It's tested advice. It's good advice. We know we need to follow it. We know we need to relax a bit, to chill out, to calm down, to take a deep breath. We are a much too worked-up, busy bunch of people. We've forgotten how to slow down. We need to rest. We need to release our phones and iPads and emails from our vice grip. We need to pause long enough to actually have conversations with people, to sleep long enough to actually have good health, to reflect long enough to actually make good decisions. We know we need to stop the disquieting urge that too often controls our actions and replace it with a contented heart that too often eludes us.
But, in a manner all-too fittingly twisted, when we are reminded to not be anxious about anything, we get anxious about that.
We worry about not worrying.
Ironically, in the much needed process of trying not to worry we often vex ourselves into a diminishing life: "I need to stop worrying; I need to stop; I need to; I need." We place the task of not worrying upon ourselves as just another apprehension in the long lists of things we still need to accomplish, or fix, in our lives. We give worry a power it doesn't deserve and we react to it's back-braking burden. We even worry about the consequence of not worrying.
This pattern is, of course, ridiculous. Worry is nothing more than a filler of negative space. Worry is something we place into a vaccuum when we have nothing else with which to fill it. In the absence of peace we place worry. In the void of accomplishment we place unease and angst and anxiety.
To worry is to torment oneself. Like a snake suffocating its prey, worry squeezes the life from us. It constricts our movement until we feel like we can't breathe.
No wonder the Apostle Paul advised the Philippians to flee from worry. There's no life in anxiety. In fact, it steals life away from us. "Don't be anxious about anything," he said. Anything! Nothing is worth worry. Nothing at all.
But, honestly, don't we find that thought nearly impossible to think? How can we not worry about anything? All around us are deadlines and commitments and payments and meals and burdens and loved-ones-with-burdens and illnesses and uncertainties and… Argh!! Anxiety seems to press against us from all sides. How can we possibly avoid it?
"Instead… pray," Paul said. In the absence of peace, pray. In the void of accomplishment, pray. In the uncertainty of illness, pray. In the lack of _____________, pray. In the despair of _____________, pray. "By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God," Paul said. If we do this, he gently reminded, "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
So exchange the focus on worry for a focus on God. When worry begins to slither, give it up in a petition to God ("I don't like this, God. Change this. Heal this. Do something about this."). When we are tempted to torment our souls, trust it to God in thanksgiving ("Thank you for being here for me, God. I don't need this worry. I need you. Thank you for loving me in this time.").And when anxiety apprehends, allocate it to God ("Here it is, God. This is what I'm worried about. I don't quite know what to do here. Help me through this.").
A life filled with worry has no room for the peace of God. But, in contrast, a life focused on God does not suffer from the dehabilitating distraction of worry. A life free from worry begins to comprehend (though never fully deciphering) how we are guarded by God.
Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 6, somehow we don't gain any life through worry. God, however, gives life to us as we trust in him, even in the dark, worrisome times. God knows our frustrations and fears, our sickness and sadness, our pain and panics. He knows our trouble today. So why should we try to be the ones to carry its weight? God wants us to release our worry to his capable arms:
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV
*Note: This post stems from a devotional that Aaron Andrews shared yesterday with our regional CMA Youth Workers network. Aaron's reminder to us about not leaning into anxiety but instead trusting God was a breath of fresh air for many of us.Related articles