Overcoming Worry

Worry is something that is common to most people. 

We worry about how the failures in our life have made things difficult.

We worry about the goals we wanted to achieve but never did.

We worry about marital problems and problems with our children.

We worry about what other people think about us. 

We worry because no one seems to care. 

We worry about the future. 

We worry about our health.

The COVID-19 virus has added a whole host of worries on top of our normal life concerns. Worry is closely linked to anxiety and stress – both of which can cause damage to our health and our well-being.

The Bible contains a good bit of information on the reasons why worry is destructive and how to overcome it. That’s not a surprise because God made us, He dwells with us, and He knows us. He knows every thought and every word before we speak it. God, who knows us so well, has given us many instructions about worry that will genuinely give us strength to overcome.

God understands how worry and anxiety can cause us harm. 

Proverbs 12:25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.

Proverbs 14:30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;  jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

We all know how worries can weigh us down and keep us from enjoying the blessings of life. God knows this also. Let’s seek His wisdom in prayer.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus devotes some time to overcoming worry. I want to notice some principles about overcoming worry in Matthew 6:25-34.

Our worries should not be a part of our everyday life. 

Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 

These things are important – essential even – but when we spend our days concerned about them and letting our concern be the dominant thoughts in our minds, we are focused on the wrong things. There are more important things to think about – and we should have our thought dominated by those things – not always ruminating on the basic essentials.

Worry should be tempered by the truth that we are valuable to God.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 

The point Jesus makes here is how valuable the birds are to the Father. He created the world and called it ‘good’. The birds live the kind of life that demonstrates trust in God. If God cares for them, how much more does He care for you? If we are that valuable to God – then why are we worrying excessively about the troubles of life?

Worry does not add value to our life at all. 

Matthew 6:27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Worry, by itself, does not accomplish anything. If it is so ineffective, why do we continue to be captivated by our worries? It is a habit – a way of thinking that we fall into and it is hard to escape.

Worry indicates that something is lacking in our faith.

Matthew 6:28-30 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Faith is trust, belief in God. The beautiful things of the world do not accomplish their beauty by worrying … the birds, the lilies of the field … they are short-lived pleasures in this life. Yet, God cares about them. If He cares about them, don’t you know He cares for you? When we worry, are we expressing that we are uncertain of God’s care? This is not for us to worry about worrying – it is to show us the brightness and love of God’s ultimate care for each one of us.

Worry is replaced when God’s love and care and kingdom dominates our thoughts. 

Matthew 6:31-33 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

What is dominating your thoughts? You have control over what you think – how you choose to think about things – and only you can correct your thoughts when they go in the wrong direction. Above everything, think about how God reigns in your life and heart and how you can live into that more fully. When our concerns are His concerns, then what we need will be added to us. Jesus ends this section on worry with a reminder that should be of great value to us.

Worry doesn’t reduce tomorrow’s troubles, it borrows them. 

Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

E. Stanley Jones said, “Worry is the interest we pay on tomorrow’s troubles.” We do not solve anything by simply worrying. So, we need to do something about worry if it has become a part of our way of thinking. Let’s begin by praying for insight into the teachings of Jesus.

Psalm 37

Let’s look into one of the Psalms of David to find some encouragements about how to overcome worry in our lives. Psalm 37 begins with the two words “Don’t worry” – so we already know there is something here for us. Some translations use the term “Don’t Fret” – and it’s used 3 times in the first 8 verses of this Psalm. Are we getting the message?  Psalm 37:3-7 reflects four ideas that I hope will encourage you today to abandon worry. 

Trust God, and Do Good. Psalm 37:3 Trust in the Lord and do good.  Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. These two steps are inseparable; neither can exist without the other. Faith and trust are VERBS; faith and trust are a lifestyle, and they involve action. Real faith always includes obedience, and obedience includes doing the “good” things God commands. That is why trusting God and doing good cannot be separated. (Vaughn)

Delight Yourself in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. We delight ourselves in the Lord when we are focused on His ways, His words, and His directions for living.

Commit your way to the Lord. Psalm 37:5  Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Commitment is important. Deep, satisfying relationships—like marriage, friendship, and discipleship—require commitment. We commit to the Lord through praying to Him and also by actions that demonstrate our faith. We ask ourselves if we are making decisions from faith or fear!

Be still in the Presence of the Lord and Wait. Psalm 37:7 Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. The contrast here is between the practice of being still in God’s presence and worrying about other people. This reminds us of Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,  I will be exalted in the earth.”

Think about these next time worry invades your thoughts!  These steps are not a one-time thing. Some days we need to go through these steps several times. Redirect your thinking and focus on God’s Eternal Word. God give us tranquility, serenity, peace, relief from worry and anxiety.

One more verse that I’d like to point us to is Philippians 4:6-7: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 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.

What a great verse to memorize or write on a card and keep in your pocket. I can tell you that God wants us to have peace. He promises that that peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts. When our hearts are guarded, there is less to worry and be anxious about.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I have often been driven to my knees by the circumstances that I faced.” “Going to our knees will help because then we have not only our strength but God’s strength as well.” (Bill Flatt)

We should not develop a great deal of guilt about worry – that only compounds things. If I worry, then feel guilty about worrying, then wonder if God will forgive my worry … we end up worrying about worrying and feeling guilty for it all.  “I expect that most of us will never completely stop worrying, but we can grow in faith. We can worry less and less. And when we do worry, we can repent… and try to better.” (Smith)

Let worry be a signal to  you to stop, identify what you are most specifically worried about, and then give that worry to God. you might have to do that repeatedly, but each time you are recognizing that you are choosing not to worry – but instead to give it to One who can do something about it. 

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

– 1 Peter 5:7  

James Cash Penney, coming from a long line of preachers, grew up with deep convictions. He was unwaveringly honest. He never smoked or drank, and he was a hard worker. But in 1929 when the Great Depression hit, Penney found himself in crisis. He had made unwise commitments, and they turned sour. Penney began to worry about them, and soon he was unable to sleep. He developed a painful case of shingles and was hospitalized. His anxiety only increased in the hospital, and it seemed resistant to tranquilizers and drugs. His mental state deteriorated until, as he later said, “I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for. I felt I had nothing to live for. I felt I hadn’t a friend left in the world, that even my family turned against me.” 

One night he was so oppressed he didn’t think his heart would hold out, and, expecting to die before morning, he sat down and wrote farewell letters to his wife and sons. But he did live through the night, and the next morning he heard singing coming from the little hospital chapel. 

The words of the song said, Be not dismayed what’er betide, God will take care of you. Entering the chapel, he listened to the song, to the Scripture reading, and to the prayer. “Suddenly – something happened. I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm, brilliant sunlight.” All worry left him as he realized more fully than he had ever imagined just how much the Lord Jesus Christ cared for him. From that day J. C. Penney was never plagued with worry, and he later called those moments in the chapel “the most dramatic and glorious twenty minutes of my life.” (Morgan)

Resources
Smith, Vaughn. Sermon: Trusting God in Troubled Times

Morgan, Robert J. Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations

Flatt, Bill W. From Worry to Happiness