This little gem is something I still wrestle with on an almost daily basis. I have come to see that worry is a waste of time. Jesus clearly teaches this in Matthew 6:25-34 TNIV, yet I so often need reminding of this fact. Worry doesn’t achieve anything. It doesn’t add anything to my height or contribute extra years to my life. In fact, quite the opposite. Worry and anxiety bring us into bondage and eat away at our physical, emotional and spiritual strength. There is literally nothing positive about worrying. It’s totally futile, demonstrating a shameful lack of trust in our heavenly Father’s benevolence towards us and in His ability to meet all our needs.
So why is it my default mechanism? Why do I consciously have to work against worrying? I don’t have to practise worrying! It’s not second nature to me; it’s first nature! Some of that is probably down to my personality, but certainly this is an area of my life that needs constant attention.
I can even worry when there’s nothing to worry about! I can worry incessantly about trivial things; I can fret and fume over the unimportant; I can feel sick with anxiety over the critical.
One of the things I have learnt over the years is that worry is often to do with imaginary fears and projected anxieties. I usually look on my imagination as a blessing, but there is no doubt that when it comes to worrying, imagination is more of a curse than a blessing. I have learnt, however, that worrying like this involves hypothetical scenarios and there is no such thing as hypothetical grace.
Grace is real. God’s grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:9 TNIV) and He is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1 TNIV). He does not provide grace for hypothetical scenarios, however. There is no grace for the ‘what ifs?’ that keep me awake at night.
There is, however, grace when life is difficult. There is grace when we pass through the fires and the floods. There is refuge and strength when the unimaginable actually happens and we face trauma, bereavement, pain and tragedy. So one thing I have learnt is to let go of the hypothetical worries, let go of the possiblys and the maybes, and depend on God. Two verses have been particularly helpful in giving me a strategy for dealing with worry: ’When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.’ (Ps 56:3 TNIV) – something I can do consciously to deal with the fear that is at the heart of all my worry – and ‘Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.’ (Ps 9:10 TNIV) – recognising again that trust is the antidote to fear and that we have no reason to fear because God not only never has forsaken us, but never will. Another strategy for dealing with worry is laid out in Philippians 4:6-7 TNIV: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
If you, too, feel worried, anxious or fearful, I can only say that it’s a waste of your time to spend all your life trapped with those feelings. Choose to trust instead and you will find God faithful to provide grace, help, and a way out when it’s needed. Meditate on the faithfulness of God and worry soon doesn’t stand a chance!