Worry is one of the most destructive human habits. We worry about what people think of us, health, finances, spouses, children, and jobs. Some of us worry about what’s going to happen the next day, what’s going to happen the next year, or what happened in the past. Sometimes, the things we worry about aren’t even a reality, but only “what ifs.”
It is easy to be consumed by worry. But worrying about an endless number of “what ifs” only robs you of things like peace, joy, and the energy needed for today.
My wife always knows when I am worried because I wake up in the middle of the night. Somehow, my mind thinks it can best solve problems and plan my future at 3:00 AM. Sadly, it usually doesn’t work that way and I am left feeling tired and restless.
The other thing that happens when I worry is that I am more likely to give in to temptation. In the past, this was a fantasy world of pornography where I didn’t have to think about anything except my own pleasure. Today, it might be binging on TV, a sweet dessert (or three), or a tub of popcorn—things that offer temporary comfort or escape in the short term but produce bad outcomes if continued over time.
God has a lot to say about worry. The Bible tells us over and over again not to worry, fear, or be anxious—more than 300 times! In Matthew 6:27, Jesus points out the futility of worry. He says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Clearly, God doesn’t want us to live this way. How would life change—even for a week—if we didn’t worry?
God gives the answer for worry in Philippians 4:6-8:
“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. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
If you think about it, worry is just misplaced meditation. Often when we worry, we are focusing attention on ourselves, our capabilities, and our own plans rather than on God, His capabilities, and His plans. The truth is that God is in control even when it doesn’t feel like it, or even when we can’t make sense of our circumstances. He wants us to trust Him for the future and for today. He loves us, has plans for us, and knows how we can have peace “which surpasses all understanding” through the difficulties of each day. In fact, those difficulties and “what ifs” may be the very things that pull us close to Him. When we have to depend on God, then we get to clearly see His goodness—His perfect power, love, and provision. He wants us to know the blessings of meditating on Him.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
You know what I’ve learned to do when I wake up worried in the middle of the night? I get out of bed immediately, go to another room and start to read my Bible (usually Psalms). I figure that even if it is the Devil tempting me to try to control my life, he doesn’t want me to read the Bible. This also turns my attention from my problem to God and His goodness. Often, within a few minutes I can fall back to sleep.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
So, when you are worried, give thanks to God despite your hardships and unknowns. Turn to Him for help and draw close. Focus on things that reflect His goodness (His Word, His people, His provisions and faithfulness in the past) so that you can rest in His goodness. You can trust Him to do the work of caring for your circumstances. He will put you on your feet at the proper time. Until then, rest in His arms.