What Does the Bible Say About Dealing With Worry?
Life’s daily challenges and troubles very commonly lead to feelings of worry. However, the Bible provides very effective tools for avoiding worries as well as responding to these emotions when they occur. This week’s devotion will focus on worry and how we deal with it from a biblical perspective. Worrying often simply means that you are anxious, apprehensive, troubled or fearful. These emotions are very common—we all face them from time to time. Thankfully though, the Bible contains the keys to successfully dealing with these types of feelings. What does God want us to do when we face these challenging thoughts?
Proverbs 29:25 says:“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. There is a right and healthy fear of physical and spiritual dangers that keeps us safe. But when our minds focus on improper fear (being fretful or frightened) of physical things rather than proper fear (reverence and awe) of God, worry is the sure result. Likewise, allowing our minds to focus on doubts and uncertainties will fill us with anxious care. As 1 John 4:18 says, “Fear involves torment.”
Worrying consumes huge amounts of time and energy that are totally unprofitable. We often realize too late that we will never receive tangible benefits in return for effort spent worrying. Anxiety cannot correct a past mistake, prevent a future calamity or supply us with anything that we don’t already have. James Russell Lowell said, “Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which will never happen.” As you explore the Bible, you will find that God wants you to experience the tremendous joys of life as He created it, without the detrimental effects of anxiety.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7
In these verses, God gives us several commands: Always rejoice. Be reasonable. Never worry. Come to God with your requests about everything.
Why would God give us such extreme commands? It is easy to look at these verses and think “that’s not what God really expected! It can’t apply to me… that’s impossible!” At times in my life, I can look at those commands and become discouraged. Our hearts is prone to worry about so many things… various health complications, stress at work, finances, the “unknown” in my future, etc. I often find it easier to complain rather than to rejoice. My thoughts are often not reasonable. I forget to come to God in prayer.
Today was one of those days for me. I woke up worried about everything. My heart immediately welled up in fear. “God, this doesn’t make sense… why is this happening? Won’t you step in and fix this?” On and on the cycle goes… and I quickly find my heart overwhelmed at my circumstances and discouraged because I’m not obeying these commands to not worry and to come to God in prayer.
I’m grateful that these “impossible” promises are surrounded by amazing promises of God. I’m not merely commanded to rejoice in the middle of hard circumstances just because; I am commanded to rejoice because I remember that my God is near. I’m not commanded to just “buck up” and deal with my anxious heart; I’m commanded to do that remembering that God welcomes me to come to Him in my need. He wants to give me peace. He wants to guard my heart. That’s why I don’t have to fear, complain or worry… my God is near and He cares!
Worrying seems to be a trait common to those who like structure and predictability. I confess I worry until I can bring my troubles to the Lord, but I didn’t realize that my worrying was actually a demonstration of my lack of trust. Then Proverbs 19:3 caught my eye during my daily Bible reading:
“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3
The word fretting means agitated from worrying. We all worry, but fretting seems so much more intense and longer lasting. We can liken fretting with a dog chewing a bone. He gnaws and gnaws and gnaws but seems to accomplish very little in breaking down a good strong bone. Fretting accomplishes nothing worthwhile.
Unconsciously seeking a way around what God is doing, fretting signals a desire to wrest control from the Almighty. It is as if we are saying to Him, “step aside, I can do better.” Fretting reveals our ignorance of God’s just nature and righteous character. (Acts 3:13-14, 1 John 2:1).
Playing the “what if” game leads to reactions ranging from mild fear to total terror. The Apostle Paul understood fear. Think about how many times he entered into a city wondering if his testimony of Jesus would lead to beatings, stoning, and imprisonment. Yet despite his sufferings, he refused to give in to fear. His secret is found in Philippians 4:7:“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”