“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
YOU MIGHT BE old enough to remember Alfred E. Neuman, the gap-toothed cover boy of “Mad” magazine whose famous line was, “What? Me worry?”
Neither he nor the magazine was a paradigm of Christian ethos, but the “no worry” attitude certainly has biblical merit.
Webster defines worry as “mental distress or agitation resulting from concern, usually for something impending or anticipated.”
Simply, worrying is imagining the future in an unfortunate or a terrible way.
People worry about their health. Parents worry about their children. People worry about finances. People worry about passing an exam. Worries abound.
Worrying is human, but it can negatively affect our mental, physical and spiritual health. Fortunately, we can move beyond worrying and experience God’s peace.
In the verses above, we are first instructed to pray about everything. Nothing is too big or too little to present to God in prayer.
Who God is
God is sovereign. God is good. God listens. And God cares — for you, for me, for everyone — so God responds.
Second, we are to thank God for everything he has done, and he has done a lot. Instead of being self-absorbed, we need to become God-absorbed.
“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction” (H.A. Ironside).
Prayer and thankfulness lead to the miraculous peace of God, which is a weirdly wonderful gift defying logic and explanation.
Worrying is similar to purchasing ulcers on credit, but Jesus says we don’t need to worry about the things of everyday life — like food, drink, or clothing.
Instead of worrying, Jesus instructs us to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:33-34).
Biblically, we must take an honest moment to examine ourselves when we become worried.
Is the Kingdom of God our priority, or is our kingdom our priority? Are we living righteously, or are we living carelessly? If we’re worried about our health, are we doing what we can to live healthy? If we’re worried about finances, have we worked diligently and spent wisely?
If we are keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, he will empower us to do a pre-emptive strike on many of life’s worries.
Don’t misunderstand. I can still worry.
Proverbs 12:25 begins by saying “worry weighs a person down,” and I have felt that weight on numerous occasions.
But the longer I have followed Jesus, the more I have experienced him lifting worry’s weight from my soul. Increasingly, I view worry as a cue to pray, choosing to trust my Heavenly Father and to thank him.
“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving” (Psalms 28:6-7).
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is [email protected]