already worried!’ The last thing you want is someone telling you to ‘stop being so sinful and trust God more!’ and God knows that too. We can take comfort from knowing that we have a heavenly Father who understands our struggles and the emotions they provoke. Jesus lived a real life on earth, dealing with the same feelings we do. God understands and He’s told us exactly what to do when anxiety takes hold. The answer in Philippians 4:6-7 is very simple. When you’re worried, tell Him about it. Get alone with God, pour it all out, give up every detail, don’t hold anything back, and then, just leave it with Him. God does this great trade with us, He takes our problems, worries and stresses, and gives us His peace in return. It’s a great offer – you’d be mad to refuse Him.
Lowri Iorwerth is the Welsh Administrative Officer for the EMW. This article first appeared in The Evangelical Times.