Dealing With Worry Biblically
Did you ever hear that saying, "Don't worry, be happy"? It's a nice saying but how do you stop from worrying? Is it possible just to forget all my problems and be happy? How should I deal with worry?
To solve this problem we need first to define what we mean by worry and contrast or compare that definition to being "concerned" about something. For our purposes, I will define worry as an anxious condition produced by the inability to control the circumstances, direction, or outcome of one's life or the life of someone else. The key word in this definition is the word "control". The person who worries wants to control the circumstances of their life or another's and becomes frustrated and anxious when they find that they cannot do so. Concern, on the other hand, I define as the righteous care or consideration that the circumstances, direction or outcome of one's or another's life accomplishes the will of God. Notice that the word control is missing from this definition. Instead, the word righteous is found in this definition. The person who is concerned about the welfare of another as compared to being worried about it, will act in a righteous manner.
Since worry seeks to controls all the events or circumstances of someone's life, they must then be desirous of some of the prerogatives of God. In effect, the person who worries seeks to be their own little god of the own life. For the worrier, this is necessary because they simply do not have confidence in God that He will bring about the desires outcome of events. Worry then, is simply a lack of faith in the passion of God for His people, or the power of God for the accomplishment of His will. As such, it must be recognized as sin.
If worry is simply a lack of faith in God, then the simple answer is developing a biblical faith. Notice though the answer is not developing any type of faith, but a "Biblical faith". A Biblical faith by definition is simply the settled assurance that God will do what He said He will do. Two qualities of Biblical faith come from this definition. First, Biblical faith originates in the Word of God. Romans 10:17 states that, Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Any belief that I have that God will do something that He has not said that He will do is unbiblical. No matter how great my "faith" may be, to use a modern phrase, "It ain't gonna happen!"
Secondly, a Biblical faith is founded on the person of God. Our faith must rest in God, not in our faith. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone say, "I just believed in myself that I could do it". We are admonished in Mark 11:22 to have faith in God. The only faith that I should have in myself is that, by myself, I will fail. While it is true that I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me, it is also true that without Him I can do nothing (Phil. 3:13, John 15:5).
We sometimes hear or even question ourselves as to whether our faith is great enough for the task at hand. The truth of the matter is that the quantity of our faith is equal to the quality of our faith. The more we understand about the attributes of God and the more we comprehend of the Word of God, the greater our faith is. Faith is not measured in degrees. You either believe, or you do not.
In light of this definition of a Biblical faith, the simple cure for worry is again, to develop and exercise a Biblical faith. To do this we must first learn what God has said about His attributes. We can break this down into two sections. First, how does God relate to His children? Romans 8:32 tells us that God will freely provide everything that is needed for the maintenance and success of life and the accomplishment of His will. Whenever the child of God is involved in fulfilling the will of God, he need not worry that he will not have the necessary provisions to accomplish it. If the need is the physical necessities of life, God has promised that He will provide them (Matthew 6:25-33). If the need is wisdom is accomplishing a task, God has promised that He will give liberally (James 1:5). There is nothing that the child of God will lack in the way of provision from the hand of God.
We also know that there is nothing that the child of God need to fear when walking in the will of God. God has promised that He will protect and defend us from anything that will keep us from accomplishing His will. Hebrews 13:5-6 states God is ever with us and we need not fear what man will do to us. Psalm 27:1 states that even is we are greatly outnumbered, there is nothing that can happen to us that the Lord will not allow. As the saying goes, "One plus God is a majority!"
We also have promises from God about the success of our endeavors. Jesus stated in John 15:5 that if we abide in Him we will bring forth much fruit. One of the greatest blessing that I have enjoyed being a pastor is that as I wait on God in my studies from week to week, He burdens my heart with what to say on Sunday. When I enter the pulpit to preach, I know that what I say comes not from my imagination, but from the Spirit of God. As such, the response to my preaching is not dependent upon my efforts (although I certainly desire to put my all into it). If God can speak to my heart, so too can He speak to the hearts of the hearers of what I proclaim.
Secondly, we need to learn how God relates to His creation. In theological lingo, we call this the sovereignty of God. By that we mean that God is able to do whatever He pleases to accomplish His will. He has absolute control over what He has created. Below are some of the things we commonly worry about that the bible tells us that God can control, even miraculously.
PEOPLE- We often worry how people will react to us. Solomon says that the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord and that He can cause anyone to change direction at His will (Prov. 21:1).
TIME- Will we have enough time to accomplish what we want to do is often what causes us to worry. In Joshua 10:12-13, God made the sun and the moon stand still so the Jews could defeat their enemies before the time of day ran out.
ANIMALS- "I be a missionary if i wasn't afraid that a big snake would eat me alive." While we call some animals "domesticated" and some "wild", the truth is all are under the sovereignty of God. In Daniel 6:22, God shut the mouths of the King of the beasts so that Daniel would not be harmed. No need to worry about the snakes.
PLANTS- How will the garden grow with all the weeds, or what will pesticides do to the fruit we eat. God is sovereign over plants too (Matthew 21:19).
WEATHER- We have a long trip to take and we worry if the weather will allow us to travel. No problem, God is sovereign over the weather (Matthew 8:24-26)
THE EARTH- "I might move to California but they have earthquakes," some say. Guess who is charge of the earthquakes (Numbers 16:30-31).
SICKNESS- I would work in a hospital but I am afraid I would get sick all the time. Yes, God is sovereign over that too (John 4:50).
MONEY- I'd tithe but who can afford to. Every Christian who desires to walk in the will of God can. God is sovereign over our finances (Matthew 17:27).
DEATH- "Following Jesus could be the death of me" some say. I say, "So?" It is better to die in the will of God than to live outside of it. Besides, God is sovereign over death also (John 11:43) No one will die before their time.
We not only need to know about the character of God, but we also need to know what God has revealed about His will. Peter tells us that God has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). What makes these promises so precious is that God Who made them is incapable of lying. What He has said, He fully intends to bring to pass. And in that He is omnipotent and sovereign over all, there is absolutely nothing that can stay the hand of God from accomplishing His will. When we know what God has said to be His will concerning any matter, then there is simply no need to worry about its completion.
While worry may happen in the mind, its cure does not occur there alone. James asks this question, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" Allow me to paraphrase him this way, "What does it profit for a man to say he believes without fitting works? Will faith keep him from worrying?" Genuine Biblical faith is not only a matter of the mind or the intellect, but expresses itself in the will or actions of a person. The Apostle Paul gives us some instruction in Philippians 4:8-9 on how a person's faith can be employed to combat worry. In verse 8 he writes that faith should evoke prayer. If I believe that God has ordained something in His will, then it is necessary for me to be praying about that faithfully. Jesus said that we are to be praying that His will would be done on earth in the same way it is accomplished in heaven. I pray, not because I am not sure if something is God's will, but I pray because I am convinced something is found in God's will.
Secondly, genuine biblical faith manifests itself in the obedience of the believer to the fulfillment of the will of God. While God can certainly make the stones to praise Him (Luke 19:40) He chooses to use His saints to accomplish His will. If I truly believe I have discerned what God's will is to be in any matter, then I need to be actively involved in the fulfillment of that task. I am to be about all that I am responsible for and nothing more. What is not my responsibility, I trust God for its accomplishment and not worry. As the hymn states, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.