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 himself preached about stress in Matthew 6:28-34.
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 – you’re a born worrier so you can’t help it! And if you’re naturally laid-back, you’ve got nothing to worry about either because you’ll always take everything in your stride, won’t you?
Well, no; its not that simple. As we all know, there are some things that everyone worries about.
Why shouldn’t we worry?
R. H. Mounce said, ‘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 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!
First, worry is unnecessary – no one gains anything by worrying. As Jesus said, the birds of the air don’t sow, reap or gather their food into barns. Yet they have no need to worry, because God looks after them. The same with flowers; they neither toil nor spin but they don’t worry about how they look. They are beautiful because God made them that way (Matthew 6:26-30).
Second, worry is 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 by morning. Whether we worry or not, we still face all the same things.
Third, worry is blind. It’s no coincidence that Jesus uses examples from nature in his sermon on the mount. If we only open our eyes and look at the world around us we see plenty of examples of God’s care for the world he created and his love for his people. When we worry, it’s like we put on a pair of blinkers that stop us seeing all that evidence.
Fourth, worry is forgetful. We ignore all the times in the past when God has worked everything for our good as he promises (Romans 8:28). We can all remember times 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 not seek God’s kingdom?
Jesus said, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the things we need] will be added to you’ (Matthew 6:33). This doesn’t mean that if you spend all your time praying and don’t study for an exam, God will miraculously give you the answers and you’ll pass with flying colours.
It means that when we put God above everything else, and do everything to honour him, he’ll be there, specially 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 that happens to us for our own good, then we should greet every pang of anxiety with a different attitude.
Why tell me now?
I’m sure that some of you are thinking, ‘that’s all very well, but I’m already worried!’ The last thing you want is someone telling you to ‘stop being so sinful and trust God more!’ But 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 all the same feelings that we do.
And because he understands, God tells us exactly what we can do when anxiety takes hold. You can find the answer in Philippians 4:6-7. It’s 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; don’t refuse it!