The Right to Worry – Philippians 4:6-7

AMH Series // His Word is Written Across My Heart

It’s an emotional high, a depressive low, a rollercoaster of anxiety, and a habit we can’t seem to quit. Worry.

We all do it.

I’m guilty. You’re guilty. Your teacher, pastor, mailman, mechanic, and even the cashier you bought your “Life’s Too Hard So I Need This” candy bar from is guilty. We may try not to, but we all worry.

Dictionary.com defines worry as, “giving way to anxiety or unease; allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” Considering this definition, I like to think of worry as an obsessive thought pattern that keeps us stuck dwelling on a circumstance.

I remember the first time worry came to visit me. I was in first grade, and a boy in my class knew that I hated spiders. One day he decided it would be a grand idea to corner me with a giant picture book of spiders. I sealed my eyes tightly shut, but he wouldn’t leave until I opened them and looked. I was traumatized! For the rest of the year whenever I saw that boy I worried he was going to harass me with spiders.

As elementary school gave way to middle school I became increasingly worried about my appearance, what people would think of me, and if I was “cool.” High school brought fears of the future and worry over grades, what college to attend, and what to do with my life. In college the pressure of figuring out life became even greater. I needed a plan for my WHOLE life, not just the next step. If I didn’t think five steps ahead then I would not be equipped for what I ultimately wanted to do…although I still didn’t know what that was.

I know I wasn’t alone in these concerns or my mishandling of them.  

Worry Is a Norm

It’s normal for us to worry. In fact, we live in a culture that idolizes it! We worry about our families, and our relationships, friendships, politics, school, environment, health, pets … etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. From an early age we are taught that if we aren’t worrying about it then we must not care about it. In fact, if people don’t seem worried about their circumstances, it’s almost unsettling. Rather than appreciating their peace, we often question if they actually care. We’ve confused worrying for caring!

We’re experts at making up excuses for our worries too. Either we think our circumstances are unique to us, therefore they require our obsessive concern. Or we recognize that other people have similar problems they worry about, therefore we can too. If someone tries to infringe on our right to worry, we often blow it off as hypocrisy on their part since they obviously worry too.   

Worry Is a Thief

Justification is an art we’ve all mastered. But regardless of our circumstances, everyone has received the same charge from God: do not worry.   

“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)

Why does God say not to do something that seems so natural to us? Because worry is a thief. It robs us of the peace God desires to give us.

you are lovely-8When I reflect on high school and college and all the ways I worried, I now see so clearly the peace worry robbed from me. I became a slave to my worry.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

God desires for us to walk in freedom. We are to give Him the parts of life that seem overwhelming and even the parts that we feel like we can handle. God wants us to trust Him with everything. Literally.

Trust Conquers Worry

Worry and trust have an interesting relationship. It’s what scientists call an inverse relationship. You can’t do one without affecting the other. The more we worry, the less we trust God. The more we trust God, the less we worry. Trust, specifically trust in God, is our secret weapon agains worry! Seems simple enough, but it takes intentionality to live out. 

How to be intentional with worry:

  • Humble yourself – Worry can be very arrogant. Realize you need to ask God for help. Be okay with the fact you can’t handle it on your own. Our culture values self-sufficiency, but we weren’t designed this way. We are designed to be in relationship with others and God, so lean into Him.
  • Do your part – Casting your cares on the Lord doesn’t mean you do nothing. Do your part and give the rest to God. For example: If you are a student, study hard, be responsible with your time, but give the rest to God. Don’t worry about your grades. Don’t worry about your future. Do well with what’s in your court, and trust God with the rest.
  • Feed your soul – So often our go to for worry relief is to consume some form of media to “turn our brains off and stop thinking,” but does that actually refresh us? I’m not dissing a good movie or sitcom. I enjoy both. But if we are running to them as an escape from our concerns, we may temporarily numb ourselves, but our worries are still waiting for us when we power down the entertainment. Prayer, devotion, talking to a fellow believer, being still in His presence – these are all ways to encourage and strengthen our spirit and help us to trust God more.
  • Avoid apathy – Not worrying is not to be confused with apathy. Apathy is not caring at all. Choosing to not worry doesn’t mean we don’t care. It means that we care so much that we are entrusting our circumstances to the only One who can handle them. We are surrendering our worry to God.
  • Be consistent – Worry will try to sneak back in. It is a relentless thief, but we can be wise to its ways. When worry taints your thoughts, immediately surrender it to God. As you practice this, it will get easier.
  • Hope for heaven – Our lives are a moment in the scheme of eternity. Heaven is coming. Start living with eternity in mind rather than being consumed with the worry of the temporary.

Jesus states it so simply and beautifully in Matthew 6:27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

We can’t. Let’s live into that truth, surrender the right that culture tells us we have to worry, and walk in the freedom that only Jesus can give.

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