The latest information we get can seem designed to make us worry.
From a shooting in suburban Sydney to the state of Beyonce’s marriage, the fate of asylum seekers on Manus Island to “crisis” levels of Australian school funding, we can have no shortage of reasons to worry. Just hit refresh for constant updates.
And then there’s our own lives. Whether it’s a small concern or an all-consuming disaster, having stuff to worry about can seem as natural as breathing. Health, finances, marriage, children, work, exercise, housing, bills, debt, faith … Our lists can go on and on.
Amid all of that, someone trying to be helpful probably told you to not worry about anything and hand over all your problems and cares to God.
Sounds easy and excellent.
But when someone said that to you, you probably wanted to scream in their face. Or worse. Because saying that to someone who is worrying might be one of the worst things we could do.
Worrying about worry
The reason it’s such a terrible thing to say is not because it’s a lie. It isn’t. God does call those who rejoice in the Lord Jesus to not “worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. (recorded in Philippians 4:4-6)
Repeat: God himself wants us to bring everything to him — even the worries, concerns and anxieties we have.
The problem with lovingly throwing the “don’t worry about anything” statement at someone who is worrying is that we could just make them more worried.
Telling someone not to worry about anything because God tells us to not worry about anything, can sound like none of us should ever worry. But worry will certainly come. That’s a fact.
As a result, many may get stuck in a vicious cycle of worrying about their worry because they feel guilty about having any worries at all.
Don’t worry, though. What Philippians 4 tells us about worry is not that it will never happen. Instead, it reveals what to do when it occurs.
Peace be with you
The call to “don’t worry about anything” needs to be offered in the same way it’s presented in Philippians 4.
God wants us to not worry and bring all requests to him so that “the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:7)
Take a minute to read what that promises. What’s available from God is his peace, in exchange for our worry.
What’s being discussed here is a liberating and empowering truth. Not another reason to increase our worry.
When worry comes, hand it to God. Trust and rely upon him, not ourselves, and receive his peace. While the answer to our “prayers and petitions” might not be immediate or exactly what we want, God’s peace can replace the unrest of worry.
Our foundation can be peace in turmoil, rather than turmoil in turmoil.
A habit worth making
Next time you or someone you know is worrying, don’t just tell them to not worry and give it God. Tell them why they should do that — “the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.
As you are tapping into that awesome peace, remind each other of another exceptional part of this antidote to worry.
God’s calling us to create a habit of trust and reliance on him, through Jesus, in any situation. No matter what. As we aim to turn that into a habit for life, we should find that dealing with worry becomes another opportunity for tasting God’s peace, not drowning in life’s turmoil.